Volume 3, Number 10 - October 4, 2005

“….employees are our most important asset…blah, blah, blah…” Scores of companies post the signs, say the words, and some even back it up with actions. But many do not. So what is the acid test? Is it high pay, good benefits and flex time? I would suggest it is not. Mutual respect, and the trust that follows, enables companies to leverage their most important asset – their employees.

Consider a few questions:

  • Is it respectful of employees to have pedestrian expectations of them?
  • Is it respectful of employees to accept mediocre performance from them?
  • Is it respectful of employees to allow skill levels to languish in current processes and knowledge base?
  • Is it respectful of employees if you don’t teach them to understand their inputs and outputs, metrics, and other factors that enable them to become effective work groups?
  • Is it respectful of employees to exclude them from awareness of business issues and participation in addressing them?

A company environment in which the norm is high expectations of employees, treating employees fairly, and providing an environment of ongoing learning for everyone would seem to be one where employees are indeed the most important asset. It can take a lot of energy to treat employees with respect, but unleashing the power of all of them can propel your organization to great success. And that is the result most of us are working to get.

Some of you may think your employees aren’t capable of anything above mediocrity. Makes you wonder who hired those bums, anyway…..

The world is drowning in acronyms, but this one is worth checking out. The letters represent the Russian words for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. Genrich Altshuller led development of TRIZ beginning in the mid 1940’s. The premise, since validated and proven very useful, was that there are basic principles of invention, that when understood, can make the creative process predictable. While that makes some nervous, it propels others forward. For example, Boeing credits TRIZ with refocusing the thinking of its engineers regarding a technical problem that had stumped the group for over 3 years, resulting in development of 2 complete solutions in 5 days.

TRIZ researchers have evaluated over 2,000,000 patents, looking for patterns. The findings? Problems, solutions and technological evolution are similar across industries and even across scientific fields. One example: methods in food canning were applied to split diamond crystals along natural fractures without creating more damage. Innovations frequently come from the effects of progress made in other fields. The problems you are working to solve are likely very similar to ones already answered elsewhere. TRIZ can open up your solution process to knowledge and experience beyond yourself, your company and your industry. Whether you are looking for new markets, new products, or solutions to old problems, TRIZ can guide your resources to a better and faster solution.

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