differentiated thought before cutting metal

Boy and how. I can relate to that. Saw it for 20 years at the Electronics place I worked at way back when. 1950 - 1979 ...lew...

Reply to
Lew Hartswick
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The formal name for the process you are looking for is "Brain Storming".

Books have been written on this topic and I was fortunate enough to partake in a 'session' thereof during my apprenticeship years. Most informative and productive. Other people I have worked for tried it without success because of snide remarks and criticisms too early in the process.

One of the most important points is to list all the "must have" or "must comply" items clearly, and have agreement on these by most members of the team. Unless this is done the flow of ideas will constantly be interrupted with "what about this need" or "you forgot about that spec." etc. To weed these down you can apply the "why, why, why" method of analysis. The idea is that if you ask 'why' to each of the three or four successive answers, you will then have arrived at the "real" reason why things are done that way. Many sacred cows get slaughtered this way!

Ideally the session is in a non-formal environment... a park, back- forties, den, whatever.

Flip-over charts for writing on are necessary.

Then, solicit ideas, not solutions. Write them down. If necessary "seed" a few yourself, this gets the flow going. MOST IMPORTANT: ABSOLUTELY NO CRITICISM OR DEBATE IS PERMITTED during this 'generating phase', because nothing will kill this flow of ideas faster than snide or belittling remarks. All ideas are useful during this phase because they stimulate the thinking of all involved that are awake:-)).

After this phase sort out the ideas, by consensus initially, in the order of most practical/useful, to least practical, applying the critiques established earlier. List positives and negatives for each.

Then work through them on how to implement them and the costs of doing so.

To help generate ideas draw a matrix with problems listed down the left-hand column and possible solutions thereto across the top, one solution per column heading. Then each intersection can be reviewed for applicability of that problem/solution combination using earlier criterion. Of course there will be many "nonsense" intersections but there can be surprising results.

Good luck with this and keep us informed.

On this team business... As head of a major corporate project team (title changed as did management) I once took on 2 people that were about to get fired by their respective department heads. I head dealt briefly with each person and found them helpful as opposed to obstructionist. To cut a long story short, after several years in my department one of them became the chief of a new department providing scheduling services to all other departments; The other person had such a good offer from his former manager that he decided to go back. I didn't mind. Of course I had a management philosophy that I enjoyed as having applied to me (Just tell me what you need and then p**s off until I get it done) and I found that it produced results for me, also, with minor adjustments for the individual. Needless to say this got me into s**t with upper management who thought that I provided "insufficient" supervision. But nary a word about the drastic increases in margin. That's why I now run my 1 man band.


Reply to

A couple of additional thoughts on my post above:

As I said books have been written on Brain Storming and, of necessity, my brief illustration barely scratches the surface of this topic. But it should be sufficient to get started on Brain Storming.

The style of many "managers" is called "micro management", and it sucks because there are not enough hours in the day to address all "micro crises". When I wanted a task done I explained it, asked questions to verify understanding, got agreement on timing and progress points, then let the man run with it. I sure as h**l did not look over people's shoulder asking "how is it going?" or "you're doing it all wrong!" :-)).

Every morning I'd walk around, see what was being done or not done, ask "do you need anything?", etc. I encouraged people to come to my office with concerns and ideas, and I believed that my principal job was to remove all excuses people would dream up for not doing their job. I also kept good notes on meetings, discussions, agreements, etc. including names, dates, time, subject, & agreement / course of action.

Anyway, it worked for me and the results spoke for themselves. Never got criticized for the results, just the methods because it "wasn't the way to manage things." Go figure.


Reply to

In my last position as a supervisor we would hold a monthly meeting with the corporate folks. That was the typical "We need to think outside the box" type meeting. Complete with PowerPoint profit and loss charts and the standard "We MUST increase productivity". What got done NOTHING.

The REAL idea meetings were the ones most of the supervisors would have within our own folks. Those were the ones where we would bring in pizza and arrange for service coverage with other folks so everyone could come in. Then they were told that anything goes. No formal records were kept, unless it was an idea that actually seemed like it would work. I was also a big fan of "Just DO it" IOW if you came up with something that worked and made life easier spread it around.

Reply to
Steve W.

On Sep 5, 3:55 pm, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote: ...

This is the informal version;

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Some truly amazing ideas show up on Frog Day. it's Junkyard Challenge with embedded intelligence.

Another company had a stockroom signout code for home projects. I built my first computer out of their stock components and engineering samples. That idea probably works better in a place that's always trying to stay ahead of the market and needs innovation.

Reply to
Jim Wilkins

Excellent analysis of the request, Leo.

"How do you think of good ideas?"

Let me state it another way: How does one gather the right sort of information to feed the subconscious mind?

a. Understand the problem but don't take it too seriously. Ask questions and listen to the answers. b. Approach the issues with a helpful, humble attitude. Gain collaboration with others who have the knowledge you need. c. Do not try to sort it out mentally. Let the facts speak for themselves. d. Find someone to bounce the ideas against. They don't even need to know anything about the situation.


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Reply to
Tom Kendrick


Could I recommend a look at:

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Many years ago I taught a CoRT course (google on Edward de Bono) to grade

5/6 students in a rural area of British Columbia - we did it for 2 years I believe. Honestly I don't know what effect it had on the students, I can only report on some of the results I saw. One of the lessons had the question "What would it be like if all the cars in the world were painted yellow?" and the students, in their groups of about 5 (including one acting as recorder) had to voice all their ideas under the headings "Good, Bad, Interesting". I imagine many of you could come up with similar answers to those which the students brought out(remember - grade 5/6); however one student thought, under Interesting, that it "would sure make funerals brighter and cheerier". Not a particularly bright student at that. Similar rules to those mentioned in other posts - no "Man, that's stupid", no putting down, all ideas are valid initially. My recollection is that in the example above there were over 60 DIFFERENT responses out of a class of 24 kiddies. Unfortunately things changed and the idea of actually teaching thinking was dropped by the wayside. I would tell the English and Social Studies teachers especially, what we were looking at each week and encourage them to use that as a basis for their class assignments. eg. OPV (other people's viewpoint), perhaps you're teaching the settling of the West, give the kids an assignment perhaps "You're a Cree from Saskatchewan and you hear about these 'blue eyes' coming - what is your response to this?" You see the point. Hard to get other teachers to get into this though, and that's where I feel I missed out - and the kids. So, yes! there are formal methods to help you think differently, much more fun (now there's a mis-used word) in a group though. HTH, Mike in BC
Reply to
Michael Gray


Good ideas and cost saving measures from the rank-and-file? NEVER!! Perish that thought!!

In my experience by far the biggest cost-saving ideas and improvement suggestions came from first-line supervisory staff. In well-managed corporations these folks really know what they are doing.


Reply to

There are many brainstorming methods, and most of them can work.

The problem is usually deeper - fear of failure, fear of looking stupid. And 90% of good-looking ideas nonetheless fail, so the fear is not unreasonable.

As the boss-man, you shape the culture, but fine speeches won't do it.

What I've done in similar circumstances is to redefine success and failure by stating from the outset that I expect the first attempt to fail, but hope that it will yield much information that will inform the second attempt, and so on.

Reducing the perceived reputation cost of failure increases people's willingness to try new things.

Public praise and reward for good ideas also helps.

However, people will not really believe you until after the first failure. They will be watching like hawks for the slightest hint of displeasure, the slightest twitch or flash, and they know you very well. Smile and talk only about how much has been learned, and what the next attempt will look like. Otherwise, it will all be for naught.

Joe Gwinn

Reply to
Joseph Gwinn

The only way I suspect that works is to arrange a contract on all of my senior management. I'm almost as tired of telling them "I told you so" as they are of hearing it!

Mark Rand RTFM

Reply to
Mark Rand

If you are feeling low on creativity, there is a few techniques that can easily compensate and help a lot.

Here are some.

  1. Gather more data to get a better decision
  2. Consider things systematically, without missing possibilities or making unproven assumptions.
  3. Try various things instead of assuming that only one will work
  4. Think about you problem more intensively.
  5. To not dismiss things as too difficult too quickly
Reply to

Hi, Tom. I read your post early this afternoon and have thought about it a lot since. I believe I am a creative thinker, at least I was in the computer software area and perhaps can shed some light from my experience. I think still have some creative problem solving ability left after 34 years in the computer industry.

From my experience, the key is knowing in detail and in depth the tools and material you have to work with. Without knowing and understanding how a computer language functioned, how an operating system worked, what the limits and options were, I would not be able to create new solutions to solve someone's problems or create a totally new product.

What background do you and your people have? Is there educational facilities available educate on metalurgy, chemistry, physics? Are you willing to pay your people to attend? Are you and your people fluent in geometry, algebra and trig? Do you and your people really, thoroughly know the functions and limits of your equipment? Do your people have access to magazines relating to the industry? Do they have personal copies? Are they in the bathroom? Can you get vendor salesmen and technical people in to hold seminars. You don't HAVE to buy! Are there any professional organizations in your area that you or your people can attend? Have you or your people ever attend an industry related vendor show?

In other words, you have to have the tools to think outside the box.

Do you give credit to the person actually providing the idea you use? Do you have an employee that steals others ideas and calls them his own? This will stop creativity immediately. Do you offer rewards for ideas and then screw the person offering the idea? I recall a guy who used to be a field engineer (repairman) for a major computer manufacturer. The company offered a reward of 10% of the annual saving to anyone in the company who came up with valid viable ways to save the company money. Well, Dale did and the savings for the company was a LOT of money. When asked about where the reward was, he was told his idea was "obvious" and they would not pay. Needless to say, the word quickly got around and the idea submissions stopped.

All the other postings are great and I hope you are able to move the company along and make a lot of money doing it.

Best regards, Paul Drahn, President Jodeco, Inc. Redmond, OR

On Sep 4, 9:24=A0pm, "Tom Gardner" wrote: ...snip... . =A0How do you attract those "other" ideas?

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============= This is a typical problem in large "mature" organizations.

It is correctly observed that you manage "things," but lead "people."

Almost by definition, management is the preservation of the status quo, and to this end policy and procedures manuals are written, forms designed, committees created, etc. It is not reasonable [or even rational] to expect people selected for, trained for, and tasked with and maintaining the status quo [i.e. managers] to exhibit creativity and innovation, spontaneously or otherwise.

In most organizations, in spite of extensive lip service, there are no incentives for creativity and innovation at any level, worker or managerial, but draconian penalties for "mistakes," and any exceptions are like winning the lottery.

As several people have mentioned, the professional seminars on creativity/innovation do not seem to have any demonstrable long-term organizational effect, and indeed why should they?

==> A word of warning

Reply to
F. George McDuffee

Bada-boom, bada-bing!

Reply to
Tom Gardner

We had been trying to come up with a way of producing "ring and flange" wire wheel brushes for over 30 years, that includes my uncles who were geniuses in their own rights. One afternoon in Canada, while fishing in a small boat in a torrential downpour. I was snug in my Gor-Tex and I couldn't see my buddy that was five feet away, never before or since have I seen it rain that hard. For some reason, the method of making those brushes popped into my head in absolute clarity. The machine is so simple and robust, and it was inexpensive to build. Why didn't I think of that in the first place?

Reply to
Tom Gardner

Fascinating! Thanks.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

The time wasn't right. You had to learn enough about the process for it to become crystal clear in your mind. :)

Everything looks simple, when you know what you're doing! ;-)

Reply to
Michael A. Terrell

We find that input from the floor is the impetus to address a problem or potential improvement. They have the advantage of not knowing the details involved, they just want less problems and more bonus.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

One of the biggest advantages of Solidworks is that one can develop the first four failures without cutting a single chip. We find that each idea begets the next. The downside is that one must start with a blank screen every so often to "freshen" the mind.

Reply to
Tom Gardner

On Fri, 05 Sep 2008 05:21:50 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm, Eregon quickly quoth:

Amen to that. Whenever I try to force invention it always eludes me. The second I let it go and start to really focus on something else, it comes along. That kind of crap screws up vacation days some thing fierce.

BTDT. You'll keep it with you only if you hang it from a strap around your neck. Otherwise, it's never where you are.

Staples has dozen-packs of legal pads for $5.99 or a dozen 5x8" pads for $4.49. I keep a pack of each strewn all aroudn the house, shop, and vehicle. I write down ideas wherever I come across them.

Ditto getting a pad and drawing/doodling. Alternatively, get on a computer with a copy of CAD, CAM, or SketchUp and draw it to scale.

-- Who is wise? He that learns from every One. Who is powerful? He that governs his Passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody. -- Benjamin Franklin

Reply to
Larry Jaques

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