A Russian web site recently posted an interview with Boris Zlotin, the vice-president and chief scientist of Ideation International, where he, among other, told of how they solved some problems:
Why did we clutch at the car industry ? It is very simple. We as a company started in Los Angeles, but in 1994 moved to Detroit. At the time when USSR collapsed there was a big recession in California, the military industry was losing contracts. But car industry was on upswing. And we had a lot of work with Big Three and their suppliers.
How did we get to Detroit ? We accomplished a number of successful projects in Los Angeles and a director of the American Supplier Institute (ASI), Steven Ungvari, learned about us. He got interested in TRIZ and it sucked him in. (He still teaches TRIZ to this day.) Steve arranged a presentation on TRIZ for the Board of Directors of the Institute, which included several managers of the car industry.
The presentation was given by an ASI's staffer trained by us. Here rose a director and said: "All this is nonsense, no problem solving methods work. Here is a little problem, which no inventor could solve for decades. Bearings come from manufacturers wound with a paper tape. The tape is removed manually. Attempts to mechanize the tape removal or employ robots fail. They damage bearings and work slowly."
I rose and said: "There is a solution to a similar problem of removal seeds from pepper. Load pepper into a container, raise pressure slowly, so that the air penetrates inside pepper through its pores and the pressure on both sides equalizes, then abruptly release pressure, and pepper blows up and its seeds fly away. So, load your bearings into a container, gradually raise the pressure, and then abruptly release it. The air that penetrated into slits will tear off the tape."
The director that set the problem got interested. Experiments were conducted. In a couple of weeks we got a call and were told that it did not work. I started thinking of why air did not get into the slits. It occured to me that it was because the tape was too oily, its pieces stuck to each other and there were no slits between them. How to make them in spite of that ? I suggested to use hot steam instead of air. They called again and said that this works but bearings might rust of steam. Add corrosion inhibitor or use just hot air, I said. No further calls followed.
They did not pay us for this solution but after that we got several small contracts from GM and a big one from Ford , etc.
Demand for real innovation and real innovators is higher in tough times than in good time. The fact that "Ideation" loses contracts when recession comes indicates that they are lousy innovators.