The 9 Windows Technique, also known as the "System Operator" or "Nine Boxes," is a powerful problem-solving and innovation tool rooted in the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ). This method was developed by Genrich Altshuller, a Soviet engineer and researcher, in the 1950s. The 9 Windows Technique is designed to help individuals and teams think systematically, break free from mental constraints, and gain a broader perspective on the problem at hand. In this post, we will delve into the 9 Windows Technique, its framework, and how to apply it effectively.
Understanding the 9 Windows Framework
The 9 Windows is a 3x3 matrix that visualizes a system across three dimensions: Time (Past, Present, Future) and System Level (Sub-system, System, Super-system). Here's how the matrix is structured:
In this example, we will analyze a simple safety incident in which an employee slips on the shop floor due to an oil spill. We will create a 9 Windows matrix to identify the factors contributing to the incident and potential solutions for preventing similar accidents in the future.
1. Sub-system (components of the system):
The sub-system focuses on the individual components related to cleaning, spill response materials, and signage. Analyzing the past, present, and future states of these components, we can identify areas for improvement, such as upgrading cleaning equipment, providing better spill response materials, and ensuring appropriate signage is in place.
- Past: Outdated cleaning equipment, insufficient spill response materials, lack of signage
- Present: Current cleaning equipment, available spill response materials, missing signage
- Future: Upgraded cleaning equipment, improved spill response materials, appropriate signage
2. System (the main system):
At the system level, we consider the broader context of the shop floor's operations, including employee training and safety protocols. By examining the evolution of these factors, we can identify the need for enhanced employee training on spill response and the implementation of comprehensive safety protocols to prevent future slip incidents.
- Past: Inadequate employee training on spill response, past slip incidents
- Present: Current employee training on spill response, existing safety protocols
- Future: Enhanced employee training on spill response, comprehensive safety protocols
3. Super-system (environment):
The super-system encompasses the external factors that impact the shop floor, including industry safety standards, company policies, and shop floor layout. Analyzing these factors over time helps us understand how the shop floor can adapt to evolving safety standards, update company policies, and optimize the layout to create a safer work environment.
- Past: Historical industry safety standards, company policies, shop floor layout
- Present: Current industry safety standards, company policies, shop floor layout
- Future: Evolving industry safety standards, updated company policies, optimized shop floor layout
The 9 Windows Technique is a valuable tool for fostering creativity, expanding perspectives, and addressing complex problems. By systematically analyzing a problem across time and system levels, this method can lead to innovative solutions that may have otherwise been overlooked.