Tuesday, 31 March 2009

AND and OR - what word do the innovator prefer?

Doing either is often easy. You can keep budget OR run marketing campaign. You can have a wife OR a girlfriend. You can be rich OR poor. You can have the cake OR eat the cake. Build a hich-tech car OR a cheap car.

But - what is more interesting is to do 'both'. Using the AND.

To keep budget AND run the marketing campaign. Have a wife AND a girlfriend. To drive the car fast AND safe. Get a high-tech AND cheap car.

The innovator is a problem solver. Solving the contradiction and making it possible to have both. In TRIZ a main theme is to resolve contradictions.

Do not accept compromises. Make sure you have the cake and eat it. Dont settle for "either" - get "both".

And consider how reliefed Armstrong became when he heard that the vision was "put a man on the moon AND bring him back alive"

Monday, 30 March 2009

Fun & energizing; Impossible goes possible

A couple of times when doing workshops or seminar we have done the Impossible-Possible exercise. Very fun and a great start of a session.

You just split the audience in groups. Use your favourite algorithm to create the groups. Keep groups rather small.

Then let each group describe - in writing and drawings on a piece of A4-paper - a few, say three to five, things that they consider impossible. Give them a few minutes to discuss and write.
Then let each group present one of the impossible things they have found to the whole audience.

Now comes the fun part.

Let them swap papers with "impossibilities". Each group will now have a paper with impossible things made up by another group. So, the challenge is to come up with ways to make these impossible things possible. For every impossible thing they can make possible they earn a point.

Rules? Not really. I have seen people using magic dust and time machines to make impossible things possible. And I have yet not found an audience that wasn't able to transform everything into possibilities.

And of course you should let all groups present their solutions to the audience! Usually lots of laughter and giggling. And some people shouting "cheating!"

After that exercise I get an audience that is very willing to look into possibilities and opportunities. And everything seems very possible for the rest of that day...or life?

Sunday, 29 March 2009

VPEC-T...#3 - The first difference

Someone suggested me to think what new information or knowledge I gained by using VPEC-T. Or what was different using VPEC-T.

I have played with VPEC-T when people has decribed new fantastic solution to problems they have identified. And using VPEC-T as a questions framework I have been able to see and explain areas where we are unbalanced.

Unbalanced? Well, take for example the V - value. For one solution it was obvious that the client would benefit a lot. And we would provide value with the new solution - in many ways. But the value to use was very small. At leats until the solution were slighltly re-designed.

In another setting we knew everything about our P - Policies that we had to consider. But we had no clue about client policies. Or even clients partner policies that had to be considered.

Having the VPEC-T framework it was rather easy to spot where we had insufficient knowledge. And where we only had considered one view. Overall the solutions were sound - it seemed. But if we just had implemented them we would run into areas where new problems would arise.

And as said before. I had no problem using VPEC-T with other "frameworks" we use to screen solutions and projects.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Bla bla bla

Ideas in your mind can be transformed into shared knowledge if you are able to communicate them. In words, pictures, sounds, images, dance, by showing, building, creating etc.

Sometimes I have a great idea (at least I think so). But when I try to share it becomes "bla bla bla bla bla".

I need to work on my communication skills. And that probably include my dance skills too.

Friday, 27 March 2009


Many times our minds and brains are too fast. They "know" the answers and solutions too fast. And we have to help our brains to slow down and re-think.

One way to help our brains is to use a structured approach where the brain is not allowed to jump to the conclusion. Sort of a checklist that you have to work through.

VPEC-T can be used as such tool. To let yourself and a whole group re-think, slow down and screen the solution. Having the structured approach and some good questions we can see where the thinking was flawed and where we still miss information.

In a group the structured approach is necessary to keep discussion structured and letting all people participate. For the VPEC-T the discussion will be almost like a SíxTHinking-hat session. The group can first focus on V - Value before considering the other parts.
And when completing the whole cycle the discussion will be more structured. And you have a common description and framework - with your thinking inserted - to use as base for further discussion.

I guess that what I like about VPEC-T is that the five letters covers the situation from different perspectives. Yet converging into the solution that should "fit" the business.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

VPEC-T....The beginning

I have a new tool!

I have not yet fully understood how to use it. But that does not stop me from trying. It is like a carpenter when he gets a new tool. He will start to experiement with it and see what happens.

My new tool is called VPEC-T. If you google VPEC-T you will find some very good links where you can start to learn. Here is one starting point http://www.lithandbook.com/?p=36 and another is http://www.informationtamers.com/VPECT/VPECT-and-business-information-systems.html

The letters stands for: Value - Policies - Event - Content - and - Trust. (For a very brief description - see http://www.informationtamers.com/VPECT/So-VPECT.html )

Anyway. The way I have started to use it is as a "checklist" or "discussion theme" when meeting people that claim they know what to be done. To understand what they are up to and to verify that it makes sense I can walk through these letters. Put forward questions and see how the different areas are covered.

Nigel Green (one of the creators of VPEC-T framework) suggested to create five columns on a paper and start to ask questions. And you can in each column list and describe different perspectives.

In the "value" column you can list "our" perspective as well as "client" perspective on values. Or even "partner" perspective. Walking through the five letters, asking questions, you can get another view of the "solution" suggested. And you will be able to see the solution from new perspectives - and also see whether things are covered from all perspectives.

Listing the answers you get for the five areas you can learn a lot more about what the solution were aiming at. And you can also see where you have not covered it fully.
Are you sure about what policies the client have that has to be followed? Or will be used?

The VPEC-T can very fast get me asking good questions and see how complete the solution is. Just walk through the letters - ask a few questions. Use both "our" perspective and the "client" perspective to see if both are covered. (Not saying they always have to be.)
The letters also lets you stay away from the actual "solution" and instead see the influence in the business. And what environment the solution will work in.

What kind of questions are we talking about? Well, questions and themes like the ones listed in this mindmap (http://www.informationtamers.com/VPECT/VPECT-mindmap.html )

So, I have started to use VPEC-T as a mini-checklist when listening on people having a "solution" they want to put forward. And since the five letters also gives a structured approach it is very easy to walk through with other people.

The real benefits then?
1. A structured approach. Five letters - five areas for questions and discussion.
2. Covering important aspects of the "environment" where solution should operate. Including the value that should be the result
3. Can be used as complement to all other method you already use.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Almost a limerick again...

A young enterprise architect
Did not get the clients respect
"Without proper tool
they think I'm a fool"
So, she signed up to learn some VPECT

To make this *cough* limerick to work you need to pronounce VPECT as "vee-peckt" of course. The correct way to say VPEC-T is "vee-peck-tee". But with some Artistic freedom...
And I am sure that my VPEC-T friends will forgive me. Eventually.

Learn more about VPEC-T here --> http://www.lithandbook.com/?p=36
and here --> http://www.informationtamers.com/VPECT/VPECT-and-business-information-systems.html
Or maybe even join the discussion here --> http://groups.google.com/group/vpec-t?lnk=iggc

Many small or few large?

Almost done helping a team to establish a plan and strategy for upcoming year - and into the future. To do the work there were two options; 1. Get together a few times for longer workshops or 2. get an hour each week - for a long period - and do some small individual work in between.

We did #2.

Some of the members just loved this approach. Having time in between to reflect. And just take small steps every week. A very iterative process with lots of time to think in between.

Some of the members says that they cannot really come up to speed. The work is segmented into too small pieces. And that hour is too short.

And a third group in the group just plays along and seems happy any way.

This just confirms that we are different and our thinking and brains works differently. Some people prefer many small iterations with time to think in between. While othere wants to spend a long time with focused work on the same task.

The quality of the work we did? Excellent, so far - I would say.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

TRIZ awareness < 1% !?

Found this at http://twitter.com/jsbelfiore :
"Globally, less than 1% of engineers are even aware that TRIZ exists."

Even if that 1% would go up a bit this seems very low.

Not saying that everyone have to use TRIZ. But some awareness could help...


Monday, 16 March 2009


A poor little chap at Bell
Wasn't too fond of APL,
"Hey, look at me
I'll do it in C"
debugging became his private hell.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Here be dragons

On many ancient maps the words "here be dragons" were printed to indicate dangerous and/or unexplored areas. Or?

But. Maybe there is only one known historical example. http://www.maphist.nl/extra/herebedragons.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenox_Globe

And it was not even "Here be dragons" - but the latin HC SVNT DRACONES ("hic sunt dracones").

And still we belive that it was a common phrase on maps. How many more historical facts are just myths?

Should we trust history? Who writes history? Where does our common knowledge come from?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Future > now > History

Seems that many people are concerned about what things "are". More than they consider what they "can become" or evolve into.

What things "are" seems less important to me than what they can become. Or be used to.

History is important. But the future is more important. Main reason for history to be important is that is can be used to create the future. Including avoiding some mistakes from the past.

I think kids are often good at this. To see potential rather than judging and deciding what a thing is. And they can use existing things in clever and innovative ways.

When walking through IKEA my son found huge balls made of tree branches. They largest were approximately 30 cm in diameter. Some sort of decoration? Who knows. My son immediately realized:
"Dad, if we ever buy a lion the lion can play with these."

In the company I work for we have framework that says something smart:
"…decisions are made in the context of the desired future state. Analysis of the present state is performed only when needed to clarify the vision and for effective transition planning."

If someone defines something in a new way, explore and see what it can become. No need to correct and say "Wrong". Think instead of the possibilities. "What can this lead to?"

Future and "can become" is more important than now and "what is".

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Competitor = anything stealing attention

There are lots of definitions of "competitors" and "competitions". Some sophisticated. Some simple.

Ranging from "the company that sells the same product as you". And "the company that your customer is spending money on". To something that probably need a doctors hat to understand.

But - maybe we should consider competition as everything that takes away the customers attention that we want. If we have full attention from customer he will listen to us - and only to us. And then we can show him that we care. And also provide the services he need.

The moment something else steals his attention we have competition. And a risk that we get less attention. Leading to less sales and money.

If we define competition as "attention stealers" we can see other forms of competition that stops us from doing business. Maybe the customer is concerned about Global Warming? Sick kids? Financial crisis?
If the customer is worried about Global Warming or his upcoming divorce - will he listen to us? Is he willing to buy our newest product?

If he is concerned about something attention from us is diverted. And thus we are less likely to succeed. We need to deal with all sorts of competition! From competing companies selling the same products - to whatever takes away attention from us.

The classic definitions of competition fit in of course. But there are also other form of competition we need to deal with.

Me think.


We came up with a very simple, understandable and working solution to a difficult problem. We looked at it from different perspectives and it was really simple - yet doing the job - i.e. solving the problem.

Then one in the group said: "We cannot present this. We need to complexify it. You know. Add a lot of powerpoint pictures, some charts, maybe some process models and workflows. And possibly describing all the roles. This is too simple. We need to add details. A simple thing like this will not gain acceptance. We need to complexify."

He was a bit cynical of course. But he was not far away from what showed to be reality. The simple solution was later accepted. But only after some complexifying activities.And quite a number of detailed descriptions.

Complexify. Maybe not a proper word. But scary.

Have we come so far that we sometimes cannot accept and use the simple solutions without adding details and making it look more complex?
Do all details and complex descriptions make the solution better?

Is an agreement with 100.000 words better than a handshake?

Me wonder.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Impossible problems II

Can all problems really be solved? I believe so. I want to believe so.

But solving a problem might include research, innovating, constructing. And it can take time. So there can be long delay between where the problem solving starts to when the solution is ready.
(And after that we need to consider whether to implement solution)

Is cancer a problem? Lets say it is. Can we solve it? I think so. And the solving problem has started. There are many researching programs working to solve the "cancer problem". As is with any problem we really want to solve.

When solving we need skills, methods and knowledge. But when solving and researching we will also generate new methods, skills and knowledge.

Any problem can be solved. Might take some time though. And might need researching and innovating. But isn't that what problem solving is all about?

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Every problem can be solved

Impossible is nothing. True?

To me yes. When I was younger I thought there were problems that could not be solved. Impossible problems. But now I believe - or know - that any problem can be solved.

There might be reasons why we chose not to implement the solution of course. But the solution is there - if we want it. It is not a matter of if we can solve the problem. We can. But we might decide that we do not want to push forward.

Why do I believe that any problem can be solved? I think it is due to all the methods and problem solving approaches that exists. No matter how large or complex the problem is there are always (many!) ways to attack it. And we have lots of subject matter expertise out there. In all areas. And experience. And skills....

So, there are many methods out there. And lots of knowledge and skills. And that makes me very certain that every problem can be solved.

We need the knowledge and a systematic approach. Or even approaches.

This feeling that every problem can be solved is to me very comforting. Nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Greed? Jelaousy?

Read in Swedish magazine about researchers trying to figure out how we show jelaousy and dissapointments. Think it actually was how we use our facial muscles.

The experiment set-up was as:

Person A and B know there are money that they can have. The total amount is known. Person A splits the money. Deciding how much money he (A) will have and how much B will receive.
Then Person B is presented to the split. Person B can accept or reject. If he rejects it none of the two gets any money. If he accepts they get what person A suggested.

A rational decision as B is of course to accept any split where he gets money. As long as he can get more than $0 he is doing ok. He will then have more than he had before the game started.

Apparently the researchers found persons that did not split the money 50/50. And also B-persons that would not accept any "unfair" split.

How would you do?

Would you as person A suggest a 50-50 split? Would you as person B accept any split where you get money?

How would greed, jelaousy, fair-play, tactics, feelings influence you? Would you play differently as B if the split and amount of money was unknown, i.e. you knew only you get money but you do not know how much money A gets?

Do the amount of money influence your thinking. Compare splitting $100 with splitting $1.000.000. Any difference?

Monday, 2 March 2009

Need speed? Add another reviewing group!

A long time ago I was asked to lead a requirement reviewing process. The requirements defined an IT-solution. Well, at least that was the plan.

There were many requirements (1000+) from very detailed to very general. It was not a well defined set of requirements. Any attempt to change the requirements ended up as failure. The client had decided that THIS was THE set of requirements to be used. Period.

We started off with a reviewing group to work through the set. Every requirement was discussed in detail. Information lacking. And the group really could not do its job efficiently. It was hard to see what requirement to focus on - and where more information was needed.
We kept going for a few weeks. And managed to just confuse ourselves with more questions and more details. No real progress.

I then suggested to add another group to help us. And with that setup we suddenly started to move. We now had two reviewing groups running. Slightly different focus. And it seemed that the groups now could focus better, since there also was another group supporting the process.
I was not sure why though at this point.

A week later we introduced two more groups. Now having four groups - more or less running in parallel reviewing the whole set. All groups reviewed all requirements. But of course with different perspectives.

Now the real magic kicked in. The process ran faster and faster. Seemed that four groups reviewing all requirements was a more efficient setup than having one.
And what happened seemed to be that each reviewing group now focused on what was really important. And creating TWO models of what was going on. Something like:

1. This group, i.e. my group, is the first group reviewing. So, we only need to focus on whats important for us. And if we make a mistake someone at a later stage will correct it.

but at the same time they also seemed to think:

2. This group is the last in the chain. So, we only need to focus on whats really important. All the other stuff has already been dealt with. And if all the other groups are done and happy we should also be.

When we started using four groups I told everyone that we did work in parallel. But it seems that they anyhow all saw the process as a chain of reviewing groups.

Having these two perspectives in mind all groups relaxed and focused on their perspective. And they were confident that all other groups also did. This group thinking worked miracles with the process. All groups only focused on the really important requirements. Endless discussions about spelling for example were gone.

So, if the process is slow. Maybe you need to add another reviewing group? Creating some focus.

How about the quality of the work? Well, considering the quality of requirements we had to start with we did ok.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Yak shaving

Can happen to anyone. Suddenly you realize you have to shave a yak in order to get your work done. Well, at least it seems to. And of course, you should try to get work done without shaving that yak.

Definitions found at http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/Y/yak-shaving.html and at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/03/dont_shave_that.html

Thanks taoofit (http://twitter.com/taoofit - Nigel Green) for the yak shaving pointers.