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Sharing Creates New Ideas

Bill Lydon Thoughts…

Ken Sinclair has created this great community library platform for sharing thoughts which is the fuel for creating new ideas and invited me to be a contributor.   Ken and I both have a long history in the field of controls & automation and many times have shared thoughts and experiences since this is a great way to learn and create new ideas.  

I first met Ken in Canada when I was Johnson Controls (JCI) Building Automation Product Manager visiting a customer site.   Ken was creating valuable applications using the JCI Building Automation system achieving great results.  Leaving Johnson Controls after 13 years my major focus has been on industrial controls & automation with some work involving Building Automation.  When Ken created Automated Buildings we continued to have stimulating conversations sharing information and ideas.

There are a wide range of industrial and building controls & applications and these share common fundamentals.   One thing I carried forward because of my buildings controls and automation experience was the lack of interest in energy conservation & optimization in industrial and process manufacturing companies.   This has been changing with greater concentration on optimized use of energy resources, climate change and sustainability while achieving overall organizational goals. Technology is providing a wider range of automation, controls, and digital transformation tools to more effectively and economically achieve goals.   

Great technology and tools alone did not immediately lead to success; they need to be combined with application knowledge and know-how to be successful.   In my career the ability to create new innovative applications started with learning from the experience and know-how of others.

Keeping any organization vital and competitive including manufacturing and buildings requires a flow of ideas and creativity that need to be stimulated with information from outside an individual’s organization.

Abe Lincoln’s quote has been used as an analogy urging people to increase their knowledge and learn new things in order to be more effective and productive.  Today, more than ever, manufacturing and building professionals need to keep up-to-date understanding the latest control & automation technologies, techniques, and solutions that can be used in their operations to increase productivity, quality, in results.   Staying competitive requires understanding and applying developments in the rich and exciting ever-changing technology landscape.  Professionals who keep up-to-date and understand the latest control & automation technologies, techniques, and solutions are important contributors to the competitiveness and overall success of organizations. The cumulative leverage of applying a range of new methods and products is vitally important to long-term health of organizations. 

Provoke Thinking

It is valuable to periodically provoke thinking to stimulate new ideas and perspectives.  One method is asking questions about the last 12 months:

In the last 12 months…

  • What did not work?
  • What worked?
  • What changed?
  • What has surprised you?
  • What new technology surfaced?

Organizations can get into a rut and these are common reactions to new ideas:

  • It’s been done this way for years…
  • That’s been tried before…
  • We don’t do it that way…
  • No one else knows as much as we do… “the specialist disease”
  • Are you nuts?

It is important to kick hard against assumptions.  Many times there is fear of new ideas since they disrupt the status quo.  There are many examples of companies that suffered from their internal assumptions including Kodak, Xerox, and Digital Equipment Corporation. Challenging the status quo can be emotionally difficult, and I have often use this quote to put it into perspective:


Innovation is trying to figure out a way to do something better than it has ever been done before.  These are exciting times with many new technologies and tools to create new applications.  I was fortunate in my career to be trained as a Creative Problem Solving & Value Engineering facilitator and applied these methods to generate new applications, solve problems, improve projects, and stimulate innovation. 

Control & Automation professionals benefit from taking a chance to develop options beyond the obvious to create superior solutions.  A fundamental I learned at the Creative Education Foundation when trained as a group facilitator is to keep participants working longer on problems and issues using techniques to take them out of their comfort zone to stimulate the creation of better ideas.

Framing an issue or problem is critical to create superior solutions. Many times, we are impatient, with short attention spans, limiting the time and effort expended to frame issues and problems. The obsession for immediate fixes blocks us from creating optimal solutions. A great problem framer focuses on asking the right question and fights the urge to be prescriptive right away. You gain no insight by jumping to immediate solutions.  After creating a clear statement about the desired outcome it is important to act as many facts as possible around the problem from all appropriate stakeholders which may include users, installation people, application engineers, maintenance, and others.  

At this point creating a number of problem statements can be useful that provide different perspectives. A powerful way to do this is create a number of statements beginning with: In what ways might we…?  This approach should yield a wide range of problem statements that can be explored to develop new solution ideas.

Sorting out new ideas should have a clear focus on outcomes without adding too much cleverness in adding bells and whistles that can easily get out of control and carry the danger of complexity that can creep into solutions.

Thinking is hard work and it is tempting to accept the first solution that is satisfactory, rather than explore new alternatives. A solution should never be entertained as final before exploring the question, “What is possible?”

There are a wealth of information and tools available to help you in creating new ideas and applications.   I put some creativity resources at this link

Director PLCopen North America

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