November 25, 2003

TRIZ...not just for kids

At Scient, everyone got indoctrinated with the "Innovation Workshop", a two-day seminar based on the work of Min Basadur. Scient had tried to distinguish itself from the pack of eBusiness integrators (SapRazLanViaProxiFirstXL) by claiming status as "The eBusiness Systems Innovator". I'm sure Chris "Category? Invent a New Category!" Lochhead was behind that one.

The Basadur-based workshop used a "Diverge | Converge" framework--similar to the stormin'-then-normin' idea we're all used to. Van Oech, DeBono, Gardner, etc. all tout similar processes.

So I just "discovered" TRIZ: Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. Way back in the 1940s, a Soviet patent examiner named Genrich S. Altshuller figured out that all inventive solutions have common principles. Forty, to be exact. Applying these principles to your problem suggests new insights, upon which one or two might be the aha! (in the Gardner sense) you need.

Most of the attention on TRIZ has been from the TQM folks. Us old-school IEs, who grew up with Taguchi and QFD, who carried laminated cards of Deming's 14 points in our wallets, dig this stuff.

Turns out that Business 2.0 did an article last June on TRIZ. I hope they're teaching it in IE schools these days.

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November 24, 2003

Cheaper by the Dozen

I just learned about the remake of "Cheaper by the Dozen", the film version of the book of the same name depicting Frank and Lillian Gilbreath raising 12 kids.

"Cheaper" was one of the reasons I got into Industrial Engineering--I read the book as a kid and found the practicality of methods improvement almost as intriguing as the book's humor.

The Gilbreath's analysis and improvement of work processes helped foster the human factors and usability disciplines we have today. Breaking down a process into "fundamental components of work" was their game, a precursor to the task analysis we do now. Their branding of fundamental hand and arm motions as "therbligs" (a jumbled "Gilbreath") were the usability design patterns of their era.

And this was all during the 1920s, too.

Sadly, it seems that the new movie isn't about the Gilbreaths at all--they changed the story where the father character, played by Steve Martin, is now a college football coach.

Official movie site:

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November 18, 2003

FrogPad leaps in.

The new FrogPad is quite an interesting development in data entry. Beyond QWERTY, beyond Dvorak, this raises all sorts of human factors and repetitive motion questions.

The IDEO design is almost LeapPad-ish, in a way. I guess that's appropriate for a product named "FrogPad".

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November 05, 2003


Just noticed that Bill got himself a ISSN, a International Standard Serial Number used by the Library of Congress to ID serial publications.

At, we were encouraged to go get ISSNs for our weekly email newsletters. After a while, the newsletters ceased to be viable as a means of drawing page views (ok, at least my newsletters were), and gradually degenerated into auto-generated vehicles for paid links.

But, hey, ISSNs, and all that other library science stuff is cool. Let's see how my application goes with the US government.

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Who has time to blog?

Did you catch the AP article on old stale Web sites? And I had, what--2 posts in October, and this is the first time I've posted in November?


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