• Brian M Winningham

I TRIZZED Myself!

I know that sounds slightly vulgar and suggestive, but I promise there isn’t any need for a restraining order or even something to “depend” on. TRIZ is one of 33+ unique facilitation tools called Liberating Structures (LS), whose stated purpose is "Including and Unleashing Everyone". In this article, I will share how I used TRIZ in a new way for self-development. To be honest, it’s also kind of fun to say and watch people’s reaction.

I was introduced to Liberating Structures in August of 2019. Like a kid with a new toy, I dove right in and started trying things. One of the first structures I tried was TRIZ, which I immediately began using with my teams to help them get past their group limiting behaviors. Since then, I have facilitated TRIZ dozens of times, helping groups as large as hundreds of folks to using it with two people in a podcast interview. In the times I have used it, I have facilitated it several different ways and experimented with the structure quite a bit. I use it so often because I really like how it helps us clearly see the things we can change to help us get past our own self-sabotage in our work together. The creative destruction built into the TRIZ exercise is also just a lot of fun!

This quote from Pablo Picasso is the essence of what makes TRIZ so good. We have to get past our limiting behaviors and limiting beliefs to get to what comes next.

One day while spending some time thinking about the structure, I wondered, “Why does it need to be a Team? Would TRIZ work for just one person?” That led me to experiment and use TRIZ on myself and hence the name of this article. I cut out the “middle man” as they say. It was a really good experience, and I will definitely use it again in the same way the next time there are some limiting behaviors I want to get past. Below, I will share how to facilitate a session of TRIZ, some of the tips and tricks I have learned, as well as share the results from my solo TRIZ exercise. Let’s start by taking a look at how all LS are structured.

Each Liberating Structure (LS) is broken into the following five design elements: 1. A structuring invitation 2. How the space is arranged and what materials are needed. 3. How participation is distributed. 4. How groups are configured. 5. A sequence of steps and time allocation. TRIZ How-To The TRIZ exercise consists of three rounds. Each round has a different goal. The goals of each round are as follows:

  • Round 1 - “Make a list of all you can do to make sure that you achieve the worst result imaginable with respect to your top strategy or objective.”

  • Round 2 - “Go down this list item by item and ask yourselves, ‘Is there anything that we are currently doing that in any way, shape, or form resembles this item?’ Be brutally honest to make a second list of all your counterproductive activities/programs/procedures.”

  • Round 3 - “Go through the items on your second list and decide what first steps will help you stop what you know creates undesirable results?”

Round 1 – I like to use a group brainstorm for this round. I will also let it continue to go on for as long as the good ideas keep flowing. Sometimes you may need to help people stay on track. The focus needs to be on what actions each individual can take to make our efforts fail and not on Force Majeure or outside influences too big for anyone to change. We have to focus on how our actions could make our initiative fail and list those actions. Since we really can only control our own actions, this focus leads to more satisfaction for all participants as each person only takes responsibility for what they can actually control.

Round 2 – I usually use 1-2-4-All for Round 2 when I facilitate TRIZ to a group or team. We want the groups to find those actions that really limit us every day and 1-2-4-All is a great way to make sure everyone gets a voice and is heard.

Round 3 – I use 1-2-4-All or even sometimes just a group discussion to get to our first steps toward improvement. This is where we come up with action items we can practice that will help us change those limiting behaviors. This is how I usually facilitate TRIZ with a group. It is extremely effective and lots of fun! I hope you found the information helpful. I encourage you to try it with any group you are part of.

I TRIZZED Myself – Round 1 So how would this work with myself as the only participant? I have to facilitate and also be the target audience. That felt odd at first, but I believe that vulnerability is a SuperPower. I think being open enough to share your failures requires a lot of bravery. It doesn’t feel so much like bravery for me as it does a cathartic compulsion. For me it is also the best way I can help myself heal from the multiple traumas I have suffered in my life. By exposing my failures and acknowledging them, I can now begin to deal with them in healthy ways. The added bonus is that maybe someone else sees how I’m changing and wants that change for themselves also. Making a difference is really important to me. It’s one of my core values and makes me happy and fulfilled beyond measure to make a difference in someone’s life. I can only hope that everyone else experiences helping others with the same joy I feel. The picture below is the outcome of me asking myself, “What happens when I avoid being vulnerable? What outcomes and mindsets could I embrace to make sure I avoid being vulnerable?” My responses are as follows:

Don’t consider others

​Don’t admit I’m wrong

​ Don’t listen

​Silently disagree

Make it about me

​ Get mad

​Get triggered

​ Don’t put others first

​Insist on telling MY story

​Don’t speak up

Remain stuck in my biases

​Remain stuck in my trauma

Practice victimhood

I TRIZZED Myself - Round 1

I TRIZZED Myself – Round 2

I took some time to get through Round 2 (and even longer for Round 3.) My goal was to get more meaning regardless of the time elapsed, which means I took more time thinking about the answers to the questions than I might normally have spent. For Round 2, I asked myself, “Which of the items from Round 1 cause me to be the least vulnerable? Which of those activities do I use the most?”

My responses surprised me somewhat, because there was a clear progression from one action to the next, to the next. I really didn’t expect that outcome. See the photo and diagram below:


I TRIZZED Myself - Round 2

A clear progression!

When I follow these actions, I internalize everything that is going on around me. That leads to sub-optimal outcomes for me and those around me. It’s very important to always remember that how people act, can only ever be about them. Actions and reactions are an individual decision. It may very well be a conditioned response, but habits can be broken and changed. Internalizing things for me, means that I forget this and let my reactions take governance over my common sense. That is how I get the progression from one feeling to another. That is the other thing I need to remember, they are feelings. While feelings should be honored, they shouldn’t always be humored. We mustn’t act on every strong feeling we have. Time will let us know which ones are truly important.



I TRIZZED Myself - Round 3

As I said before I spent quite a bit of time, several weeks actually, contemplating as to how I might change these outcomes, but not only that, I wanted to know how can I begin to live in a place where those negative outcomes are the exception and not the rule? How do I learn to stop the progression before it gets fully started?


I TRIZZED Myself - Round 3

What is working for me right now is a five-step action plan, that acts much like any other emergency medical plan (my daughter has a plan to manage her athsma for example.) If I stop and take time to follow the steps of my action plan, then my day will get better. If I don’t, then my day probably won’t get better. When I start to understand how I’m reacting is a choice, then it becomes easier to change how I act. The great thing about this action plan is that it works no matter where in the negative progression I find myself. With work and practice, it will become second nature to me.


I TRIZZED Myself - Action Plan

These are the 5 main things I can do to assure better outcomes for me and those around me:

1. Take time to understand HOW & WHY I am feeling the way I feel. If I stop and take the time to do this, most of my anger vanishes very quickly. Then I can begin to take care of myself in healthy ways that help me adjust my mood. Meditating, writing and listening to music are all tools that work for me.

2. Accept that whatever I am feeling is okay and not wrong. This is a hard one for me. I think there must have been some pretty deep conditioning on this one. Meditation and daily quiet time spent thinking have helped. My therapist helps remind me of my negative thoughts and patterns and has taught me to work through my stuck points. It’s a work in progress and may always be, but it is better than it was before.

3. Be empathetic. Think about how current circumstances are temporary. Mindfulness and presence are key. It isn’t always easy, but learning to breath makes it much simpler. Spend a few minutes each day breathing in and out through your nose. As you breath in repeat, “Breathing in I am aware of my in-breath.” As you breath out say, “Breathing out, I am aware of my out-breath.” Before you react to someone who you feel has acted poorly, ask yourself, “I wonder what thing has happened to them today to make them act this way? How would I act if it happened to me?” Everyone deserves a break and being the person giving someone else a break may just change their trajectory. That is powerful!

4. Accept your mistake. Learn from it. Let it go. This is how we improve. This is simple, not easy and what we all must strive for daily. Again, my deep conditioning around perfectionism has made this very difficult for me at times. At this point it is a talk I have with myself often and I must be very careful about not getting into self-recrimination. It is a fine line and honestly, I step over it often. I just work to remember to forgive myself for my honest mistakes. I would do the same for anyone else.

5. If I lead with love, it will all work out okay. If I am brave, and vulnerable, and make it about helping others, I get the most awesome results! Every! Single! Time!


Final Thoughts

Are you ready to explore what’s next? Try TRIZ with your team or even just with yourself and see what limiting behaviors you can destroy! It’s a ton of fun! This has been an extremely useful exercise for me. I hope you find it helpful! If you would like to learn more, or heck, if you want me to TRIZ you, please reach out. I am more than happy to oblige!


Liberating Structures are free for anyone to use under a Creative Commons license. They are free if you are using them on the whole planet or only using them on yourself!

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