By Keith McCandless
My favorite part of working with groups is helping people notice and stop counterproductive behavior. We all have self-limiting individual and group behaviors. Of course, they are easier to spot in others than in ourselves. So, finding seriously fun ways to help people discover for themselves what they can stop doing is important.
I use an activity called TRIZ from Liberating Structures. The purpose of TRIZ is to:
- Make it possible to speak the unspeakable and get skeletons out of the closet
- Make space for innovation
- Lay the ground for creative destruction by doing the hard work in a fun way
- TRIZ may be used before or in place of visioning sessions
- Build trust by acting all together to remove barriers.
TRIZ has five structural elements.
1. Structuring Invitation
In this three-step process, ask:
- “Make a list of all you can do to make sure that you achieve the worst result imaginable with respect to your top strategy or objective.”
- “Go down this list item by item and ask yourselves, ‘Is there anything that we are currently doing that in any way, shape, or form resembles this item?’ Be brutally honest to make a second list of all your counterproductive activities/programs/procedures.”
- “Go through the items on your second list and decide what first steps will help you stop what you know creates undesirable results?”
2. How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed
- Unlimited number of small groups of 4 to 7 chairs, with or without small tables
- Paper for participants to record.
3. How Participation Is Distributed
- Everybody involved in the work is included
- Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute.
4. How Groups Are Configured
- Groups with 4 to 7 participants
- Established teams or mixed groups.
5. Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation
- After introduction, three segments, 10 minutes for each segment.
- Introduce the idea of TRIZ and identify an unwanted result. If needed, have the groups brainstorm and pick the most unwanted result. 5 minutes.
- Each group uses 1-2-4-All (from Liberating structures) to make a first list of all it can do to make sure that it achieves this most unwanted result. 10 minutes.
- Each group uses 1-2-4-All to make a second list of all that it is currently doing that resembles items on their first list. 10 minutes.
- Each group uses 1-2-4-All to determine for each item on its second list what first steps will help it stop this unwanted activity/ program/ procedure. 10 minutes.
Stage 5 is summarized in the following diagram.
Tips and Traps
- Enter into TRIZ with a spirit of serious fun.
- TRIZ invitations are productive when they are “precisely ambiguous.” The invitation: precisely opens a door in each person’s memory and imagination regarding an important challenge; AND, there are many right answers and local solutions that can be productively discovered. Ambiguity welcomes more than one interpretation and more discovery of distributed local adaptations.
- Don’t accept ideas for doing something new or additional: be sure suggestions are about stopping activities or behaviors, not about starting new things. It is worth the wait.
- Begin with a VERY unwanted result, quickly confirm your suggestion with the group.
- Check in with groups that are laughing hard or look confused.
- Take time for groups to identify similarities to what they are doing now and explore how this is harmful.
- Include the people that will be involved in stopping the activities that come out and ask, “Who else needs to be included?”
- Make real decisions about what will be stopped (number your decisions 1, 2, 3…) in the form of “I will stop” and “we will stop.”
- For reducing harm to patients experiencing safety lapses (eg., wrong-side surgery, patient falls, medication errors, iatrogenic infections) with cross-functional groups: “How can we make sure we always operate on the wrong side?”
- For helping institutional leaders notice how it is they inadvertently exclude diverse voices: “How can we devise policies and practices that only work for a select few?”
- For IT professionals: “How can we make sure we build an IT system that no one will want to use?”
- For leadership groups: “How can we make sure we keep doing the same things with the same people while asking for different results?”
Making space for innovation
The main aim of creative destruction is to identify and get rid of self-limiting behaviors, making space for innovation. The innovation is generally a better way of achieving the goal. This can work on an individual, organizational or community level. For example, as a facilitator, I have stopped inviting detailed report outs from small group work and replaced them by inviting fabulous insights only (verbal and non-verbal).
Have you experienced the value of creative destruction? Do you have examples to share?
To find out more:
For more on creative destruction, see McCandless, K. (2018). Creative Destruction. What You Can Stop Doing to Make Space for Innovation. (Online): https://keithmccandless.medium.com/creative-destruction-3f727f994af9
For more on TRIZ (including the name), see Making Space with TRIZ. Stop Counterproductive Activities and Behaviors to Make Space for Innovation. (Online): https://www.liberatingstructures.com/6-making-space-with-triz/
Much of the material in this i2Insights contribution is taken verbatim from these two sources.
Biography: Keith McCandless is co-developer of Liberating Structures and co-author of the book “The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures – Simple Rules to Unleash a Culture of Innovation” (2014). Keith operates a global consulting practice focused on strategy development, creative adaptability, and including all voices in shaping next steps. He calls himself a structured improvisationalist.