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Risk management by other means to forecast a future state

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In response to Risk management gets tougher when key science fiction author cannot forecast a future state, a colleague replied:

[You] might be interested in a body of work devoted to technology evolution. Although the principle aim of the work is to provide technical guidance for product development, one result of this work is that technology evolves along certain well defined patterns. Although there are many possible paths, some are much more probable than others, similar to biological evolution. Using this knowledge one can make good estimates of which paths are likely to be successful investments and which are not. The original work was done by a Russian engineer named Genrikh Altshuler. I worked with one of Altshuler’s students, Victor Fey, a Russian emigrant, [in] an effort to start a consulting firm using these techniques. Victor and I made several presentations on Technology Evolution in the Detroit area. Victor has authored several books on the subject... [private email]

My response:

You're speaking about TRIZ. Have used it actually. I was one of those geeks that was reading early translations from the Russian during my time in federal service, then lost track of it as I moved back to the commercial sector where it was then utterly unknown. More interestingly, I knew Rivin and Fey back in 1995 when I approached the pair about diversifying TRIZ outside engineering and into business processes. From my notes:

18 Oct95: Rivin [and I] spoke at length of the Ford culture (he's been a fellow at Ford, a specialist in NVH, cultural differences in general (ex: reducing vibration in auto transmissions, while he did it in a [redacted] model at a mere cost of $2.50, this has no value in Europe where automatics are uncommon and for those that do exist, drivers reflexively put them into neutral at stoplights, thus no chance for vibration.) He was a bit floored at the suggestion of applying TRIZ to a business application, but felt that it was very possible and that he would be willing to work together on it. No text exists in English for TRIZ, [the] Altov book was really written for children, and the "Creativity as an Exact Science" published by Gordon & Breech is a bad translation but is the most comprehensive text extant.

Rivin is now writing a text on TRIZ. [Which may be the Innovation on Demand that you cite]....

23 Oct95: Chris Magee is the driving force behind TRIZ [at Ford] and sat through [our] half day session. Magee felt that TRIZ could be slotted into a [Value Analysis Workshop]. In theory, I said yes, but in practice the VA process is [increasingly] discredited, especially in the eyes of the supplier, and is being so compressed in time by Ford, and both Ford and supplier [personnel] are disenchanted with the VA program output. Magee also considered its application to benchmarking. Rivin asked if me were involved in [benchmarking] and I said no, that the BM process was fixed on where the competitor was [today] and not where they are or will be -- Rivin said, yes, they look five years back and then implement five years late. Rivin said that TRIZ could be used in technology forecasting (evolution of a system) and benchmarking but that it requires some substantial study. [private email]

We were never able to do anything substantive with the Russians as they were very protective of their process, understandable in hindsight as there were less than ten competent TRIZ practitioners extant in the US at the time. (The Detroit area was fortunate as it had a goodly Russian emigre population.). We were small and could not fund a major development effort.

As a matter of record, Value Analysis had another renaissance at Ford but was then again reduced to as little as a one-day affair that was VA in name only. TRIZ stayed small:

TRIZ has never made it into the Ford mainstream, remaining a boutique implementation among the core devoted to resolving key problems. Arguably the best practitioner was a colleague of mine, [redacted], who was the key investigative engineer on the Ford side of the Firestone firestorm. We proceeded to work together on a number of quality issues. He retired [recently] and is a major loss to the firm although few know it. [private email]

As an aside, we went on to design a Competitive Analysis Benchmarking process for Ford that would put quality competitive benchmarking data into the hands of Ford engineers; It became a linchpin in Ford Total Cost Management (TCM) here in the US after which we trained European engineers such that it became a fixture in Total Value Managment on the continent. Unfortunately, Ford continued to evaluate current release vehicles (which are three to four years old in design time when you get them) instead of developing phase two which implemented the classic benchmarking "Z-Chart" predictor (see figures 2 and 3) that would allow us to architecturally predict where a competitor's subsystem would be at a future point in time.

We were already able to see in certain Toyota vehicle series the emerging dominance of a particular passcar (passenger car), SUV or truck subsystem as it migrated to other vehicles. We also knew that certain subsystem changes were introduced in particular low(er) end vehicles, perfected, and then migrated up the luxury chain. We had good reason to believe that we could predict which subsystem architectures with what general characteristics would appear in which future vehicles. As Ford was never able to move to the next step, it too often relegated itself to being a mediocre follower instead of a feature leader. Systematically "surprised" by new functionality, it would habitually scramble to enhance subsystems already in the pipeline, thereby impacting cost, quality and timing.

Returning to TRIZ, I agree with my colleague that TRIZ can help in identifying likely development paths for a specific technology, but it is not clear to me how it addresses the sudden, even chance, interaction of multiple unrelated technologies, larger families of technologies, emerging social transitions and their interactions that can be flagged by the McLuhan Tetrad food chain analysis process. With that caveat, I recommend the following TRIZ and technology forcasting sources:

TRIZ Journal

TRIZ applied to innovate in Design for Disassembly
Daniel Justel, Rosario Vidal, Mercedes Chiner
13th edition of the CIRP International conference on Life Cycle Engineering
May 31-June 2, 2006

Innovation on Demand: New Product Development Using TRIZ
by Victor Fey and Eugene Rivin
ISBN-10: 0521826209
Cambridge University Press
2005

General Scenario of Technological Evolution: System’s Evolution beyond its Original S-curve
Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman
Ideation International
Detroit, MI
September 2003

Technology Forecasting: From Emotional to Empirical
Michael S. Slocum, Catherine O. Lundberg
Previously published in "Creativity and Innovation Management"
Volume 10, Number 2, June 2001

Development and Integration of Winning Technologies as Key to Competitive Advantage
Armin Schulz, Don Clausing, Ernst Fricke, herber Negele
Systems Engineering, the Journal of INCOSE, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 180-211
2000
Accessible Mirror

Guided Technology Evolution (TRIZ Technology Forecasting)
Victor R. Fey, Eugene I. Rivin
The TRIZ Journal
1999

Gordon Housworth



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