Concept Generation in the Black Belt training
Our Six Sigma Black Belt training program includes a workshop with Black Belt candidates formed into teams. Each team selects a project - generally a key new product, technology, software or service. The team engages in role-playing to gather the VOC, to then structure and prioritize customer expectations, and to translate prioritized customer expectations to measurable requirements.
The team members then start a Concept Generation workshop with a sequence of proven approaches for generating ideas (see figure below)[i]. The sequence minimizes and defers constraints on the creative energies so that the team members are energized and free and unchained to generate ideas, to create, to dream. Patent searches are deferred to give the individuals a chance to imagine without having their thoughts channeled along previous patents. In preparation for the idea generation session, the team members are encouraged to “get in touch with their inner child”…the child who felt free to dream.
The sequence uses a variation on brainstorming in which individual ideation precedes group dynamics of shared brainstorming, followed by proven approaches such as TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) which can inspire ideas to resolve tradeoffs, and system / subsystem architecting approaches.
In each of more than a dozen workshops held so far , at least one team has indicated that they have come up with a fresh idea that they believed to be patentable. On a personal basis – it has been gratifying to go to annual patent banquets in recent years, ask the inventors about their inventions, and to hear that their invention originated during this workshop, using these approaches!
Eric C Maass and Patricia McNair, Applying Design for Six Sigma
to Software and Hardware Systems, Prentice-Hall, 2009.