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Creativity for Chemical Engineers

Course outline

introduction to the creative process for engineers

the importance of environment and team dynamics

defining the real problem

breaking down barriers to generating ideas; blocks and blockbusting techniques

generating solutions; introducing a range of creative process to generate solutions to the real
problem including Synectics, CPS, TRIZ, and the work of de Bono
selecting a solution - the Kepner-Tregoe (KT) approach

implementing a solution; the process of approval, planning, carry-through and follow-up

evaluating a solution for effectiveness, safety and ethical considerations

A series of case studies, activities and exercises adapted from the world of chemical engineering will be
used to help delegates develop an understanding of their own aptitude for creative problem-solving.
Delegates will be encouraged to share experiences and challenges relating to creative problem-solving
from their professional lives.
At the end of the course, delegates will appreciate the benefit of creative thinking within the chemical
engineering profession. They will take away an essential toolkit enabling them to start applying creative
problem-solving techniques with their teams.

The name Synectics combines Greek word parts and suggests, "the bringing together of diverse
Description The basis of Synectics lies in the meaning of the name. Throughout a Synectics
session, the facilitator is responsible for bringing together and guiding a diversity of people, their
divergent ideas, and random stimulation. This is accomplished in planning as well in the ideagenerating sessions.
1. Planning
In order to ensure success of the session, the facilitators and others responsible for finding
solutions, including what the Synectics method describes as the problem owners, prepare by
doing the following:

Identify the problem owners and make sure they want new solutions.

Make sure the problem owners have the power to implement new solutions.

Understand the problem owners' mindsets with regard to the problem area.

Understand the parameters of the expected solution.

Define the expectations of the problem owners.

2. Session
In general, the following steps are followed and re-cycled as necessary to accomplish the ideagenerating goals of the problem owners.

Problem owner describes the problem in terms of wishes, that is, expressed as, "I

The group generates as many solution approaches, called springboards, as possible.

The group and problem owners select and focus on generating solution ideas for the
most promising springboards.

Any number of brainstorming or idea-generating techniques or exercises may be used to help

along the solution generating process. For example: paraphrasing, itemized response, analogies,
excursions, free association, random stimuli, and others.
Throughout the session the facilitator is responsible for cultivating and maintaining an
atmosphere of speculative thinking and open-ended contribution that attracts diverse ideas and
protects participants from criticism.
Where to Learn Synectics


Synectics World

Training Classes

Synectics Inc.


Six Thinking Hats

Used with well-defined and explicit Return On Investment success in
corporations worldwide, Six Thinking Hats is a simple, effective parallel thinking
process that helps people be more productive, focused, and mindfully involved.
A powerful tool set, which once learned can be applied immediately!

You and your team members can learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and
roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic "thinking hat." By mentally
wearing and switching "hats," you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation,
or the meeting.

The White Hat calls for information known or needed. "The

facts, just the facts."

The Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. Under

this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and

The Black Hat is judgment - the devil's advocate or why

something may not work. Spot the difficulties and dangers;
where things might go wrong. Probably the most powerful and
useful of the Hats but a problem if overused.

The Red Hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition. When

using this hat you can express emotions and feelings and share
fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates.

The Green Hat focuses on creativity; the possibilities,

alternatives, and new ideas. It's an opportunity to express new
concepts and new perceptions.

The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It's the
control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats
guidelines are observed.

Using Six Thinking Hats, you and your team will learn how to
use a disciplined process which will...

Maximize productive collaboration and minimize counterproductive


Consider issues, problems, decisions, and opportunities systematically

Use Parallel Thinking as a group or team to generate more, better ideas

and solutions

Make meetings much shorter and more productive

Reduce conflict among team members or meeting participants

Stimulate innovation by generating more and better ideas quickly

Create dynamic, results oriented meetings that make people want to


Go beyond the obvious to discover effective alternate solutions

Spot opportunities where others see only problems

Think clearly and objectively

View problems from new and unusual angles

Make thorough evaluations

See all sides of a situation

Keep egos and "turf protection" in check

Achieve significant and meaningful results in a less time

Significant Applications for the Parallel Thinking Process of Six

Thinking Hats

Leadership Development

Team Productivity, Alignment and Communication

Creative and innovative thinking

Meeting leadership and decision making

Product and Process Improvement, and Project Management

Critical, Analytical Thinking and Problem-Solving

Organizational Change/Performance

Wherever High Performance Thinking and Action is needed


A Powerful Methodology for Creative Problem Solving

How could the idea of these Russian Dolls be applied to retailing?

Projects of all kinds frequently reach a point where as much analysis as possible has been carried
out, but the way forward is still unclear. Progress seems blocked, and if the project team is to
move forward, it must develop creative solutions to the problems it faces.
You'll already know about techniques such as brainstorming , which can help with this sort of
situation. However, this type of approach, which depends on intuition and the knowledge of the
members of the team, tends to have unpredictable and unrepeatable results. What's more, a
huge range of possible solutions can be missed, simply because they're outside the experience
of the project team.
TRIZ is a problem solving methodology based on logic, data and research, not intuition. It draws
on the past knowledge and ingenuity of many thousands of engineers to accelerate the project
team's ability to solve problems creatively. As such, TRIZ brings repeatability, predictability, and
reliability to the problem-solving process with its structured and algorithmic approach.

About TRIZ
"TRIZ" is the (Russian) acronym for the "Theory of Inventive Problem Solving." G.S. Altshuller and
his colleagues in the former USSR developed the method between 1946 and 1985. TRIZ is an
international science of creativity that relies on the study of the patterns of problems and
solutions, not on the spontaneous and intuitive creativity of individuals or groups. More than
three million patents have been analyzed to discover the patterns that predict breakthrough
solutions to problems, and these have been codified within TRIZ.
TRIZ is spreading into corporate use across several parallel paths it is increasingly common in
Six Sigma processes, in project management and risk management systems, and in
organizational innovation initiatives.

Generalized Solutions
TRIZ research began with the hypothesis that there are universal principles of creativity that are
the basis for creative innovations, and that advance technology. The idea was that if these
principles could be identified and codified, they could be taught to people to make the process of
creativity more predictable. The short version of this is:
Somebody someplace has already solved this problem (or one very similar to it.) Today,
creativity involves finding that solution and adapting it to this particular problem.
The three primary findings of the last 65 years of research are as follows:

Problems and solutions are repeated across industries and sciences. By classifying the
"contradictions" (see later) in each problem, you can predict good creative solutions to
that problem.


Patterns of technical evolution tend to be repeated across industries and sciences.


Creative innovations often use scientific effects outside the field where they were

Much of the practice of TRIZ consists of learning these repeating patterns of problems-solutions,
patterns of technical evolution and methods of using scientific effects, and then applying the
general TRIZ patterns to the specific situation that confronts the developer. Figure 1, below,
describes this process graphically.

Here, you take the specific problem you face, and generalize it to one of the TRIZ general
problems. From the TRIZ general problems, you identify the TRIZ solutions to those general
problems, and then see how these can be applied to the specific problem you face.

A powerful demonstration of this method was seen in the pharmaceutical industry. Following the
flow of Figure 1, the specific problem was as follows: an important process needed cell walls to
be broken down in bacteria cells so that hormones inside the cells could be harvested. A
mechanical method for breaking the cell walls had been in use at a moderate scale for some
time, but the yield was only 80%, and was variable. Higher yields and a scaleable solution were
The TRIZ general problem at the highest level is to find a way to produce the product with no
waste, at 100% yield, with no added complexity. One of the patterns of evolution of technology
that TRIZ identifies is that energy (fields) replaces objects (mechanical devices). For example,
consider using a laser instead of a scalpel for eye surgery. In this case, ultrasound could be used
to break the cell walls, or an enzyme could be used to "eat" it (chemical energy). This may seem
very general, but it led the pharmaceutical researchers to analyze all the resources available in
the problem (the cells, the cell walls, the fluid they are in, the motion of the fluid, the processing
facility, etc.) and to conclude that three possible solutions had a good potential for solving their

The cell walls could be broken by sound waves (from the pattern of evolution of
replacing mechanical means by fields).


The cell walls could be broken by shearing, as they pass through the processing
facility (using the resources of the existing system in a different way).


An enzyme in the fluid could "eat" the cell walls and release the contents at the
desired time.

All three methods have been tested successfully. The least expensive, highest yield method was
soon put in production.

Eliminating contradictions
Another of the fundamental concepts behind TRIZ is that at the root of many problems is a
fundamental contradiction that causes it (we'll give examples below.) In many cases, a reliable
way of solving a problem is to eliminate these contradictions. TRIZ recognizes two categories of


Technical contradictions are classical engineering "trade-offs." The desired state

can't be reached because something else in the system prevents it. In other words, when
something gets better, something else automatically gets worse. Classical examples

The product gets stronger (good), but the weight increases (bad).

Service is customized to each customer (good), but the service delivery

system gets complicated (bad).

Training is comprehensive (good), but keeps employees away from their

assignments (bad).

Physical contradictions, also called "inherent" contradictions, are situations in

which an object or system suffers contradictory, opposite requirements. Everyday
examples abound:

Software should be complex (to have many features), but should be simple
(to be easy to learn).

Coffee should be hot for enjoyable drinking, but cold to prevent burning
the customer.

Training should take a long time (to be thorough), but not take any time.

Dairy farm operators could no longer dry cow manure for use as fertilizer due to an increased
cost of energy. They were faced with a technical contradiction between dry manure (good) and
cost (bad). TRIZ led the operators to a drying method used for the concentration of fruit juice,
which required no heat.

Some of the TRIZ Tools

The "General TRIZ Solutions" referred to in Figure 1 have been developed over the course of the
65 years of TRIZ research, and have been organized in many different ways. Some of these are
analytic methods such as:

The Ideal Final Result and Ideality.

Functional Modeling, Analysis and Trimming.

Locating the Zones of Conflict. (This is more familiar to Six Sigma problem solvers as
"Root Cause Analysis.")

Some are more prescriptive such as:

The 40 Inventive Principles of Problem Solving.

The Separation Principles.

Laws of Technical Evolution and Technology Forecasting.

76 Standard Solutions.

In the course of solving any one technical problem, one tool or many can be used.

One of these tools, "The 40 Principles of Problem Solving" is the most accessible "tool" of TRIZ.

The 40 Principles of Problem Solving

These 40 Principles are the ones that were found to repeat across many fields, as solutions to
many general contradictions, which are at the heart of many problems. A list of all 40 Principles
of Problem Solving can be found at
Here are just a few of the Principles and examples of how they could have been used to create
products that were once new and innovative:


Segmentation (Divide an object

into independent parts)

Individually wrapped cheese slices

Local quality (Provide different

packaging for different uses)

"Adult" editions of Harry Potter


Universality (make an object

perform multiple functions)

Chocolate spread sold in glasses

(with a lid) that can be used for
drinking afterwards

Nested Doll

Store within store (coffee shops in


Another dimension (Tilt or re-orient


Squeezable ketchup bottles that sit

on their lids

Using TRIZ
The best way to learn and explore TRIZ is to identify a problem that you haven't solved
satisfactorily and try it. Use the List of the 40 Principles of Problem Solving and the Contradiction
Matrix tool that can be found at to help you through the process.
Material for this article has been provided by a team of experts from the TRIZ Journal: Katie
Barry, Editor, Ellen Domb, PhD, Managing Editor, and Michael S Slocum, PhD, Managing
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Kepner-Tregoe Problem Analysis

This entry was posted on January 14, 2013, in Problem Analysis and tagged Continuous
Improvement, Opportunity, Problem, Problem Analysis. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments

K-T Problem Analysis is a systematic method to analyse a problem and understand the
root cause of the issue instead of making assumptions and jumping to conclusions,
which is still common place even today. This method has become very popular in IT
and technical fields and has been included in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) but
can be applied to a wide range of problems.
The same structure of Problem analysis is used in DMAIC and G8D and has been
proved many times over in the field. Furthermore specific aspects of the Problem
Analysis method can be used to greatly improve and strengthen these other problem
solving methods.
There are 5 steps to Kepner-Tregoe Problem Analysis

Define the Problem

Describe the Problem

Establish possible causes

Test the most probable cause

Verify the true root cause

Please note that this post contains some tabular information in images rather than
html tables. If you are using a screen reader please contact me at ian dot cosgrove at
gmail dot com for the information and I will provide this in the most convenient format
for you.
Define the problem
The first step is crucial, if you dont know what problem is how can you expect to fix it?
Many people skip by this stage presuming they know what the problem is, this leads to
difficulty down the line and wastes time, often leading the team to go back and reexamine this step.
When someone reports an issue such as My screen is blank its easy to say that is
what the problem is and many people immediately go to work on this. However asking
a few basic questions can reveal far more information about the nature of the problem
and helps define possible causes of the issue. Lets expand this further with a few
basic questions, you can use any method that helps you but here we will look at the 5


Who is experiencing the problem?


Why is this important, why is this being done?


What are the effects/symptoms errors / defects or something you expected

doesnt happen?


When does the problem occur or when did it start happening?


Where does the problem occur?

Lets ask the questions and expand the problem definition from My screen is blank

Who. Mr. John Doe


Why, needs to see his screen so he can process part orders


What, the screen goes blank while booting up his computer, nothing appears on
screen but he can hear the start up music for Windows


When, the computer powers up but then goes completely blank, everything was
fine yesterday when he shut it down


Where, Mr. Does computer screen

Lets revisit the Problem definition with this new information

Mr. Doe is unable to process part orders because his screen goes blank during boot
up ever since he shut it down yesterday
This is a much better problem description, it allows a team to understand exactly what
the problem is from 1st glance, it narrows the focus of the questions that will follow
and it helps us understand the impact of the problem unable to process part orders.
I would recommend a basic reproduction of the problem now to verify the description,
this rules out the possibility of human error, validates the problem description and
confirms the circumstances. Imagine if someone reported that they are not receiving
any email, is there a problem with their mail or maybe someone just hasnt sent them
any mail today..
Also a brief 5 Whys on the WHAT (effects/symptoms) can be very useful to exclude
some high level symptoms and accelerate the problem analysis. For example, why
would the screen be blank? There could be several reasons

The graphics card could have failed, no the computer wouldnt boot, it would
give 3 loud beeps then stop

The screen could be faulty, no the manufacturers logo appears at first then the
screen goes blank

Hard Drive could be faulty and the computer doesnt boot , no we hear the
Windows start up music

The backlight might have failed and the screen is dark, no the logo
appears perfectly visible

The display could be switching over to an external screen, no we can see

everything on external display but when we switch to internal its still blank

Lets see if we can improve our problem description now

Mr. Doe is unable to process orders because his internal screen goes blank when
Windows is starting since he shut it down yesterday
Please forgive the IT related example but the same process can be applied by a
Subject Matter Expert in any area to achieve the same benefits.
Describe the problem
In this step we describe 4 aspects of any problem, What the problem is, Where the
problem occurs, When it occurred and the Extent to which it occurred. As a bonus we
already have the answer to several of these questions after building our Problem
Definition in Step 1 but the IS and IS NOT method allows us to explore these even
For each aspect of the problem we will describe what the problem IS, similar to step 1,
and also what the problem COULD BE but IS NOT. The use of both columns allows us
to describe what the problem is in detail but also rule out possible issues that did not
cause the problem.

Lets fill out the same table for our example problem

Identify possible causes

This juxtaposition of what the problem IS and IS NOT helps us to rationally examine
what changes could have affected the items in the 1st column but not the items in the
2nd. Experience tells us that the majority of problems are due to a recent change,
particularly for existing systems that have been working for some time without issues.
To expand our Problem Description to Possible Causes we will add 2 more columns to
the worksheet, the first is Differences which lists the differences between the IS and
IS NOT, the second is Changes which lists any changes to where the problem IS that
could account for the differences.

It is important to note that effects dont always immediately follow action, recent
changes could have just exposed underlying problems that were always there so when
considering the list of changes dont limit yourself only to recent ones.
Test most probable causes
The changes from the previous step become a list of possible causes to explain why
the problem may have occurred. With the Subject Matter Expert rank the possible
causes by likelihood. For each possible cause ask If THIS is the root cause of this
problem, does it explain everything the problem IS and what the problem COULD BE
but IS NOT?
The following table helps you list the possible causes by likelihood

Verify true cause

Compare the probable cause against the Problem Description, does it satisfy all of the
conditions of the problem?
When youve found a cause that explains all of these conditions test it to confirm it is
correct with the procedure in the True if column starting with the most probable
cause. Reproduce the same conditions and if it results in the same symptoms you have
confirmed the cause.

Once youve done that ask the 5 Whys to ensure this is the root cause of the problem,
you can ask your team Why do you believe this is the Root cause? this exercise helps
them to reflect on the decisions that led them to this conclusion and reinforces the
When you are confident you have identified the root cause of the problem develop a
solution and ask if you are satisfied this would prevent any reoccurrence of the
problem. If so implement the solution, then test the problem again under the same
conditions, does the issue still occur?
To get back to our example imagine you have determined the problem with the display
is due to a recent driver update which was installed but did not take effect until Mr.
Doe had restarted his computer.
We can correct the problem by attaching an external screen and uninstalling the driver
update. After restarting the computer the issue has been resolved, but has the root
cause been addressed? It is unreasonable to ask someone to never update their
drivers and it is unlikely that the intention of the driver team was to release an update
that would stop the screen from working.
As an immediate action we can ensure Mr. Doe does not install this driver again. As a
preventative action we can notify anyone else in the company who has the same
computer that they should not install this driver until further notice.
Many troubleshooters will stop there as they have reached the end of their sphere of
influence, we dont have the access or experience to fix the driver ourselves but we
should always notify the manufacturer of the issue and stay in contact with them until
they have released a fix for the problem.
Characteristics of the Problem Analysis method
This method advocates a rational and systematic approach to analysing a problem
without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions based on past experience.
Compared to other methods one of the biggest advantages is the IS and COULD BE but
IS NOT procedure which provides an intuitive approach to identifying possible causes
for a problem.
Working within a Team is expected with the Kepner Tregoe method however it does
lack the explicit steps of Six Sigma or the Global 8 Discipline methodologies, this can
be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the problem you are addressing.

The process can generally be faster than other methods, without the statistical ball and
chain of Six Sigma it can be quicker to progress through the method but as a result it
can be harder if not impossible to detect subtle variation in a process and therefore
implement the same level of controls.
The sole purpose of the method is in the name Problem Analysis. Kepner-Tregoe have
other methods to bring you from situational awareness through to solution/opportunity
development which should be considered for a complete method to address problems.
Have feedback? Has this post helped you? Please let me know in the comments below!