Monday, July 2, 2012

Peeping through the Window of the Future

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in.
Alan Alda (Source - Brainy Quote)

Windows are interesting things to peep through. What we see depends on which window we look through. Most innovations begin with interesting observations and windows are essential for observing. Tell me which window you look through and i will tell you who you are or at least what you will see.

I begin all my Innovation Workshops with analyzing the opportunity and defining the problem - the very first tool that I introduce is 9 Windows. I first learnt about it from the TRIZ expert Darrell Mann (when i attended his week long TRIZ Workshop).I developed an instant liking for this tool. 9 Windows helps you to capture the entire ecosystem (across sub-system, system and super-system levels). It also captures the evolution with time (past, present and future). In the 9 windows (3 x 3), a whole world of information is depicted. Looking at it, helps us to recognize the innovation opportunities across the 9 windows and leads us to holistic solutions.

9 Windows

I had opportunities to discuss with the TRIZ expert and Ellen Domb through the TRIZ India Forum ( she explains how to evaluate and solve problems using the powerful TRIZ tool - 9 Windows - :

The technique in TRIZ (The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) called 9 windows, or the system operator, can help cut through the complexity so that the problem that needs to be solved becomes clear. 
A 9 windows diagram looks like a tic-tac-toe board – a 3x3 matrix. Start by drawing the simple board and put your problem in the middle square as shown in Table 1.   
Table 1: The Start of a 9 Windows Diagram
Your Problem Here

Now label the rows and columns of the system operator diagram as shown in Table 2.
Table 2: Expanding the 9 Windows Diagram

Your Problem Here

You can find eight new ways to think about your problem by filling in the empty boxes.

Chuck Frey, famous for his Innovation Tools, comments that the Nine windows creativity technique offers a practical framework to consider a range of future opportunities

Excerpt from Chuck Frey

One of the challenges we face in creative problem solving is mentally getting out of our own way. We tend to be so trapped in our unique perspective that it limits our ability to see other possibilities. What's needed is a structured way to look at our challenge or opportunity through different "lenses." The creative problem-solving technique called "Nine Windows," described in the excellent book, The Innovator's Toolkit by David Silverstein, Philip Samuel and Neil de Carlo, does just that, by enabling you to look at innovation opportunities across the dimensions of time (past, present, future) and space (super system, system, sub system). In other words, it gives you a set of tools that you can use to consider your opportunity by breaking it into smaller pieces as well as considering the larger context into which it fits. 

Discussing about the past and present was relatively easy. But when it comes to discussing the future, the workshop participants were baffled. People had different views on how a technology or market could evolve in future and the discussions stretched beyond the budgeted time. I started looking for best-practices across the Industry on objectively analyzing the Future. I learnt about Shell's powerful Scenario planning technique from a product designer friend of mine when we were discussing about creating Point of Views (POVs) and Pre Product Visualization (PPV). I found it a very powerful approach for looking at futures. 

Shell Scenario Planning

Shell uses scenarios to explore the future. The scenarios are not mechanical forecasts. They recognize that people hold beliefs and make choices that can lead down different paths. They reveal different possible futures that are plausible and challenge people’s assumptions. 

Scenarios provide alternative views of the future. They identify some significant events, main actors and their motivations, and they convey how the world functions. They use scenarios to explore possible developments in the future and to test their strategies against those potential developments. Shell has been using scenarios for 30 years. Their audience does not only consist of businesses and governments but of all people who are curious by nature, and who are highly motivated to acquire a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them. 
Download your Explorer's Guide
'Scenarios: An Explorer’s Guide' is written for people who would like to build and use scenarios, and also for those who want to enhance their scenario thinking skills. We visualise our audience as people who are curious by nature, who want to make a difference, and who are highly motivated to acquire a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Scenarios: An Explorer’s Guide
How do Scenarios work
When we reflect on situations or the future, we see the world through our own frames of reference. The purpose of scenario work is to uncover what these frames are, respecting differences rather than aiming for a consensus that puts them to one side.
Decision makers can use scenarios to think about the uncertain aspects of the future that most worry them – or to discover the aspects about which they should be concerned – and to explore ways in which these might unfold. Because there is no single answer to such enquiries, scenario builders create sets of scenarios. These scenarios all address the same important questions and all include those aspects of the future that are likely to persist, but each one describes a different way in which the uncertain aspects could play out.
Scenarios are particularly useful in situations where there is a desire to put challenges on the agenda proactively (for example when there are leadership changes and major impending decisions) and where changes in the global business environment are recognised but not well understood (such as major political changes and new emerging technologies).
As they identify discontinuity as a central issue for organisations, scenarios help businesses and governments to prepare for ‘surprising’ change. An organisation that is open to change is much more likely to survive and thrive than one that is continually chasing events.
Good scenarios are ones that explore the possible, not just the probable – providing a relevant challenge to the conventional wisdom of their users, and helping them prepare for the major changes ahead. They will provide a useful context for debate, leading to better policy and strategy, and a shared understanding of, and commitment to actions.

Shell Energy Scenarios to 2050
Excerpts: TANIA – There 
Are No Ideal Answers

There is a great deal of inertia in 
the modern energy system, given 
its vast complexity and scale. The 
often lengthy timescales required for 
planning and constructing new energy 
infrastructure mean that strains within 
the system cannot be resolved easily 
or quickly, if at all. It will be several 
years before major changes become 
apparent. But below the surface, 
the pieces are already shifting. The 
question is, how to recognize and 
grapple with these changes. 
Scenarios are a tool to help identify 
such shifts, and consider the plausible 
interactions between different 
perspectives and possibilities. They 
help people to prepare for, shape, 
and even thrive in the reality that 
eventually unfolds. This text describes 
two alternative scenarios, Scramble 
and Blueprints, for the development. 
of the energy system over the next 
fifty years. 

These are both challenging outlooks. 
Neither are ideal worlds, yet both 
are feasible. They describe an era 
of transformation. Everyone knows 
that the energy system a century from 
now will be very different from that 
of today. But how will the transitions 
emerge over the next few decades? 
These scenarios bring out the impact 
of critical differences in the pace and 
shape of political, regulatory and 
technological change.

Scramble reflects a focus on national energy security. Immediate pressures drive decision-makers,  specially the need to secure energy supply in the near future for themselves and their allies. National government  attention naturally falls on the supply-side levers readily to hand, including the negotiation of bilateral agreements and incentives for local resource development. Growth in coal and bio-fuels becomes particularly significant.

Blueprints describes the dynamics behind new coalitions of interests. These do not necessarily reflect uniform objectives, but build on a combination of supply concerns, environmental interests, and associated entrepreneurial opportunities. It is a world where broader fears about life style and economic prospects forge
new alliances that promote action in both developed and developing nations. This leads to the emergence of a critical mass of parallel responses to supply, demand, and climate stresses, and hence the relative promptness of some of those responses.

Key Takeaways
  • Look at the Innovation opportunity space through all the nine windows - across the system levels and across time.
  • The TRIZ tool 9 Windows is a great tool to play with during the "Define" phase.
  • Shell's Scenarios technique helps us to clearly analyze the multitude directions in which the Future could evolve. 

1 comment:

  1. I found Siemens Pictures of the Future useful for predicting future - filling in the third column of the 9 Windows -
    Thanks to Aniruddha for drawing my attention to this excellent resource