Looking at problems through nine windows – how to become creative

Everyone has to be creative. That’s the mantra these days. But it’s not so easy being creative all the time especially considering the time and resource pressure we  are all under. I think there is also this common fallacy that being creative is just something that happens if your talented and/or try really hard.

By knowing and utilizing the right thinking tools we can all become much more creative in a predictable and productive way. With the right use of the these tools we can better answer the pressure of inventing new ideas on a regular basis with limited time.

In this blog post I would like to share with one such thinking tool that I learned recently on a Triz-course: the nine windows method.

The nine windows

Often when we try to solve the problem we focus on the abstraction level (system level) where the problem happens and present time when we looking for solutions. On many cases this works well enough.

The problem is that when we are looking for creative ideas they can be found equally likely on:

  1. Different abstraction levels
  2. Different times (past, present and future)

Of course their is no reason why in principle we can not just think about the problem from a wider perspective and this exactly what creative people do.  In practice it is easy to get stuck in box with a narrow perspective in the hurry and pressure of everyday work.

“The nine windows” – method is a simple way to remind yourself to consider the problem from different perspectives before deciding on a solution.

The nine windows is a 3 by 3 matrix with one axis representing time and the other the abstraction level (system level).

Past Super-System Present Super-System Future  Super-System
Past System Present System Future System
Past Sub-System Present Sub-System Future Sub-System

A practical example of looking at something through nine windows where the center of attention is a decision making meeting:

Organizational planning processes and practices Decision making processes and structures Communication processes and practices
Preparation of meeting agenda Decision making meeting Communication of the results of the meeting
Preparation of an individual decision proposal Decision and reasoning for an individual decision item Communication of individual decision

OK, that’s cool. But how is this helpful in practice? Well if we have a problem with our decision meetings usually we will try to solve that by making changes to that meeting (one window). In some cases that can be sufficient, but we are missing a great opportunity to search for innovative ideas in the surrounding eight windows.

If we had the a problem related to our decision making meetings like:

The quality of the decisions of the decision making meetings is perceived to be poor by the rest of the organization. This is partly due to the real quality of the decisions and partly to poor visibility into the decisions making meetings.

We could utilize the nine windows method to solve this problem in the following way:

  1. Write a clear description of the problem and related background information
  2. Make a conscious decision to look for ideas from a wide perspective by utilizing the nine windows method
  3. Model the the problem through the nine windows (identify the content of each of the windows)
  4. Brainstorm ideas for each of the different windows
  5. Choose the most promising ideas out of all the generated ideas
  6. Implement the chosen ideas as quick experiments (a prototyping mindset)
  7. Stabilize/modify/reject ideas based on the results of experimentation

That’s it for my introduction post to the topic. Next week I will write a post that shows an example of generating ideas around the “perceived quality of decisions” – problem using the nine windows.


About teemut

This entry was posted in Learning, Methods and frameworks, Triz, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Looking at problems through nine windows – how to become creative

  1. Pingback: An example of creative problem solving with the nine windows method | Troikka

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