Monthly Archives: August 2013

‘What-if’ Design as an Integrative Method in Product Design

‘What-if’ Design as an Integrative Method in Product Design

Author: Fred van Houten, and Eric Lutters

Abstract: In product development, many different aspects simultaneously influence the advancement of the process. Many specialists contribute to the specification of products, whilst in the meantime the consistency and mutual dependencies have to be preserved. Consequently, much effort is spent on mere routine tasks, which primarily distract members of the development team of their main tasks of creating the best solution for the design problem at hand. Many of these routine tasks can be translated into problems with a more or less tangible structure; often they are in fact an attempt to assess the consequences of a certain design decision on the rest of the product definition. Therefore, such questions can be formulated as: “what happens if. . . . .”. The question is subsequently translated into a need for evolution of the information content determining the product definition. Based on this need for information, immediate workflow management processes can be triggered. This results in a ‘train’ of design and engineering processes that are carried out, leading to a viable answer to the question. As the structure of a ‘what-if’ question is independent of the domain under consideration, the ‘what-if’ questions can relate to any aspect in the information content at any level of aggregation. Consequently ‘what-if’ questions can range from anything between ‘What if another machine tool is used’ to ‘What does this product look like if it is made from sheet metal’. Such a way of looking at products under development obviously strongly binds different domains and downstream processes under consideration, thus enabling a more integrated approach of the design process.

Two approaches can be applied simultaneously:

  • A generic top-down approach, focusing on the methods of answering structured ‘what-if’ questions, whilst disregarding any specific domain information, and avoiding any bias of solution routines
  • A bottom-up approach, contributing to understanding the application of a ‘what-if’ system and support systems in general.

‘what-if’ design can be described as the information-based and workflow-driven, structured approach to the chart the consequences of design decisions or changes in a design.


Directions of Next Generation Product Development

Directions of Next Generation Product Development

Author: Tetsuo Tomiyama and Bart R. Meijer

 Abstract: For the last 20 years, the focus has been on product development processes and developing tools to support them, addressing not only technological but also managerial issues. While these tools have been successfully supporting product development processes in a general sense, consensus on the direction of future development seems to be lacking. IN the paper, it is argued that horizontal seamless integration of product life cycle knowledge is the key towards the next generation product development. Knowledge fusion, rather than just knowledge integration, is considered crucial. In this paper, we will try to outline the directions of the next generation product development its tools, and necessary research efforts.

 . . . we pointed out that “horizontal” “seamless integration of knowledge” about product’s life cycle is the key to arriving at product development for better, more innovative, quicker, and still greener products.

A knowledge system that represents a mono-discipline required for developing a simple, mono-disciplinary product.


We may then need a set of closely related knowledge systems for multidisciplinary product development. Integrating these closely related knowledge systems requires defining at least interfaces. Such multidisciplinary integration is a key for innovative product development.

knowledge2However, to be more innovative, we may need to go one step further; knowledge fusion.

knowledge3Knowledge fusion is to create a new knowledge system that can be operated as a whole to develop truly multidisciplinary products. Knowledge integration is still a collection of independent knowledge systems with clearly defined interfaces and describes common concepts among those integrated knowledge systems, while knowledge fusion is a situation in which these systems have been totally fused to create a new knowledge system.

. .. the directions of the next generation product development and necessary research efforts. Three key issues were identified. The first issue is “more horizontal integration” to include a wider range of engineering activities. The second is “seamless integration of activities” beyond data and knowledge level integration. The activities within product development can include such tasks as design, computation, procurement, prototyping, and testing, and might even be extended to SCM and VCM based on PLM. The third is product development still pursues” better quality, lower costs, more innovation, higher speed, and yet greener performance.”

For these three issues, knowledge integration plays a crucial role. However since knowledge integration only arrives at a set of knowledge collection of which interfaces are clearly defined, we may need another step; knowledge fusion.

Economic Growth, Business Innovation and Engineering Design

Economic Growth, Business Innovation and Engineering Design

Author: Gunnar Sohlenius, Leif Clausson, and Ann Kjellberg

Abstract: Scientific knowledge of engineering within innovative industrial decisions process has a great potential to improve quality and productivity in industrial operations and hence improve profitability. This is a precondition for economic growth, which in turn is necessary to improve welfare. Innovative processes have to combine creativity with quality and productivity in order to achieve profitability and growth. The most important ways to improve profitability in industrial production are through an improved ability to meet more advanced requirements in new products and processes by using new knowledge and inventions and higher productivity through investments in more advanced and automatic tools. This is the fundamental mechanism behind industrial production seen as an engine of welfare. Besides the real world of products and production processes, the mechanisms for this development can be classified into three worlds. These are the decision world, the human world and the model world. In striving to obtain increased welfare through industrial production, fundamental knowledge about these worlds and about their relations to products and processes has to be developed. This paper is a contribution to this understanding, which is necessary in order to combine Total Quality Management, (TQM) and Total Productivity Management (TPM) into Total Effective Management (TEM) by understanding Means.




  • Axiom 1: A design maintaining the independence of functions is superior to coupled designs.
  • Axiom 2: A design with higher probability to meet the functional requirements within specified tolerances is superior
  • Axiom 3: A design requiring less energy to be realized is superior
  • Axiom 4: A design requiring less time to be a realized is superior

Competence Management Process


Industrial Company as a Business System


The Minding Organization: Chapter 5

Chaos to Order to Chaos : Embracing Uncertainty

Chaos can be deliberate or emergent. When it is emergent, it is unexpected and may require anticipated action in the form of improvisation. Often, the emergent chaos is simply the result of a question that should have been asked in the beginning to avoid undoing and redoing what had been done already in progressing from chaos to order. We have then a choice between two general models: moving from deliberate chaos to emergent order or from deliberate order to emergent chaos.

chaos1The model of emergent chaos calls for problem-solving as problems emerge. The model of deliberate chaos calls for creating  chaos deliberately, up front, in the beginning by raising questions that may surface later, by focusing on problem seeking; identifying potential problems before they occur so that they can be eliminated, mitigated, or solved with adequate advanced preparation.  The models of chaos to order and order to chaos can be described as deliberate problem seeking, as contrasted with emergent problem solving. If we do more of the former, there will be less need to do the latter.  It also follows that the cycle time (that is, the time from the inception of an idea to its successful implementation), is shorter when we progress from deliberate chaos to order than when we proceed from an erroneous perception of order to emergent chaos.


From Order to Emergent Chaos

[tweaked to fit the plane model]Let us illustrate the model by an example. Consider the design of a new plane. We follow hypothetically the stages from inception of the idea to the release of the plane to the market, first with the model of order to emergent chaos.

The design department spends a few months on conceptual designs. Once they settle on a design, they send it to engineering. The engineers may ask questions about the shape because the flow of air around the plane may cause excessive drag, requiring a larger engine to maintain speed. The design may have to be undone and redone. New problems that emerge are settled and the engineering department proceeds with their own specifications and requirements. They then hand the design to manufacturing. At this stage, new questions and resulting problem emerge regarding manufacturing. These questions were not raise in the design and engineering phases. To deal with the manufacturing issues, the engineering and possibly the design may  have to be undone and redone. More time elapses, lengthening the cycle time. Next, suppliers of parts are brought in. Then, the assembly of a prototype take place. The assembly may bring to light new questions leading to the emergence of new problems that require more changes. Again, work must be undone and redone.  The cycle time to market continues to be delayed. Finally, the car is released to the market, with mechanics asking why it is so difficult to replace a broken washer. The answer lies partly in the fact the design was not perceived with a view for maintenance and repair.

From Deliberate Chaos to Order

Let us now follow hypothetically the stages from the inception of the idea to the release of market for the same idea using the model of deliberate chaos to order.  Representatives from design, engineering, manufacturing, assembly, finance, marketing, sales, suppliers, users, and any others that may be involved at some future time, such as maintenance and repair, are all brought together in the beginning to meet in one group.  The leader of the group outlines the general and possibly some what vague ideas. Questions may be raised for clarification and possible future elaboration. Next, the design group takes a few day to conceive a number of configurations, considering issues raised in the first meeting. A second meeting is called before the design department makes its choice, so that the designers are receptive to changes and open to input. While the designers are at work, all the group members are mobilized to look for ideas and possibilities, see problems before they emerge, and explore new ways in their areas of expertise.

Most creativity and innovation, the driving forces of productivity, lie in the minds of those closest to the work. When the alternative designs are presented to the group, issues in engineering, manufacturing, assembly, maintenance, repair, safety, customer perception of safety, comfort, and so on should all be raised. The discussion should focus on sharing perceptions. All is open and in a state of flux. If a member of the group thinks of something new or different when not in the meeting, it should be brought to the attention of the other members. As time goes on, the group coalesces and become a team bound by a common goal, and what is most important, more and more shared perceptions.  Each team member has a heightened perception of what he or she must do in the light of sharing (not filtering and blocking) the perceptions of the other team members. Problems are found and addressed more quickly than in the linear model of order to chaos, in which the activities are performed in sequence rather than in parallel, or concurrently. There is more chaos here, more experimentation and change occur at the beginning, fewer problems need to be solved, and fewer changes need to be introduced at the end when the cost in time, money , ego, and reputation (and in customers) is high.

Chaos3The thick curve shows that more effort expended early, on problem finding, results in less effort required for problem solving later on. This is the model of deliberate chaos to emergent order. The thin curve shows the results of a narrow focus on order early on and emergent chaos at the end. In this case, little effort is expended in the beginning on problem-solving effort at the end.

When changes are made early on, the cycle time to completion of a project shorter. Costs of change become higher later in the project. Therefore, the model of chaos to order is far superior to the model of order to chaos.

Relentless Improvement

The model of deliberate chaos to order is a single link, or time cycle, in a chain that keeps us moving from order to new chaos by choice, not by default or neglect.  Going from chaos to order and from order to chaos, and then from chaos to order all over again, as a way of life, is a commitment to relentless improvement. It is a commitment to lifelong learning. The model of relentless improvement represents a balance between chaos and order. We do not persist in either mode too long. We begin with deliberate chaos and move to reasonable order in the form of reasonable answers to our questions; however, we never close the door to new questions and potential improvement to the answer we already have. That is why the inclined lines in the figure do not converge and meet at a point at the end of cycle from chaos to order. The gap between the lines at the state of reasonable order is symbolic; it signifies that there is always room for improvement. As individuals, when we reach a certain stage of knowledge at the end of a learning cycle, such as the first course in a field, we move to the next cycle by taking the next course.


We discussed attitude to error earlier, but let us emphasize again that there is no learning without practice, without trail and error. It is important to realize, however, that errors are easier to fix and less costly in time, money, and frustration the earlier they occur in the cycles from the inception of the idea to its implementation. They cost the least at the stage of looking and seeing, more at the thinking and planning stages, and the most at the acting stage. Namely, the cost of error increases as we progress from chaos to order, and is very high at the final stage of perceived order.


In an organization committed to creativity and innovation, employees strive to make their present jobs obsolete and go on to new assignments that require new opportunities to move from chaos to order.

The Minding Organization: Chapter 4

Structure, Creativity, and Error: The Foundations of the Minding Organization


Hierarchies and Network

Organizations come into being with creativity and innovation, sparked by a network of people who have shared sense of purpose. They self-organize with no rules or procedures codified in a manual. There is neither a manual, nor is there any organizational hierarchy; everything is loose, evolving, and in a state of flux.  As the young organization grows and learns from experience what worked and what did not work, it begins to codify and institutionalize rules and procedures to guide people to do in the future what worked in the past. With this comes the assignment of authority, responsibility, and status to enforce the rules. This is the beginning of hierarchical structure.  Entrepreneurial conduct is displaced by bureaucratic structures,  which stifles creativity. Now, people have to bend the rules or go around the rules to find a network of supporters, collaborators, and champions of ideas, who are in many different places in the hierarchy.  A process of evoking new networks begins to take place.  Authority, responsibility, status, and compensation are not the criteria for centrality or key positions in the network. A key position might be held by the person who makes the appointment for the chief financial officer. By being linked to such a key person, you might get the timely appointment that opens the door to engaging a champion to support your new idea.

The informal network in the organization can promote change or stifle it; it can augment or disrupt the structure that the hierarchy is attempting to create.  Hierarchies are formal, explicit, rigid, guided by rules of ma manual, and bound by authority. Hierarchies are like trains moving on fixed tracks, making stops based on predetermined plans. Networks are informal, implicit, flexible, guided by rules of thumb, and bound by mutual trust. Networks are like taxis cruising the city, moving randomly through surface streets and making stop that are most unplanned.

Networks are more prevalent early, in the creative and innovative stags of a new undertaking, whereas hierarchies are more prevalent and useful when ideas are to be implemented in the market place.  A thriving, growing, renewing organization is one that learns to operate on the edge of chaos. Such an organization learns to maintain the delicate shifting balance between hierarchies and networks, the deliberately planned and the emerging, surprising, unplanned responses to a world marked by chaos and uncertainty

Creative Tension

Organization, by their very nature, require structure, order, and rules to function. This is contrary to the environment necessary to tap into human creativity. Chaos, flexibility, and looser framework are the requisite characteristics for developing fresh ideas and novel plans.  Unconventional ideas cannot be fostered in conventional organizations that are dominated by excessive structure. There is, then, a need for a new balance within organizations, which will nurture the creative thinking necessary for the organization’s survival, together with a framework that can respond to the more mundane, daily needs of the organization, which depend on structure an order.

Organizations must find a way to oscillate between chaos and order, a process that fosters creative thinking. Just as excessive order can stifle creativity, excessive chaos have its own pitfalls. Without closure to ideas, without a structure that can deliver a finished product, creative ideas float without direction. At some stage, the product must reach a customer who will have little or no knowledge about the creative process that fostered the development of the product but who will know when and where they want the product delivered. This aspect of organization demands structure and order, a bureaucracy that is responsible for the skeletal working of the organization.

Essentially then, we have two extremes: excessive structure, which stifles creativity, and excessive chaos, which may produce individual creativity but never produce the goods. This dichotomy results in mental creative tension most strongly felt by those within the organization who want to innovate.

The Pac-Man Story



There are four Pac-Men. Are they an organization? They certainly do not look like they are coordinating their efforts toward any common goal. They look more like a random collection of Pac-Men


Here, they are closer together, but they all seem to have their backs to one another and do not look they are on speaking terms. If someone were to walk into this type of organization, what would they think? Is this an organization with which you want to do business?


The Pac-Men are now aligned at least, and we can discern structure, but they are all doing exactly the same thing. How much added value does each Pac-Man contribute to the whole? Does this seem like an interesting stat-of-the-art organization? Does this structure create a vital, thriving organization?



Per the picture below, What figure immediately jumps to the forefront? The Pac-Men appears to form a square. The amazing aspect of their coordinated effort is the creation of a new entity, which in reality does not even exist – if you cover the Pac-Men with your hands, there will be no square. We see lines connecting the Pac-Men, despite the fact that there are no lines on the paper. The image is so forceful that the square appears to be brighter than the surrounding context, when in fact, even this is not so. What we perceive with respect to the square exists solely in our brains, and it is the result of our tremendous perceptual capabilities. Imagine yourself as the customer coming into this organization. The organization has created a structure that causes you to perceive a square. Thus, their efforts are toward your perceptions, and perceptions are the force of the future.

The appearance of the square depends on the effort of each individual Pac-Man; each must coordinate its effort with the two adjacent Pac-Men. The Pac-Men are able to create squares of various sizes; essentially, they can create custom-sized squares to fit the demand of individual customers, but they can only do so if they work as a team.  Likewise, there are limits and constraints on their productivity. If they move too far away from each other, the image of a square will disappear from sigh. The structure of the team is critical determinant of the success in this organization. We see, therefore, that the choice of internal structure determines the type of creative ideas the organization is able to produce. The structure must be flexible enough to maximize the contribution of each individual within the organization.


 Heightened Perception

With computer technologies taking over information processing and logical operations, the human brain must now move forward and upward by going back to what we humans do best  perceive acutely. Our powers of perception, our ability to enrich the potential meaning of information channeled through out senses, applying greater depth and breadth to the way we look and see, hear and listen, allows us to improve the quality and quantity of our ideas, thoughts and actions.

One of the most fertile grounds for developing alternative perceptions is conversation. The word conversation contains the root of the word for opposite, converse.  It comes from the Latin for turning around together. This is the essence of a conversation. Opposite views are articulated, and in the process, new insights are gained. To truly benefit from a conversation, we must enter the process with a readiness to listen and comprehend the perceptions of others, to understand the frame of reference regardless of how remote these are from our perceptions. To comprehend another point of view does not mean to accept it as superior to one’s own point of view. Mature, clear thinking is taking the time to give a new  perception a chance to be tested.

Although you may notice absolutely none of theses things, all are within everyone’s line of vision, but are not within everyone’s frame of reference.

What We Look For and What We See

The more flexible and rich our repertoire of ways of looking, the more fertile is the domain of what we see, and the more stimulated is our thinking.  Flexibility and richness in how we look can reduce the potential for errors of omission and errors of commission that attend a fixed way of looking with a rigid perception. A rigid perception acts as a filter. The filter rejects that which does not fit the model and accepts only that which does fit.

Strategies to Enhance Creativity in Organizations


Creativity thrives on diversity. Teams, working on projects requiring creativity, should comprise individuals panning a wide range of diverse interests, specialties, cultures, and talents. The more diverse the group, the richer and wider-ranging will be the conversations, and the more fertile the field for yielding creative ideas. Studies have shown that diverse groups take longer to get started, but they end up with much higher levels of creative and innovative ideas than homogeneous groups.  Homogeneous groups are more potent, effective, and quick to implement ideas and plans requiring habitual thinking. Heterogeneous, diverse groups are more powerful with the unplanned issues that require spontaneous thinking. These findings provide a strategy for organizations to create or plan an environment for both homogeneous and heterogeneous networks to emerge.


Embrace early on the full spectrum of opposites on the scales of issues, attributes, and measurement. For example, view positive and negative aspects of an issue. Consider a competitor as a potential ally, and consider an ally as a potential competitor. Consider a compliment whenever you have a reprimand in mind; perhaps you will use both. Opposites, conflicts, dichotomies, and paradoxes kept simultaneously in mind tend to trigger ideas that break out of the bondage of old contexts and create surprisingly new ideas. By embracing opposite, the familiar is made strange and the strange is becomes familiar.

Sharing Knowledge: The Global Organization Network

Becoming a part of such a network helps member organizations achieve the following

  • Leverage wisdom, knowledge, and skills
  • Leverage corporate resources, both human and financial
  • Provide early detection and awareness of trends
  • Promote self-renewal on a timely basis
  • Form business alliances and partnerships
  • Provide an unbiased arena to experiment with new ideas
  • Visit the future

Articulating Errors

The Hebrew word for sin is derived from the root of a word that means “missing the target.” If to sin is to miss the target, then to err is no more than target practice before the real contest takes place. Errors and mistakes are, indeed, target practice and continued experimentation in the quest for improvement. To learn from errors is imperative if we are committed to continued learning. Experience is not only to know what will work in a particular situation, but also to know what will not work. Errors provide the most profound opportunity to foster an environment of total amnesty, in which trust and mutual respect drive out the fear of mistakes and permit quick experimentation  with ideas in which all involved continue to learn.

Celebrate Failure

Learning is a function of trail and error. To err comes from the Latin, errare, meaning to wander off course, not in the wrong direction, but in a different direction from the anticipated path.  In the process of erring, phenomenal discoveries may be unearthed. WIsdom is the collection of experiences that teaches us not only what will work, but also what will not work. A healthy attitude toward error is a lucrative asset that creates a mind open to new opportunities. An error is a gap between what was anticipated and what actually resulted. The gap can be negative, so that the results are less than what was anticipated. The gap can just be easily positive, so that the results are more than what was anticipated. Either way, the difference must be thought through to maximize benefits by learning from what went wrong as well as what went right.

One way to foster a healthy attitude toward error is to treat failures the same way we treat success. We ought to celebrate failures! Our Western culture is partially responsible for the way most of us treat errors as a negative forces to be ignored or challenged.

This is not an attitude of “feel good, set no standards.” Some educators today feel that self-esteem is more important than learning; thus, they do not create challenges, to avoid failures. The attitude we are advocating is to embrace failures willingly and learn form them, and turning unanticipated outcomes into opportunities.

Children need to make their own mistakes to achieve maturity; an organization should also be allowed to learn  from its own mistakes. Just as the child must try and err to establish an identity, so must an organization challenge itself an learn from resulting gaps to identify itself. Every single person associated with the organization must be given the responsibility for learning. This is tantamount to declaring that every single person in an organization must be given the responsibility to be right but also the authority to be wrong.

Error, then, must be articulated, comprehended, related to past experience, and made part of the organization’s memory. People learn more when something goes wrong than when everything goes right. If there is one way to do something right, there are hundreds of ways to do it wrong. Refusing to recognize that errors are important to articulate is the single most damaging error one can make.

Errors as Organizational Strategy

The attitude toward errors and the articulation of errors are central elements in the creative process. Creative people handle errors in a way that enhances the creative process. Most people performing a difficult task tend to be careful, controlled, and wary of making errors. Creative people have the opposite predisposition to errors. When they are engaged in the creative process, they experiment freely through fields of possibilities that span the spectrum of scales of opposite. They look at the positive and negative aspects of an issue as different levels of manifestation of attributes. To the creative person, slavery and liberty are on the scale of freedom, with slavery representing very little of this attribute. Thus , they take chances with thoughts an ideas that almost invariably leads to errors, which means they wander off course. When errors appear, they do not result in paralyzing stress and frustration; to the contrary, they are integrated in to the creative process. Errors are articulated broadly and put into context, so that the errors can become a source of innovation.

The articulation of errors is an important strategy. The root of the word articulation stems from joint, such as a joint between limbs of the body or between the parts of speech that create sentences. An articulate speaker joins sentences together in way s that make a message coherent. The joint can both connect and separate the parts – hence, the power of articulating errors. The artist shaping a statute out of clay may squeeze and pull by error, only to be taken by surprise, and the become excited wit the emerging creation when random wanderings off the intended course is articulated and made part of the creation. A slip of the hands of the sculptor, the brush of the painter, or the error in the scientific laboratory, when articulated , can be joined and incorporated to innovate and invent. Error should become a strategic posture of the minding organization.