Monday, December 31, 2012

Battery Innovation that flows

Liquid Metal Battery Technology - Donald Sadoway (MIT)



Image Source - http://www.technologyreview.com/photogallery/427701/making-liquid-metal-batteries/

We often hear about the goodness of alternative energy, like solar and wind - then what is holding us back from using them ? The primary concern is how do we manage when the Sun is not around in the night or when the wind is not blowing - these concerns shifts our focus to the energy storage technologies.

Currently we use solid state batteries. A fundamental technology evolution trend is to move from solid to liquid - it is easy to predict that the next revolution in energy storage will come from all-liquid batteries. We see evidence for the "TRIZ technology evolution trend of Solid - Liquid - Gas - Field" in many domains.

Donald Sadoway is working on a battery miracle -- an inexpensive, incredibly efficient, three-layered battery using “liquid metal. His Inventive thinking is best described in his own words: "We need to think about the problem differently. We need to think big. We need to think cheap."
TED Talk - http://www.ted.com/talks/donald_sadoway_the_missing_link_to_renewable_energy.html

Sadoway's MIT page- http://sadoway.mit.edu/

At MIT, Donald Sadoway has been working on a grid-size battery system that stores energy using a three-layer liquid-metal core. With help from fans like Bill Gates, Sadoway and two of his students have spun off the Liquid Metals Battery Corporation (LMBC) to bring the battery to market. Sadoway’s MIT Liquid Metal Battery Startup Adds $15M and Khosla Ventures as Investor

- http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Sadoways-MIT-Liquid-Metal-Battery-Startup-Adds-15M-and-Khosla-Ventures-as/

http://www.theenergymakers.com/episodes/october-2012/episode-57.html

Donald Sadoway is visiting India in March to speak at the MIT Technology Review Emerging Technologies Conference - EmTech 2013 -http://www.technologyreview.in/emtech
 .

Performing in the Surprise Tests of Life




Difficult situations and critical moments are like the surprise tests that were subjected to while at School. By definition, they are surprises but we need to be prepared for it. Gita teaches us how to think and prepare ourselves to handle the difficult situations in our life.

The Hero, Arjuna is a good person and has only noble intentions. He is brave and well-trained in warfare – he was Drona’s best student. He had powerful brothers to support and Krishna as a friend to advise. Despite of all these positive aspects, he was unable to face the situation. All his knowledge and training was of no help. He was reduced to a helpless state and was unable to think and act. If this is is the fate of Arjuna, the great hero, what chances do we have. I may have the best education, secure job, supporting family etc but I may become an Arjuna-when I am confronted with a difficult situation. How do I handle such critical moments in my life? How do I prepare myself ? Who is my friend Krishna ? Where can I find him ? When and How do I listen to him ?

No doubt I need to acquire knowledge and gain expertise – but these alone will not help me at the critical moment. Then what else will help me to face the critical moments ?

As long as Arjuna thought that he was the one who is going to kill his cousins and teachers, he was in confusion and grief. Krishna explained to him that all of us are born, die and re-born – go through several births as per an Universal law. The atman (the in-dweller) is permanent and does not go through any change – the external body is changes just like we change from old clothes to new clothes. Arjuna has to only do his duty of fighting as a true warrior to defeat the bad people and establish righteousness. He has to discharge his duty which is only a small piece of the grand plan. He should not think that he is doing things out of his free will and confuse himself. It is Krishna who is making Arjuna kill Duryodhana, it is Krishna again who makes Duryodhana do bad things and die ultimately. Though there were warriors fighting in the battlefield, it was Krishna’s Sudarshana Chakra that was going around and killing every body. Life is more like a play where we all come and enact our respective roles. The Director of the Play has the script in place and sets the stage for us to deliver our roles. So Krishna advises us to do our duty by focusing on the action rather than getting distracted by the results of the action. Arjuna understand this funda, becomes self-aware and surrenders himself to Krishna.

Arjuna was lucky to have Krishna explain to him the fundas. But how about us – who is our friend Krishna and where do we find him ? Gita says Atman is our best friend and is also our worst enemy. He is our best friend if we understand him well and is our worst enemy when we don’t understand. So Atman is our Krishna. We can find him inside ourselves – no need to search outside. How do we find him – through introspection and contemplation. Ramana Maharishi asked “Who am I? (naan Yaar)” and found his friend Krishna. Nachiketa asked “What happens to me after death ? Where do I go?” and found his friend Krishna. Krishna talks to us when we listen to him. So we need to free-up some space in our Mind and listen to our in-dweller Krishna.

Beyond our knowledge and expertise, we need self-awareness to meet the critical moments in our life. We need to have clarity on who we are and what our role is. Having figured that out, we should stick to our duty and play our part to the best of our ability. Although our role is pre-determined, how best we play that role depends on our attitude and effort.

Friday, December 14, 2012

3 Paths to Innovation


There were three paths that diverge into the woods
all the three were less travelled
so I wondered which path to take
but as I travelled, I realised
that all the three lead to the same woods

The first path helps the Innovator to arrive at an insight purely through Knowledge. In-depth knowledge arrived a through disciplined analysis. Intimate knowledge of the Customer. Holistic knowledge of the ecosystem. Predictive knowledge of Market and Technology evolution. Intuitive knowledge of the barriers to idea diffusion etc.

The second path helps the Innovator to create value (to the Customer) purely through his devotion to the cause. Many good ideas fail to bring significant value to the Customer. When the Innovator is devoted to the cause - he understands the Customer's pain points well and he is focused on shaping the Idea to create value to the Customer. 

The third path helps the Innovator to exceute the Idea purely through Action. Action deriving out of a well conceived plan and a systematic approach helps the Innovator to overcome all the barriers and take the Idea successfully to the Market. The Innovator acts with full concentration, unwavered by factors such as whether the Innovation will be successful or not.

Bhagwad Gita prescribes these three paths to solves any problem - the path of Knowledge (Jnana marga), the path of devotion (Bhakthi maga) and the path of execution (Karma marga).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When the Right meets the Left



The right brain helps us to get a new idea. In fact it offers us many new ideas and we register and act on a few of those. The left brain helps us to make the Idea work. Hence it is obvious that we need to learn to use both the right and left guys effectively.

The funny thing about these two neighbours is that they dont get along well (like most neighbours). When the right guy talks, the left guy jumps in and criticizes him. Then the right guy becomes silent.

Real innovation happends when these two guys can sing a duet together.

How do you control these two guys and make them speak in tandem ? - this is a million dollar question for an individual or an organization that wants to excel in Innovation.

Helps comes from the ancient Indian science of Pranayama - balancing the life breath.

I attended a Medidation camp at Adi Sankara Nilayam (Sankaracharya's birthplace in Kerala). The Meditation was taught by Guruji Tejomayananda who head the Chinmaya International Foundation. 


I wake up early in the morning (5-5.30am, when things are realtively quiet), sit comfortably in a posture such that my back is straight (Asana) and start observing my breathing pattern. I stabilize my breathing rate and control my inhaling and exhaling through the two nostrils. I do this atleast 18 times while constanly chanting the Gayatri mantra. I instruct my concious Mind to temporarily let go all its worries and relax totally.I chant Om 18 times - the sound starts from the belly (o), passes through the throat (u) and finally resonates in the head (m).  I spend about 15 mins for this entire ritual.

Pranayama and Meditation helps me to strike a balance between right and left brain thinking. Innovation needs a whole-brain thinking.

Many western innovation experts have started writing about the benefits meditation in Innovation. For example, read Peter Bregman's recent HBR Blog On Meditation
http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/12/try-meditation-to-strengthen-y.html

Innovation is a process, unlike Creativity

Creativity is not a process, right ? (Tim Cook, The Apple CEO)



http://www.businessweek.com/printer/articles/85214-tim-cooks-freshman-year-the-apple-ceo-speaks?src=longreads&utm_source=buffer&buffer_share=f156d

I agree with Tim, Creativity is not a process. In fact many creative folks fear that a process may well wipe out whatever creativity that exists.

But Creativity and Innovation are not synonymous. Innovation is still a process.

Innovation is the process of (a) using creativity to create insightful ideas (b) using these ideas to craete value to the Customer and (c) taking that value-creating idea to the Market successfully.

Creativity will yield good ideas. But a process is still needed to make that creative idea solve real problems and craete value to customer. Without a structured process, it is difficult to take an idea (however great it is) successfully to the Market.

So Tim, Innovation is a process unlike Creativity.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Probing the Innovation Challenge



What is the real challenge in innovation ?

The poor conversion of good ideas into truly valuable innovation. The fundamental issues behind this challenge are - How to create the vision for technology innovation? How to engage the experts and focus their efforts? How to organize the resources? How to deliver the innovations in time?

How is it a challenge?

When ideas don’t evolve into innovations, the inventors get discouraged, technology managers are frustrated, stakeholders are disappointed, technology development stagnates, the business loses confidence in R&D, new product development falls into a coma and ultimately the market suffers.

Who faces the challenge?

Technologists and scientists everywhere face this challenge whether they are in university research groups, government laboratories, industrial R&D teams in large companies, small technology start-ups etc. Though the innovation environment is significantly different across these organizations, the challenge remains the same.

When and where is it a challenge?

The challenge arises typically when the market need is ahead of the technology or when the technology is ahead of the market. The challenge exists in most emerging / developing / fast-growing economies. The challenge is intense, for a late entrant, in technology domains where the IP space is crowded. The absence of government regulation or enforcement favoring the new technology could further make things difficult.

Why is it a challenge?

o Management of IP – Inventors create valuable IP when they patent their ideas and inventions, but most of them don’t realize the importance of monetizing their IP. Even large technology-based businesses and R&D organizations do not effectively monetize their intellectual capital. Sustaining the innovation efforts becomes a challenge when the IP fails to generate value.

o New Product Development – Effective use of technology to differentiate the product in the market is the most reliable way to create a competitive advantage. The creation of a winning product needs a good knowledge of the unmet needs and a focused effort to meet those needs through technology innovations. Typical examples of a desired, but currently unmet, need in technology products could be lower cost, longer life, more user friendly, environment friendly etc. Sustaining the innovation efforts becomes a challenge when the revenue generated by new products is non-existent or delayed.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

We dont want your Ideas - give us Innovations !



Year - 2002
Place - India

I : I have a great Idea
Management : We dont want your Ideas - give us Innovations
I :  ?
I :  :(


As technologists (scientists, engineers, inventors), we have the responsibility of focusing our efforts to solve critical problems in the domains of Energy, Healthcare, Food, Water management, waste management etc. Many of these challenges are complex and strongly inter-related. Though we have good insights into the scientific and engineering aspects of these problems, we are far away from visualizing holistic solutions that are affordable and sustainable. I am fully confident that we, the technology community, are ready with the insights to address each of these problems. When we as a community share our insights, pool our resources and further build upon the insights through focused ideation, we will get good ideas. We are all trained to solve such technology problems and we routinely come up with good ideas, hence the journey so far is on well laid roads and smooth terrain.

How do we take our ideas beyond this point? The trek beyond this point is on a difficult terrain, dense fog that blinds us, very less oxygen that make us gasp, slippery slopes that slow us down, unpredictable avalanches that threaten our lives, Yetis and whatnot. We need determination, guts, special gear, reserve oxygen, experienced guides, perseverance and most importantly a clear vision of the summit. There are many barriers that prevent us from realizing the true value from our ideas. Typically, if we start with 100 good ideas, we may end our journey with ~ 5 impactful innovations. Most other ideas get killed as they fail to overcome the barriers on way from Lab to Market.

As an Inventor, aspiring to become to Innovators, I faced this challenge ten years back. Over the last one decade, I have been studying innovative solutions across these domains to understand how the innovators grew their ideas into impactful and holistic solutions. I studied a variety of systematic approaches to innovation such as TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving). I was also fortunate to be mentored by successful innovators in the Industry who had many innovative new products to their credit. I studied in-depth the organizational approaches to Innovation used by Innovative companies – GE, Dow, Honeywell, 3M, Shell, Toyota, Tata etc.

The Greatest Challenge for Indian Technology Innovators

We face a real challenge in evolving our ideas into innovations. However, it is very important that we take our ideas successfully to the market.

“For it doesn’t matter where scientific discoveries and breakthrough technologies originate – for national prosperity, the important thing is who commercializes them”

(Amar Bhide, Where Innovation creates value, The McKinsey Quarterly, 2009).

Let us look at the factors that help a technical idea to reach the market. At the outset, we need to align our ideas to critical problems and /or commercial opportunities. We also need to incubate our ideas till they grow into healthy inventions. The focus during the incubation phase is to establish Proof of Concept (POC), strengthen technical feasibility and assess scalability (and manufacturability).

A fresh technical idea is as delicate as a new born baby and it needs care and private space during its early days. Next, we have to harness the inventions with the right strategy to create valuable intellectual property. The intellectual protection of the invention acts like a fence and allows it to grow and blossom into a strong technology solution. We should learn to effectively monetize our intellectual property to create affordable technology solutions. Finally we need to creatively translate the technology solutions into innovations that solve critical problems and addresses unmet needs in the market. We need to evolve a process that will ensure that the ideas we pursue lead to technology solutions that are truly desirable, technically feasible and economically viable

Friday, August 10, 2012

How to grow Nanotechnology Inventions into Innovations ?


I am speaking at the Nanotechnology Center, Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) on 16 August.

Nanotechnology is a fertile area of inter-disciplinary research and holds great potential for solving the World's most critical problems in renewable energy, affordable healthcare, water management etc. We often read reports on promising nanotechnology inventions that seem to have the potential to positively impact the lives of people. However a very small fraction of these inventions are commercialized and made available to the common man as affordable and valuable solutions. 

During my years at GE, Dow and Honeywell, I had the opportunity to work with global teams of scientists and inventors who are some of the best in Nanotechnology. I lead many programs to bring their minds together and create innovative new products enabled by nanotechnology - I had my share of successes and failures and I got some very valuable learning out of these efforts.

I intend to focus my talk on the question - How to take breakthrough ideas in Nanotechnology from the Lab to the Market?

We will analyze the key challenges and also look at how innovators have overcome innovation barriers and successfully commercialized their Nanotechnology Inventions. We will navigate through 
  • (a) how to identify opportunities or problems that Nanotechnology can solve 
  • (b) how to create fresh insightful ideas
  • (c) how to grow ideas into inventions 
  • (d) how to create the intellectual property around your Invention 
  • (e) how to create value to customer by using your Invention 
  • (f) how to design a nanotechnology-enabled new product and 
  • (g) how to take this new product successfully to the Market. 

With this knowledge, we will be able to systematically grow our Nanotechnology Ideas into valuable Innovations.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Differentiate through Innovation - here is a strategy that works



Lead Question: How to create an Innovation Strategy that will lead to Differentiation ?

I took up the role of Innovation Differentiation Leader at a Multinational Company two years back. Our team's focus was on growing the business in emerging markets through product innovation. I spent the first 30 days defining and getting acceptance from folks on (a) what should be the focus of our innovation efforts and the next 30 days on (b) if product differentiation is the purpose of our innovation, then how should we define and achieve sustainable differentiation ?. I share the general wisdom on this topic, my own experience and the key learning here.

I realized that the first and most important step is to decide what particular kind of value we want to deliver to whom.

Differentiation 

When it comes to strategy, I would like to hear Porter's thoughts first. I came across three excellent tips from Porter on differentiation - differentiate yourself, deliver value and be consistent.

Read Rowan Gibson's interview with Michael Porter, hosted at Innovation Excellence,


# 1. Differentiate yourself 
 It’s not just a matter of being better at what you do-it’s a matter of being different at what you do.
Increasingly, the companies that will be the true leaders will be those that don’t just optimize within an industry, but that actually reshape and redefine their industry. The important thing is to try to shape the nature of competition, to take control over your own destiny.
# 2. Deliver Value
A good strategy makes the company different and gives it a unique position. And a unique position involves the delivery of a particular mix of value to some array of customers which represents a subset of the industry. 

# 3. Be consistent

It’s not good enough just to be different. You’ve got to be different in ways that involve trade-offs with other ways of being different. In other words, if you want to serve a particular target customer group with a particular definition of value, this must be inconsistent with delivering other types of value to other customers. If not, the position is easy to imitate or replicate.
Porter also advises when is it time to change at the Strategy 

  • when the fundamental needs of the customer group shift. 
  • or when the particular type of product is no longer distinct. 
  • or when the trade-offs are eliminated by new technology or customer changes.

Strategy to Innovate across the Value Chain


The only way to have an advantage is through innovation. But this innovation has to involve a consistent strategic direction. There has to be a strategic vision within which you are innovating. A company has to have something distinctive at the end of the day that it is reinforcing.
To me (Porter), innovation means offering things in different ways, creating new combinations. Innovation doesn’t mean small, incremental improvements – these are just part of being a dynamic organization. Innovation is about finding new ways of combining things generally.
The essential core of strategy is cross-functional or cross-activity integration. It’s not the ability to come up with a better production process or the ability to come up with a great ad. It’s the capacity to link and integrate activities across the whole value chain and to achieve complementarities across many activities. It’s where the way you do one thing allows you to do something else better.
In this context, i like the framework on Innovation Value Chain proposed by Hansen & Birkinshaw (HBR) - organizations need to have clear strategies to achieve excellence in all three areas -  idea generation, conversion and diffusion.
My Experience - what worked and what didn't


In the first few months of my role, i focused on improving our idea generation capacity. I conducted focused ideation sessions and trained technologists in divergent and convergent thinking techniques. I also exposed our technologists to a wide variety of opportunities that were identified by the Marketing team. In a short period of six months, I could train the team in idea generation techniques and we came up with good ideas.
In the next twelve months, i shifted my focus to Idea Conversion. Here my aim is to quickly get value out of the idea. Align the idea to a customer need and / or a business growth opportunity. The conventional stage-gate process that we had for managing the conversion of idea into value was not very helpful - it was very stifling - the team was increasingly getting frustrated. I felt the need for bringing in some flexibility - ask more qualitative questions rather than quantitative ones till Gate 2. We incubated our ideas till Gate 2 - we demonstrate proof of concept (POC) and showcase the new idea to the business.
But the real challenge was in Idea Diffusion - how to disseminate the new idea across the company and the get buy-in from the key stakeholders - this was not easy. Our idea to innovation conversion ratio suffered because we were poor at idea diffusion. I am yet to find the right way to do this - I have been experimenting with many different approaches. Hence I have to use many words to discuss this and I will save this discussion for my next blog post.
Key Takeaways
  • The ultimate aim of innovation is differentiation.
  • The most critical thing is to decide on what value we wish to create to whom.
  • To realize the value, we need to have strategy to excel in all phases of innovation across the value chain - Idea generation, conversion and diffusion.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Simple Framework for Innovation Leadership

If you are looking for a simple and effective framework that you can adapt for organizational innovation and for coaching your innovation leaders, then you will find help here.


You may be familiar with the framework for leadership that was developed at MIT over a four-year period by Professors Deborah Ancona, Tom Malone, and Wanda Orlikowski, with Peter Senge, and tested in diverse real world settings, the FCF is a powerful tool for understanding and integrating the four critical components of leadership. The FCF, as described in research on Leadership in the Age of Uncertainty, defines these components as follows (http://mitleadership.mit.edu/r-dlm.php)

  • Sensemaking: making sense of the world around us, coming to understand the context in which we are operating.
  • Relating: developing key relationships within and across organizations.
  • Visioning: creating a compelling picture of the future.
  • Inventing: designing new ways of working together to realize the vision
I looked at this framework from the Innovation angle and to my pleasant surprise, all the four terms - sensemaking, relating, visioning and inventing - precisely described the critical components of Systematic Innovation. Here I describe how I adapted this highly successful framework for Innovation. I used this to coach innovation leaders in my organization and found it very effective.

  • Sensemaking: this is all about understanding the innovation ecosystem and ensuring that the innovations are spread across the entire ecosystem (refer to my earlier blog post on how successful Innovators focus on the Ecosystem -
  • Relating: I would like to interpret this a little differently (a) Innovators analyze relations and understand inter-dependencies (b) Innovators create new connections and form relations where none existed before.r
    • I use the "Adapt" trigger to borrow ideas from other domains and relate them to the problem that I am trying to solve - If I am designing an innovative school, I ask myself what I can borrow and adapt from a hospital or bank or restaurant and introduce in a school to make it more effective.
    • Here is something that coudl help you in forging new relations -
      6 Innovation Triggers
      The Innovation Genome Project is a grand effort to look at historical innovations and identify best-practices and techniques that could help us to create innovative ideas. Read more about it at Innovation Excellence - 
      http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2012/01/09/the-innovation-genome-project/ - six powerful questions that could trigger innovative thinking:
      1. What could we look at in a new way?
      2. What could we use in a new way, or for the first time?
      3. What could we move into a new context, either in time or in space?
      4. What could we connect in a new way, or for the first time?
      5. What could we change, in terms of design or performance?
      6. What could we create that is truly new?
  • Visioning: Most Innovators succeed by visioning the innovative solution well before inventing it - some of them get inspired by the imagination of others and proceed to invent those visions - H.G Wells inspired Leo Szilard to invent artificial atomic energy and Jules Verne inspired Simon Lake to invent the Submarine. 
  • Inventing: This is the heart of Innovation. After understanding the ecosystem, creating new connections and visualizing the ideal solution, it is time to solve the problem and come up with an inventive solution. Innovator's ability to smartly design and conduct experiments that prove his innovative concept is very critical. This skill can drastic bring down the time for innovation and helps the decision maker to prioritize the most promising ideas.
Key Takeaways
  • Make Sense of the Ecosystem 
  • Connect and form new relations 
  • Create a Vision of the Ideal Solution 
  • Develop an Inventive solution for the problem and grow it into Innovation.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Art & Science of Teaching Innovation


I am currently teaching a course on Technology and Innovation Management at the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Bangalore. It is a 2-credit elective course and the class comprises of both Marketing and Finance students (about 60 students). This is the third consecutive year that I am teaching this course - i make it interesting to myself  by preparing fresh charts, case-studies and projects every time. It is a very refreshing experience to design fresh and teach this course every year. I aim to learn from my class as much as I teach. To ensure effective learning, I spend about 25% time to introduce the concepts - the rest 75% time is interactive discussions, hand-on exercises, focused ideation sessions and problem solving workshops. I have taught the first 8 sessions out of a total of 24 sessions as of today.



In the first two sessions, we focused on defining innovation management, breaking the Myths and discussing the key issues that make managing innovation difficult.


In the third and fourth sessions, we looked at Innovation skills - (a) skills needed for creating insightful ideas, (b) skills for creating value to customers from these ideas and (c) skills for taking the new ideas safely to the Market. We looked at the relative role of Creativity, Knowledge and Motivation in enabling innovation. We looked at Organization innovation and leadership traits of an innovation leader (Teresa Amabile). I introduced my Innovation Flow framework at this stage - Focus, Leap & Orient, What's Next - for systematic innovation.

In the fifth and sixth sessions, we looked at creating and executing a strategy for innovation. We looked at the disruptive innovations (Christensen) and Strategy - Vijay Govindarajan's Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators etc. We studied the Forget, Learn and Borrow methodology proposed by Vijay.

In the seventh and eighth sessions, we looked at managing the development of innovative new products - focused on customer centered innovation - understanding the customers' pain points, creating ideas for innovative new products  Buyer-Utility Map (Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne, HBR), Jobs analysis (Tony Ulwick, HBR), Use of divergent thinking tools like Scammper, Customer Innovation Map, Innovation Portfolio management - core, adjacent & transformational innovations (Bansi Nagji & Geoff Tuff, HBR) etc 

I intend to share my experience in teaching this course through regular blog posts. If any of you is also teaching a course on innovation, i would encourage you to share your thoughts. I will also be happy to share my teaching material and help you with designing such a course. The images show the books on my desk - these are the one that I am using for teaching Innovation Management. These two piles of books do not include the ones that I use for teaching Technology Management.

I am passionate about teaching innovation management and mentoring innovators to shape their ideas into impactfull innovations. I teach, therefore I am.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Parallels between Panini and Altshuller


There are good parallels between how Panini simplified and made Sanskrit grammar accessible to all and how Altshuller simplified and made the collective wisdom of Inventive knowledge accessible to all. Panini and Altshuller were not contemporaries, they were separated by at least 25 centuries. But their zeal and perseverance to reduce complex stuff into a handful of powerful principles is very much comparable. Their himalayan effort connected the invisible dots and brought out patterns that were submerged in a vast amount of unstructured data. 


Panini is a great sanskrit grammarian and logician (~ 4th century BC). He was a pioneer in Linguistics and his works were path breaking in both descriptive and generative linguistics. He was a forerunner of modern formal language widely used in modern computer languages. Source - 




Genrich Altshuller, the originator of TRIZ, was working in the patent department of the Soviet navy (in the late 1940s). His primary responsibility was to assist inventors in filing patents, but because he was himself a gifted inventor (he received his first patent at the age of 14), he was often asked for help in solving problems encountered during the innovation process. He looked for systematic methods to help people solve creative problems. While there are no tools that allow us inside the human mind to study the process of innovation, the results of this process can be easily observed by studying the inventions themselves, or the patent literature associated with them. Realizing that an innovation represents a fundamental change to a technological system -- and is therefore subject to analysis -- Altshuller turned his attention to the patent fund, screening over 200,000 patents from all over the world.  He identified 40,000 patents that constituted "inventive" achievements, and began a rigorous analysis of these. The results of his efforts formed the theoretical basis of TRIZ.  Source - http://www.ideationtriz.com/history.asp


They were both  frustrated by the complexity of the large amount of unstructured information. Pannini found it impossible to learn sanskrit grammar in the unstructured way that it was taught to him. He was confident that the problem was not with him but with the lack of structure. Altshuller tried to elicit patterns of inventing by studying a large collection of patents across many domains.

They decided to simplify stuff by bringing structure to the data. Pannini meditated upon the 14 shiva sutras  and reduced the vast data to a manageable number of guiding rules. He derived a highly-structured system of sanskrit grammar by using these simplified rules. Panini's grammar gained acceptance instantly because of its simplicity and the old grammar vanished overnight. Altshuller filtered the large collection of patents (200,000) into a smaller collection of inventive patents (40000). He studied these inventive patents deeply and brought out clear trends in inventions - common principles that Inventors have successfully used across different domains to solve technical problems.

The crowning achievement of both Panini and Altshuller is the creation of a subset of powerful principles. Panini simplified sanskrit grammar into clearly defined rules and principles in his book Ashtadhyayi (~ 4000 aphorisms in 8 chapters). Altshuller distilled all the inventive knowledge into 40 Inventive principles (that form the basis of TRIZ - Theoy of Inventive Problem Solving). 

The 40 TRIZ Inventive principles with examples - 


Special thanks to Dr Shantha for telling me in a very interesting way how Panini created Sanskrit - but for her, I couldn't have drawn this parallel.