Weak signals of the Covid-19 Pandemic from 2005

EEAC 2005 Group 1 – Love Interest – PANDEMICS

A recent request on Twitter for anyone who had run a Future Backwards exercise predicting the pandemic set me on a mission. In 2005 English Nature (where I worked) had hosted a huge Climate Change Conference on behalf of the EEAC (European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils). I was asked to run the preliminary warm up day for the conference in Oxford, and I ran a Cognitive Edge based exercise which Dave Snowden named ‘future backwards’ looking at Today, the past, a worst case future (Hell) and a best case future (Heaven).

The conference was held near Oxford and attended by specialists in Climate Change from across Europe. Unfortunately because of the scale of the event and the logistics of running ten groups of 15 people in breakout rooms all across the hall I only have a few sample photographs of the outputs.

EEAC 2005 – Group 2 The Tricksters – FREQUENT EPIDEMICS

As you can see from these pictures almost ever group predicted the current pandemic on at least one of their hexxies.

EEAC 2005 Group 3 – The Dragons – PLAGUE UNKNOWN AETIOLOGY HITS 80 million

This latter vision of ‘Hell’ is particularly chilling producing as it does, a small cluster of hexxies that include: Plague of unknown aetiology hits 80 million; Every nation for itself; UN dissolved; China/US war and just over to the left: European Union collapses.

I might just look back through my archive of pictures dating back as far as 1999 when Dave Snowden first introduced me to these participatory narrative inquiry methods.

It is interesting to look at the other issues raised around the different versions of ‘Hell’ shown here. Remember, these were all European experts specialising on the Environment/Climate Change. Lets just hope none of them prove to be as prophetic as these.

Improved communication with an emphasis on storytelling.


Earlier this year I was contracted by a large Government Organisation to design and deliver 8 one day training courses aimed at improving communication skills with an introduction to working with story and storytelling.

The day was designed to be instructive, entertaining and participative. I included the importance of personal stories, the community/organisation story and how to remember and inspire others with a story.

Almost 120 members of staff attended, across four locations throughout the country.

This course is now available, at a fixed price, with a discount for multiple orders, if you or your organization would like me to run something similar for you.

The content can easily be tweaked to cover your interests or issues.

I would recommend no more than 15 per session.

Book now and we can agree a suitable date later. Contact me to discuss

If you are wondering how useful the training was, I will let you make your own interpretation of some of the feedback I received:

Feedback on the training

Leadership group should do this training

Good pace, lots of content, great stories and enthusiasm

Storytelling training told through stories. What could be better?

Should be mandatory – getting staff thinking much more about our stories and comms to deliver

A really useful and positive day

Ron’s engagement and enthusiasm – great stories

No Power Point made it more engaging and personal

Provoking and valuable

Informative – got me thinking about how I present things

Good mixture of conversation, examples and anecdotes

Continue reading “Improved communication with an emphasis on storytelling.”

NETIKX Event on TRIZ – March 26th 2020 – POSTPONED


Those lovely people over at NETIKX (the community for professionals who work in knowledge and information management) have invited me to speak at their next seminar on March 26th in Wimpole Street, London.

Titled: Using previously hidden knowledge to think like a Genius: an introduction to TRIZ, my intention is to give a simple introduction to the amazing sense-making achievement that Genrich Altshuller and his subsequent researchers did in uncovering and distilling the patterns of innovative thinking from a lifetime of patents.

For the second part I hope to demonstrate that TRIZ and it’s collection of abstracted concepts, principles, trends and standard solutions can just as readily be used to solve Knowledge and Information management problems as those of engineering, for which it is more traditionally applied. There will be an interesting exercise to demonstrate these possibilities.

There will be a draw for a copy of the acclaimed “TRIZ for Dummies” book by Lilly Haines Gadd on the day. There will be ample time too, for networking (bring your business cards), reflective conversation and a glass of wine.

If you want to find out more about TRIZ before you decide, a good place to start would be here at our new Oxford Creativity website.

Please register below to attend, for which there will be a minimal charge to cover refreshments, room booking and after event wine. Or perhaps join as an individual for the year (at only twice the one event price), to take advantage of several future planned events.

Register here: RonDon Seminar on TRIZ March 26th 2020

Think Like a Genius – TRIZ for KM

Back in January I was asked to write an article for the new Ark Group, KM Insight website (a community hub for knowledge management professionals).

In it I describe how

the TRIZ problem-solving process utilises your knowledge, practical experience and expertise, and enables you to use your knowledge in new and inventive ways. It will help you bring together each possible approach and get everyone communicating effectively so that the right knowledge is shared and the right solutions to the problem are found.

At Oxford Creativity we are looking at the possibilities of providing TRIZ for Knowledge Managers as a spin-off from our successful TRIZ for Dummies courses. If this at all of interest, please get in touch.

The full Think like a genius article can be found here.

The father of the bride speech

Nine years ago I published my father of the groom speech on here so it is only fair that I now publish my father of the bride speech so I am not accused of favouritism.

This is how I broke it down on the day. There was several extra things included but it gives a flavour of the day and may be useful to someone in the future.


Ladies, Gentlemen, children ….

My name is Ron and I am Samantha’s dad, the father of the bride.

Don’t worry, I will make this speech like I like my ladies: Short and Sweet,

This is my lovely short and sweet wife, Voni, we’ve had 30 years happy marriage, mind you we’ve been married for 37.

I would like to start by welcoming you all, and to thank you for coming here to the Old Hall in Ely, an island of eels in the Fens. The Fens used to be marshlands so do not stray too far from the house.


We have guests that have traveled in from far and wide like Peterborough, Bristol and family from Sunderland and Newcastle so watch out for trouble.

If you bump into any of them, usually at the bar because that’s their favourite habitat, please do engage them in chat. They love chatting. If you cant understand what they are saying try the Google Translate app.

Before I do the speech bit though, I wanted us to reflect and remember those friends and family who are not here with us today,

So, can I ask you all to raise a glass to “Absent friends” –  TOAST:


I am the proudest father in the world today. Seeing my daughter all grown up looking so beautiful happy and radiant is such an amazing sight. #PROUDDAD for those reading this on TWITTER.

I have been under strict instructions not to embarrass Samantha – I shall save that for the dance floor later with some epic Dad dance moves.

Continue reading “The father of the bride speech”

Brexit on condition

One of the founding ideas behind TRIZ is to solve problems without compromise and deliver all the benefits while minimising any harms.


We recently heard the story of a major soft drink company surveying its customers on the level of sugar they preferred in their fizzy drink. The results were in, they averaged the preferences and trialled a new half-sugar product which no-one liked. If they had plotted the data on a simple graph they would have seen two distinct preferences. The solution (excuse the pun) was to sell two very different products, high sugar and low sugar, which we see on the shelves today.

TRIZ calls this ‘separating on condition‘ and it is a pattern regularly seen in innovative patents.

BREXIT is an almost identical problem conceptually. The preferences of the public are remain and leave but the averaged solution currently being debated in parliament is a compromise that meets neither side.


So how do we separate on condition and solve both groups?

Before I take the unusual step of telling you what I think might work I will give you a few TRIZ triggers.

Separating on condition
“When we can’t separate in time or space then we need to see how we can separate on condition when we need to separate opposite solutions in the same place and at the same time. One solution for one element; the opposite for another”. (Karen Gadd – TRIZ for engineers)

Separate on condition: these are the suggested inventive principles which most often resolve problems of this type [my initial thoughts in brackets]
28. Replace mechanical system [eg. a switchable virtual system like energy provision]
29. Pneumatics and hydraulics [eg. nothing springs out for me here]
31. Porous materials [eg. existing channels at ports and airports ]
32. Colour changes [eg. blue passport UK, red for EU]
35. Parameter change [eg. Tax, EU contribution, subsidy, welfare parameters on personal record]
36. Phase transition [eg. individuals able to move at any time from remain to leave and visa versa]

Our passport/nationality systems can already separate individuals on condition in the UK. Our tax and welfare system similarly.

Therefore allow leavers to leave and remainers to stay. The EU is only an abstract concept anyway when it comes to individuals.

This is another key concept in TRIZ – looking at the problem at different scales eg Country, organisation, individual.

Remainers would still contribute to EU funds and receive travel benefits and subsidies etc. Leavers would pay nothing and be free to negotiate terms with other virtual bodies.
The benefits of this switch from UK membership to individual personal membership of the EU could be huge:

The country would no longer be divided, we could live in harmony as we do with supporters of Everton and Liverpool living in the same house. The young generation could decide their future for themselves.

There would be no need for a big break. away at the end of March. Once the ‘EU deduction from income’ system is applied we would individually be either in or out. Switching between providers would be as simple as moving to British Gas. You might have to pay a transition fee to cover administration costs.

An additional benefit would be that each side would strive to deliver and demonstrate their benefits to attract more followers and the overall UK economy would improve as a result.

A CEO could decide whether a company is in or out so Wetherspoons could leave and a local micro-pub remain and the taxes, subsidies could be different.

Membership of the EU is very different for individuals. For some it is critically important for others trivial and burdensome. We should deal with it differently from ‘all in or all out’. We don’t do this for religion, diet, politics, music, hair length, employment etc

I won’t solve every separate issue because the solutions should be contextual to, and therefore owned by, those solving the problem. I will however offer my services to facilitate any group or groups (are you reading this Mrs May?) through a TRIZ BREXIT workshop and show them how to resolve all the contradictions and deliver all the benefits with none of the harms.

For more on TRIZ and our  training and problem solving workshops see our Oxford Creativity website.

From chaotic ripples to complicated waves

This is turning out to be a fine example of cynefin dynamics and of ‘safe to fail’ experiments.

I initially facilitated the foundation workshop looking at ways to reduce the pressure on the accident and emergency dept at Coventry Hospital. Using Participatory Narrative Inquiry methods I held open a space with no constraints. Many ideas emerged, some were more enthusiastically owned, story-boarded and supported than others.

A while later, one idea, named RIPPLE started to deliver, a self organised local community group, informal, educational as well as entertaining but most importantly social. Demonstrating a prime principle of complex adaptive systems it started to deliver more than the sum of its parts in ways that had not been predicted but could now be explained in hindsight.

One such hindsight insight was that they were reducing isolation (in TRIZ terms a known harm in every social system) and if you watch this video you will see it highlighted as one of the programmes initial aims.

Personal happiness seems to be the biggest benefit to be observed and amplified. I love the (much later) insight that the staff are getting a boost from this approach as well.

As the months passed the patterns began to form. Beneficial patterns were amplified, harmful patterns dampened. Slowly the system could be  moved from complex to complicated where it could be exploited as it now had governing constraints that would encourage and allow the NHS to run six more franchisee experiments, copying the patterns but not the blueprint of RIPPLE.

Each different local area encountered different problems, different people and adapted accordingly to meet local context.

What I like most is that the structure, ethos and lessons learned (shared regularly, face to face and in a knowledge base) grew into enabling constraints, just enough structure to work within but creating the conditions for local quirks and genuine innovation.

I have mentioned this quote before but Jules Pretty in his book Agri-Culture in a much more ecological environment, said:

When people are organised in groups, and their knowledge is sought, incorporated and built upon during planning and implementation, then they are more likely to sustain activities after project completion

…long term sustainability was only guaranteed when local institutions were strong…

…projects failed when there had been no focus on institutional development and local participation”

In the initial and subsequent idea generating workshops we made the invite as wide ranging as possible to include patients, third sector, specialists, local GPs, chaplain, NHS staff, University etc. If you watch for the ownership in the eyes of everyone participating in this video you get an idea of just what might be possible.

A symbiotic relationship between TRIZ and cynefin

I have worked with both the cynefin framework [Dave Snowden – Cognitive Edge] and Oxford TRIZ [Karen Gadd of Oxford Creativity has spent years making TRIZ more understandable and teachable, hence my use of ‘Oxford TRIZ’] for more than 12 years and have become intrigued as to why complexity work does not embrace TRIZ and visa versa.

For this first post I have summarised six ways in which I believe Oxford TRIZ might be the missing ‘x-factor’ when working with complex systems that makes it easier to generate oblique probes, feedback loops and amplify and dampen, by way of more stories like this and fewer like that.

– In a complex situation we need to generate multiple diverse and oblique interventions/probes. The TRIZ 40 principles are perfect for this.

– the whole Oxford TRIZ emphasis on ‘concepts’ is the ultimate example of exaptation. Altshuller, the father of TRIZ, discovered previously unrecognised patterns in the body of registered patents. How to take an idea from one scientific discipline/business domain and exapt conceptually similar solutions for use in another.

– interventions that are “safe to fail”. The Oxford TRIZ Standard Solutions were purposefully derived to reduce costs and harms.

– TRIZ 9 box thinking triggers ideas at different scales within the system and before, during and after activity. This ensures a more diverse, divergent, less constrained portfolio of experiments.

– The Oxford TRIZ evolutionary trends which include S-curves can help ‘guide’ new and exciting cynefin dynamics/paths through the landscape.

– Finally, the Oxford TRIZ Standard Solutions include measurements which can help greatly in building feedback loops for each of the multiple ‘safe to fail’ experiments.

TRIZ may have its origins in the search for an algorithmic systematic approach to engineering problems in the cynefin ‘Complicated Domain’, but inadvertantly and beneficially its use of concepts, principles, metaphors and the more recent Oxford TRIZ use of cartoons has made it a perfect sherpa guide for expeditions into more complex ecosystems.

Next post will look at this ‘the other way round’, TRIZ principle 13, why cynefin and PNI are needed in TRIZ.


Happy Breathers

Another pilot that emerged from our original RIPPLE COPD Group in Coventry.

This is the Happy breathers COPD community clinic takes place at Ivo Day Centre, Albion Street, Spalding, 1.30pm to 4.30pm, Thursdays.

We definitely want to see more stories like this…

Step Change Disruptive Innovation


I am very excited to have been invited to run two workshop sessions at this Innovation Symposium back in my native North-East of England.

“Creative Fuse Tees Valley and Design Council have teamed up to bring you an exciting one-day symposium to explore disruptive innovation models within small and medium sized businesses.

Blending hands-on workshops with short talks from leading innovation specialists at national organisations, this symposium will be a practical introduction to innovation implementation, and is a great way to kick start a step-change in your organisation.

Taking place in the Teesside University Campus in Darlington on Wednesday 20th June, I have been told that I can invite any of my North-East connections, so if you want to meet and catch up and/or suffer the hexagon frenzy of one of my workshop sessions you can find further details, speakers and book tickets here.

Storytelling Masterclass in Oxford

Storytelling Rondon

Twenty years of working with stories and my very kind friends at Oxford Creativity have given me my own Storytelling day. Wednesday 16th May at Oxford University.

Looking at four perspectives on narrative I will be sharing as many of the key insights I can fit in between 9am and 5pm.

  1. Why Story?
  2. Working with story
  3. Your Story (and it’s close relationship with community)
  4. Storytelling

The day will include participatory exercises, book recommendations, hints and tips and an in depth explanation of some of the top tools and techniques. Hexagons, sharpies and willow magic wands/talking sticks will all be in abundance.

Further details on the day and how to book can be found here. Mention this blog when booking for a very special deal either on this day or on a combined Triz for Dummies and Storytelling. What better way to spend three days?


Complexity, citizen engagement – Dave Snowden at Tedx

Happy New Year. It is 2018, 20 years since Dave Snowden first introduced me to the wonders of narrative, 15 years since I attended my first cynefin training and 10 years since I did some of the early probe citizen engagement (Children of the world) experiments using Sensemaker.

In this video recorded at the recent Tedx event, Dave reveals how all three of the above have come together into a coherent approach to ethnography, complexity and most interestingly, change.

Watch carefully and make copious notes notes in your journal, then re-read and add your own perspectives on what it means to you.