Bring back the Great Egg Race

Last Thursday I met an engineer who said that the reason he became an engineer was because of the Great Egg Race on TV. I wonder how many others were attracted to the great ‘inventive problem solving’ weekly challenge set by Prof Heinz Wolff. He must therefore rate alongside David Bellamy for influencing entire generations into laudable scientific careers.

The occasion was a trial run of a ‘Facilitating TRIZ’ training day which I am delivering with Lilly Gadd and Oxford Creativity at the end of the existing four days of basic and advanced TRIZ. TRIZ if you don’t know already is the pursuit of inventive problem solving.

We invited five volunteer guinea pigs for a true complex ‘fail safe’ experiment to test run our exercises, course notes, timings, instructions etc. To widen the learning I began with the cynefin framework to illustrate how some elements of a workshop are simple or complicated but can be worked from a list. Facilitating a group is however most definitely complex and although roughly planned, works best when there are few boundaries and we remain constantly alert for energy levels, distraction, body language etc and we can then tweak the timings, chocolate biscuits and breaks accordingly. I wont tell you the workshop example I used for chaos but if you were there you will know the one.

A quick anecdote circle of previous facilitation experience provided some excellent material to pattern and theme giving us a great start to making sense of what TRIZ facilitation was all about.

Of the TRIZ methods that we then used as facilitation exercises I particularly enjoy the elegance of the nine box – thinking in time and scale which triggers so many ideas in such a short time.

Overall we deemed the trial a success, no guinea pigs were harmed and the benefits seemed to be approaching our own ideality. Slides will be rewritten, instructions will be simplified and Lilly has a new rule ‘never facilitate your mum especially when she wrote the book on it’. We go live on Friday at Oxford University so wish us luck.

Karen Gadd, the mum mentioned above (and owner of Oxford Creativity) has her new book published by Wiley this month TRIZ for engineers: Enabling inventive problem solving. and it is an unbelievably comprehensive TRIZ resource. Her greatest satisfaction (and should have been a photo opportunity) was passing the book around to guffaws of laughter at each of the excellent specially commissioned cartoons that illustrate each standard solution, concept and contradiction.

Buy it now for all your relatives and lets see how far in 2011 we can fire an egg (highlights of the great egg race 1979 – 1986 can be found here)


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