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«Interview with Keith McCandless Episode: 59 Published: October 4, 2016 Amiel Handelsman: Keith, first of all, I wanted to mention to you that I’ve ...»

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Keith: Probably the -- Well, for sure the most popular liberating structure is called TRIZ and it is named for -- We probably should have changed the name, but it’s inspired by a very serious, very complicated Russian engineering approach for designing circuits, or design of anything, and we took one little part out of it called TRIZ, and the purpose of TRIZ is the purpose of 1-2-4-All, so each of these is very clear what they do, so the purpose of 1-2-4-All is to engage everyone simultaneously in generating questions or ideas or suggestions, and TRIZ is designed to stop, identify and then stop counterproductive activities and behaviors to make space for innovation. TRIZ begins -There are three parts to it, and part one is “Describe the perfect adverse system. How is it that we could create the worst results imaginable?” So, let’s take a surgery group. I’ll leave names out of this, but it’s pretty easy to imagine a surgery group that one of their worst results would be, “We operate on the wrong side of the body every time. How could we…,” so a group of people are invited to brainstorm, come up and they use 1-2All to generate a list of the things that they personally could do to operate on the wrong side of the body every time. Now, that’s a little risky. You deliver this with a smile on your face and a wink, and they do a round of 1-2-4-All and immediately within a minute, once they’re in the 2’s and then in the 4’s, a riotous laughter starts to unfold in the room, and it’s happened everywhere from Mass General in Boston. I did a thing with them on, “How can we be sure that you never change a patient’s behavior, that their chronic condition gets worse because you’re unable as a clinician to change the health behaviors of your patient, so how could you do that,” and immediately in this first round, this first 1-2-4-All, riotous laughter (gallows laughter I call it) because part two of TRIZ is less fun, but also it’s quite interesting for people. Okay, given that we’ve identified all of these things that we could do to be sure we get this worst result.

Part two is, “Well, how many of those do we actually engage in? How much of that do we resemble?” It gets a little quiet, but then there’s more laughter. I’ve been introducing liberating structures to an incredible array of organizations. I’d say 20% will say, “Oh, we do all of those. We do everything that undermines our purpose and moves us toward 10 | P a g e Transcribed by Melissa Southerland Interview with Keith McCandless that worst result. At least some of the time we do all of those things.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.” Then, part three is the most productive part. This is how you eliminate the counterproductive behaviors. You ask each individual of all of those things that you resemble that you’re at least doing some of the time, pick one and stop it and decide right now how you’re going to stop doing that behavior or that activity, right, and we call this It’s another liberating structure called “15% Solution,” and it’s also rarely educed or evoked in a group, or invited for group members to try, which is each individual -- You don’t have to ask anybody’s permission. This is within your power of 85% of your work life somebody else is kind of controlling, but you always have 15%, so what are your solutions? What part of these activities or behaviors that causes these the worst result we can imagine, what part of that can you stop, and what’s your first move? Without making any big management or leadership decisions, a lot of challenges just evaporate because every individual takes responsibility for part of a behavior or an activity that should be stopped and is being stopped by individual action.

Amiel: What happens if you don’t point out the 15%/85% and you just ask the question of, “How do we stop this?” Keith: They’ll point directly up at the -- That’s somebody else’s responsibility. “It’s not my fault,” because it’s kind of hard to take in that we are -Amiel: Sure.

Keith: What was it Pogo used to say? Are you familiar the old Pogo cartoon? “We are the enemy and we are us.” It was a really interesting thing and so we’re in our own way, and a huge thing here, usually the group assembled are all the people that can. The best is to have all the people that could change things in all the levels or all the diversity of a group of an organization they’re there, so if they decide, “Okay, we take responsibility for these results we’re getting, we can also stop doing the things that generate those,” and the most interesting thing, Amiel, is the moment that the group kind of goes, “Oh, we could stop that,” and they start articulating the things they could stop, innovations, really good ideas and passion for them rushes into that space. You can just feel the energy of like, “Okay, I’m going to stop this,” but they can’t even just stop with the thing they’re going to stop with. The new big idea just rushes right in. This is the thing that I find most interesting about TRIZ is – we don’t need brainstorming; we don’t need a whole bunch of ideas. They could be helpful, but mostly what we need is space to act on the ideas we already have, right? In complexity science, we used to call it chunking – chunk 11 | P a g e Transcribed by Melissa Southerland Interview with Keith McCandless by chunk. Most innovations are combinations of little things that piece together over time, and so immediately with this space that’s created by people stopping the counterproductive behaviors, innovative ideas just rush in right in that moment and I have to stop people – Stop! No, I don’t want to hear anything about what you’re going to start.

Just be sure you stop this. I’m convinced you’ll innovate if you stop. If you don’t stop any of these things we just talked about, I’m not confident about your progress, and I’ll usually -- I get dramatic because I want people to pay attention to this. It’s huge. If you can stop these things, you’ll immediately be more innovative, so that’s what TRIZ is.

Very exciting. Very powerful. Quite simple. It uses 1-2-4-All in each of those three segments and it takes usually a half an hour, forty minutes. Once you get the 1-2-4-All, you can play around with the sequencing, but that’s how that one works. Was that enough on TRIZ?

Amiel: I’d like to add one comment because one of the things that is very exciting about TRIZ to me is it allows -- Earlier we talked about introverts doing the one thing about the reflecting visual is useful for introverts. Well, TRIZ can be helpful for those of us, and I actually speak personally, who are wired to see worst-case scenarios and understands all the ways that they happen. It gives us a place, a productive place, to contribute and, in fact, get creative. In other words, rather than a bunch of people come up with ideas and then the devil’s advocates say, “Alright, here’s how that’s not going to work;” you’re actually saying, “This is the time to talk about the bad news,” so that’s my comment.

Keith: Yes. When I enter into group -- I do consulting. Anyway, I get into a group and typically somebody will warn me about the curmudgeon.

Amiel: Yes.

Keith: I’m like, “Oh, right. These are my people.” There’s another -- Our favorite kind of planning methodology or one of the central ones is called eco cycle, and there is the birth of ideas, the maturity, and then every idea becomes rigid, every approach becomes rigid at some point. There’s a next phase of that work called creative destruction, and that’s pulling apart the beautiful thing that has lived its life and now is no longer producing fruit or no longer productive, and that creative destruction is a key role that you don’t learn about in school and the role there – If the birth role is entrepreneur and the mature role is the manager, the creative discretion role of what you’re doing is heresy;

you’re a heretic, and we actually have associated kind of a stance with it and the person who does that is kind of rooted. They’re confident enough to say the very thing we develop is no longer functioning. That takes a lot of courage. You have to be really

–  –  –

rooted and confident to do that and really be paying attention to how it is that it needs to be burned down.

Amiel: Yes.

Keith: It’s not a popular thing and it’s one of the most important things, so we have a place for the curmudgeon. Not the introvert -- See, I’m going to get in trouble here. Not an introvert, I don’t think, but the curmudgeon that I can see that this is not working is a key attribute.

Amiel: Yes. Well, the introverted curmudgeon loves the part of the TRIZ that starts with 1.

Keith: Yes.

Amiel: So, there you have that -- And, again, a lot of self-reflective comments here, but that describes me, at least how I’m originally wired. Now, I want to invite you to talk about at least one more, and here I want to describe a situation and ask you which one of these you might use. So, one of the very common situations in the organizations that I work with is that people are having lots of what I would call action conversations where they’re trying to make commitments to varying degrees of success or possibility conversations where they’re generating ideas using any framework from conventional to 1-2-4-All, but there are relationship conversations where we kind of want to go, “What matters to you, and here’s what matters to me and here’s what’s on my mind,” in a sense of let’s get to know each other so we can know what kind of future conversations we can actually have together, particularly valuable, people who are new to a team, people who have misunderstood each other, or like across divisions. I imagined there are several of these that would work, but could you pick one liberating structure that you might recommend for a group of people to do this.

Keith: Yeah, I can, and I guess one comment before there. There is a lot of material out there about improving relationships and focusing on individuals and what liberating structures does is focus on the pattern of the related -Amiel: Yes, relating. Yes.


-- so because of the change in the pattern, you see the wholeness of each individual, the completeness, much more of your colleague than you thought you knew.

Amiel: Just by doing these. By doing these liberating structures, they will bring them out?

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Keith: Oh, everyone, so we really aren’t doing -- I’m going to describe one that I think does some spectacular things in regard to the people and how they understand each other, but literally everyone brings more out and it’s pretty obvious once you get into it. So, the one I want to talk about is called “What I need from you,” and this is the perfect -- It’s not one of the first ones you’ll do, but as we get better at helping people get started with these; really a novice – somebody in the first couple months of using liberating structures can pull of a good, a really good “What I need from you.” You take a challenge that a group is facing. You break into six or seven or eight, at the most, functional groups. I’m just going to use a business example because people know it; like a sales marketing executive, finance or budget people -- Let’s say compliance and whatever those groups are, and they are all working; let’s say it’s a global thing and they aren’t even located in the same place, so every quarter they come together and use “What I need from you,” and each of these, they have a goal. Let’s say their goal is something like enter into ten new markets over the next year, want to expand, and so each of these functional groups sits together and generates a list of the top one, two or three things that they must have to successfully -- From each of the other groups. I’m in sales, what do I need from marketing? I’m in sales, what do I need from the executive? I’m in sales, what do I need from finance? I’m in sales, what do I need from -- So, each of the groups generates the things that they need from each other to achieve this growth goal. They select a leader.

It could be their formal leader or someone else to sit in the middle of a huge circle. This can be done with hundreds of people, and the leaders have microphones and they deliver to each other one after another, “This is what I need from you to achieve this goal,” so it’s across these functions and there can be a whole bunch of things there, and each group writes down what all the other groups have asked from them. No response during this -


Amiel: Just write it down?

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