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Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 46th Installment"Emotional Inertia"

by Shigeomi Koshimizu,
Associate Professor, Master Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering

Psychological inertia

The other day, when I took part in one seminar, I played a game called the image exchange game as an icebreaker before starting group work. This image exchange game is a game to guess each other's personality and interests with members who are meeting on that day for the first time.

Although the game begins with a brief self-introduction, players have to practically judge others on first impressions because they do not know much about each other. I am usually a good judge of people, but once I started the game, a person who seemed like an introverted and quiet type was actually a sporty type and a person who looked like a typical Japanese person and liked Japanese food surprisingly loved traveling to foreign countries and enjoyed eating spicy food abroad. My score was unexpectedly poor, and again I realized people cannot be judged on first impressions.

In business, it is a common matter to make a judgment on a first impression, or based on an "assumption" and take action in this way. In a case with engineers, for example, when some technical problem occurs at work, there are many occasions that engineers tend to determine, in solving the problem, the direction of settlement with shortsighted approaches as they are tied down to their own experiences, the rule of common sense in the company, and convention within the industry. However, innovative solutions that are truly effective may be found in a different direction. For those who are specialized in mechanical engineering, for example, the most ideal solution is to take a chemical engineering approach, instead of taking an approach based on mechanical engineering.

In the theory of TRIZ (Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch), the theory of solving inventive problems, which I teach in the program, the situation when people are working toward solving a problem but are tied down by personal experiences and the rules of a company is determined as "psychological inertia is working". TRIZ is a theory of inventive problem solving developed by the patent examiner Genrich Altshuller of the former Soviet Union. He discovered several patterns of inventive thinking after studying two hundred thousand patents after World War II. The first rule of this invention theory is to dispel psychological inertia. Psychological inertia may sound difficult but it can be referred to as an assumption in simple terms. TRIZ is the theory that shows the direction to a correct solution, away from having this assumption.

TRIZ is taught in the lecture "special theory of creation and design," and students are repeatedly instructed on the importance of dispelling psychological inertia (assumption). It is important to see problems from different directions, viewpoints, and angles to dispel psychological inertia, and the lecture provides specific methods and techniques for it.

It also requires specialized knowledge and skills. To take the first step toward solving problems, it is necessary to track down the contributing factors and underlying causes to provide a solution. In such cases, specialized knowledge and skills are essential. After all, engineers and researchers need to have both an idea generation support technique, such as TRIZ, and knowledge of their own expertise, and it is vital to use both properly depending on the situation.

Still, it is extremely important to break free from psychological inertia, such as conventional thinking and assumptions, as the first step toward reaching a solution, especially with difficult problems. We in the Master Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering aim to create innovations-but if the first step cannot be made, that means innovations cannot be created.

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  • The 47th Installment

    "Earthquakes and Information Literacy"

    by Yoshihide Chubachi,
    Assistant Professor in the Master Program for Information Systems Architecture
  • The 46th Installment

    "Emotional Inertia"

    by Shigeomi Koshimizu,
    Associate Professor, Master Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering
  • The 45th Installment

    “Considering Information Security”

    by Yoichi Seto,
    Professor, Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture