- How to add Creative Thinking to Lean Thinking
By Chipp Norcross
I’ve had many conversations over the years about how Synectics fits into a Lean organization. On a flight home to Miami, I realized that looking at Lean as strictly competing with Synectics is like saying hydrogen and oxygen can’t work together. The bottle of water on my tray table suggested otherwise.
So, with one of our clients we conducted a Lean + Synectics event where we added the principals of Synectics around Lean methodologies.
For those of you new to the term, “Lean” is a very robust approach to driving waste out of an organization built upon decades of experience with the famous Toyota Production System. The high-level steps that occur during our client’s Lean process are:
- Learning about the Seven Wastes (muda) that happen in organizations
- Visiting the location where the issue exists to observe and talk to the people who work with it every day (gemba walk)
- Generating ideas to reduce wastes and creating summary “idea sheets”
- Piloting the “idea sheets” immediately and measuring impact to learn what works and what needs further development (trystorming)
- Implementing the solutions while monitoring the benefits over time.
Synectics is dynamic process designed to guide and inspire teams to creatively produce innovative solutions to complex challenges.
The challenge of the session with our client was the integration of the Synectics principals into the Lean processes. A couple of key elements that we found most effective were;
Synectics Climate Management: Not an active process inside of the Lean methodology, climate management is an integral part of Synectics that establishes and maintains an invaluable collaborative climate around a team’s work. It enables ideas to grow, and the participants to focus their mental energy around working together to solve their complex challenges. We employed classic Synectics tools like climate setters, wishing, and crediting/building to great effect on the Lean team’s work.
Synectics Creative Problem Solving: Similarly, we incorporated the Synectics Creative Problem-Solving approach to further involve the extended team members who would be impacted by the outcomes of the Lean workshop. This is an essential element in avoiding the Not Invented Here syndrome that can sink many a great concept. This started with “wishing” during the gemba walk and included using the Synectics Itemized Response (a balanced review of the plusses and concerns about an idea) to evaluate the idea sheets and the outcomes of the trystorming.
Our client noted how her team:
- Achieved better outcomes than she had imagined
- Was able to take bigger risks with its thinking, laying a path to bigger rewards, because of the uplifting climate Synectics Climate Management had created
- Truly enjoyed working together in such a collaborative and open way.
Our client’s Lean program team had the courage to see how Lean + Synectics could work together, and their spirit of collaboration and open-mindedness was critical.
I have a real appreciation for the very artful and structured way that their Lean process keeps the team moving towards prototyping and implementing their work throughout the workshop, putting the focus on the operational outcomes of the work. When coupled with the creative focus of Synectics, it strikes a strong balance between the Operational World and the Innovative World and creates a fast track to success.