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“Innovation” by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 ImageCreator

TRIZ (1)  is a Russian innovation and product design process, which can be effectively used in a more simplified way for service design.

TRIZ provides problem definition and solution tools, in order to support a creative mindset for people at all levels of an organisation. TRIZ is well known in parts of the engineering sector, however its detailed methods can be hard to decipher for non-engineers:

The three principles of TRIZ are:

  • There are ‘ideal’ solutions to complex problems; ones that need minimal resources and have maximum benefit
  • Opportunities/Issues are created due to some sort of a contradiction
  • There are 40 generalised principles we can use to allow us to resolve contradictions and create innovative (and in theory frugal innovation)

These 40 principles have been created mainly for the creation of new products and in particular new engineering products. However, with around 80% of western economies being concentrated on service industries, it becomes important to use this innovation in the service industry.

We have designed some TRIZ cards specifically for the service sector (more about this later) and used them to challenge specific service issues. Here are some issues we tackled using TRIZ:

Health Service:

One of the issues faced by the health service is the massive use of antidepressants (108% increase from 2005 to 2017). So, at a workshop on Public Service Innovation at the RSA, we looked at this issue:

Problem: How to promote alternatives to anti-depressants?

The sub team that looked at this contained a cross section of public sector experts, not necessarily in the medical field, however with a good general understanding of the problem. Here are two of the cards from the 40 principles that generated (2) new ideas:

  • Triz Principle 25. Self Service – Allow the customer to play a role in the delivery of the service
  • Triz Principle 33: Homogeneity – Focus on the consistency of the services with other services, which have a similar function.

They came up with the following ideas

  • Change the GP “prescription” pad to include community activity, i.e. just not give a pill.
  • Encourage experienced volunteers who have been on the same journey to support their peers in their own journey

Digital Services:

TRIZ could have been used to spot the opportunity of a new social media application. As the growth of websites grew exponentially in the early 2000s and became more and more popular, the “wow” factor of browsing websites surpassed the volume of information that could be digested.

Problem: People wanted more information but also less information.

We can use the following TRIZ to see how we could meet this aim:

  • Principle 13 ‘Invert’ – How can you deliver a service in an opposite way?

Finding a way to constrain information without reducing the quality of the message would be an ideal solution. So putting a limit, say of 140 characters and allowing people to subscribe to messages of interest, would allow them rapidly gain knowledge from trusted sources.

As we all know Twitter is now essentially this solution. (albeit not discovered by TRIZ!).

B2C Service:

A colleague of mine had an issue with her local coffee shop. It serves great coffee but queues are particularly during lunchtime, as people came for nourishment and thereafter a coffee for their ‘pick me up’. After 2pm it started getting quieter. The cafe was also a mini hub for nearby start up companies who came to use the free Wi-Fi and for meetings.

Problem: The Coffee shops need to manage capacity in a way to fulfill its range of customers

She studied the TRIZ principles and one in particular added value

  • Principle 19: Periodic Action – Break a continuous process to periodic actions or increase the frequency of periodic events.

She came up with an idea that during certain hours such as between 14:00-18:00, providing a refill coffee at no charge would be a good move. It would result in moving some demand in the quiet period after lunch and in particular attracting start-ups. It would also create some more capacity for the people who have come to get a take out during lunchtime.

Our TRIZ Cards for Service

Dr. Nadhmi Gazem and I have reviewed the principles, made some changes and introduced some new elements. Some of the principles of TRIZ will only work with certain types of service innovation. In addition to the contextual setting of the 40 principles we have introduced 5 sets of service types to best us target the area of innovation. These are:

  • Self Service – Asking the consumer to take on the role of the producer
  • Around Service – Manipulating tangible elements of the service
  • Bundled Service – Combing multiple services into a single package
  • Direct Service – Delivering to the Customer location
  • Pre-service – Streamlining the activation of the service

For your organisation, understand which areas of service innovation you want to apply will play a vital part as part of the innovative leap. For more information about how to buy our TRIZ Cards and a preview of how to use them please see our product page.

Additionally, you can read our latest post on TRIZ here.

Ketan Varia, with editorial support from Burcu Atay and Kiruthiga Savatherajan

(1) TRIZ means “the theory of inventive problem solving”

(2) In reality the group looked at many TRIZ cards but in the interest of space on the blog we have limited it two

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