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Theories of Innovation

Theories of Innovation

| On 20, Aug 2007

Praveen Gupta

There has been much discussion lately about various innovation methodologies. As innovation is becoming an imperative for any for-profit organization, there is confusion about how to go about innovating. Many companies have been innovating for decades, so there must be identifiable methodologies in place. Have these companies been innovating efficiently and effectively? I question the return on R&D in terms of number of innovations per person.

Several known methodologies currently taught and used include creativity methods such as brainstorming, Ed DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats, the Combination method, Brinnovation (breakthrough innovation), Benchmarking, Complexity Theory, and TRIZ. The jury is out on whether we have seen an all-encompassing theory of innovation. There may not be ‘the’ innovation theory; instead, there may end up being many theories of innovation – or even none.

Today, TRIZ is considered to be the theory of inventive problem solving. I learned TRIZ about 15 years ago through the Suddenly Inventor Appeared book. I loved the book and concept of TRIZ; however, when I tried to learn it all the way through the book, I had a tough time in truly understanding the underlying principles. Some appeared to be quite complicated to comprehend for a common mind like mine. Last December, when I wanted to write a chapter on innovation, I thought I would write about TRIZ. However, further research made me believe that there is more to learn in order to become naturally innovative.

According to a website, TRIZ consists of 40 principles, 11 transformers, 76 standard rules, and 40-step problem solving program, and requires about 200 – 300 hours to master. According to Einstein, any theory has to be simple enough such that it can be simplified no more. It makes me question whether TRIZ represents that level of simplicity. I am interested in having some discussion that would help everyone. Share your thoughts. It will further educate all of us about theories of innovation. If you know an additional theory of innovation, let us know.