Pugh Matrix for Idea Decisions


You and your team have worked hard to create a great new idea for creating improved customer value. The concept has been prototyped and shown to user groups for ongoing feedback. Now it is time to determine where your key differentiation points are and how they compare to competitive offerings, and which to focus on for further development.

The Pugh Concept is a matrix of the concept and competitive offerings along with key features. The matrix helps determine which features are more important or better than others. It is typically used after gaining customer feedback on prototypes and what drives value.

The Pugh Concept is a matrix of the concept and competitive offerings along with key features. The matrix helps determine which features are more important or provided higher levels of value compared to others. It is typically used after gaining customer feedback on prototypes and what consumers feel drive critical value.

This criteria-based matrix allows teams to score the concept features relative to critical criteria determined from voice of the customer (VOC) research. Scores are consolidated to allow the best features to go into development.; thereby, assisting which options to select. The tool provides a systematic process that can be quantified to help justify feature selections.


The Pugh matrix allows an individual or team to:

  1. Compare different concepts
  2. Create strong alternative concepts from weaker concepts
  3. Arrive at an optimal concept that may be a hybrid or variant of the best of other concepts

A key benefit of the matrix is large amounts of quantitative data is not required for concept finalization. Usually, at this stage of innovation the team has a lot of qualitative data but limited quantitative data. Therefore, the team can use knowledge gained from qualitative research and intuition to move the project further along.

Five Great Books to Improve Processes

As Deming stated, everything is a process. Everything is a process and can be improved. This is how Lean and Six Sigma can truly help any organization or department. The following five books are excellent resources for anyone wanting to improve.









Biomimicry for Creativity


Biomimicry looks towards nature to help solve problems. Aligning biology and engineering allows for the creation of innovative solutions to challenging problems. The theory bases that most design challenges have already been solved within nature; therefore, analyzing the solutions that nature has developed can lead to new solutions for human issues. Things such as the abalone shell or spider’s silk are just two natural materials that humans have “copied”. Or looking at how millions of locust can fly in a massive swarm but never collide, helps to develop innovative methods to avoid aircraft collisions.

The most widely known application of nature to products is Velcro. Georges de Mestral developed the idea from observing burrs stuck to his clothing. He noticed how the burrs were composed of tiny hooks that allowed it to cling to animals to transfer seeds. Or how about the amazing suits competitive swimmers wear to reduce drag. Many of these were based on how fish and sharks reduce drag from their scales and skin. This science was also applied to ships and cars to reduce drag.

Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul. So the next time you need a creative idea to innovate for new products or update current products, just look around you at what nature  already perfected over millions of years.

5 Whys For Root Cause Analysis


Another excellent tool for problem solving is the Five Whys. This is a foundational tool within Lean. Five Whys involves asking “Why” multiple times to get to the root cause of an issue (instead of just identifying the most obvious problem, which is usually not the root cause). Three potential paths are:

  1. specific problems – why is there a problem?
  2. problems not detected – why did we not notice the problem (it reached the customer)?
  3. system failure – why did the system allow the problem to occur?

Open-ended questions are extremely powerful when using this tool. Open-ended questions help to draw out more thought or understanding than typical close-ended questions. The benefit of open-ended questions help to promote deeper thought, increased research, avoiding assumptions based on only one answer, and stimulates discussion.


The first “Why” is the main cause; the second “Why” is what caused the main cause, and so on. Asking five whys is not a strict rule. It can be more or less, dependent on if the root cause is determined. Root causes are identified if it can be determined that when the cause is initiated the problem appears, or when the cause is eliminated, the problem disappears. An example would be:

Why is the tire flat?

There are nails on the floor.

Why are there nails on the floor?

The box of nails got wet.

Why did the box of nails get wet?

Rain leaked through a hole in the garage roof.

Why did the roof leak?

The roof shingles are missing.

Now you know why the tire is flat. It is actually due to missing roof shingles (the root cause), not just a nail on the floor.

The five whys is a great tool to generate impactful discussions, promote deeper level thinking, and avoid putting Band-Aids on problems, instead of fixing the actual cause of the issue.

Root Cause Analysis


The ability to find and solve problems is a critical skill for Product Managers. Using a systematic process to go “below the surface” and identify the underlying cause(s) of the problem is critical to solving the problem and avoiding a “Band Aid” fix. Root Cause Analysis (RCA) seeks to identify the origin of a problem. It uses a specific set of steps, with associated tools, to find the primary cause of the problem, so that you can:

  • Determine what happened.
  • Determine why it happened.
  • Figure out what to do to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again.

RCA assumes that systems and events are interrelated. An action in one area triggers an action in another, and another, and so on. By tracing back these actions, you can discover where the problem started and how it grew into the symptom you’re now facing.

You’ll usually find three basic types of causes:

Physical causes – Tangible, material items failed in some way (for example, a car’s brakes stopped working).

Human causes – People did something wrong, or did not doing something that was needed. Human causes typically lead to physical causes (for example, no one filled the brake fluid, which led to the brakes failing).

Organizational causes – A system, process, or policy that people use to make decisions or do their work is faulty (for example, no one person was responsible for vehicle maintenance, and everyone assumed someone else had filled the brake fluid).

Root Cause Analysis looks at all three types of causes. It involves investigating the patterns of negative effects, finding hidden flaws in the system, and discovering specific actions that contributed to the problem. This often means that RCA reveals more than one root cause.


Root Cause is the fundamental breakdown or failure of a process which, when resolved, prevents a recurrence of the problem.

Or, in other words

  • For a particular product problem, Root Cause is the factor that, when you fix it, the problem goes away and doesn’t come back.
  • Root Cause Analysis is a systematic approach to get to the true root causes of our process problems.

So why use RCA? Well, it …

  • Helps identify the problem or challenge
  • Helps resolve the Problem
  • Eliminates Patching
  • Conserves Resources
  • Facilitates Discussion (leading to solutions)
  • Provides Rationale for Strategy Selection

The general steps to performing RCA are:

  1. Define the problem or issue
  2. Conduct data analysis
  3. Determine root cause(s)
  4. Create an improvement plan
  5. Evaluate the progress

Any structured process will work; DMAIC, RCA, CREI, Forensic Engineering, RPR Problem Diagnosis, etc.

Root cause 2

Remember, RCA helps to find out:

  • What happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What do you do to prevent it from happening again?
  • How do we know we made a difference?

RCA is also:

  • A tool for prevention, not punishment, of adverse events
  • A tool in the effort to build a “culture of safety”
  • A process for identifying basic or contributing causes
  • A process for identifying what can be done to prevent recurrence
  • A process for measuring and tracking outcomes

Once you become recognized as a problem finder and solver, you will become indispensable to the organization. Practice RCA and it will become a key tool in your set of techniques to help the organization grow and prosper.

Six Thinking Hats


The Six Thinking Hats was developed by Edward deBono and is the cornerstone of his Parallel Thinking theory. It requires teams to think on one aspect of a topic individually, ensuring everyone participates. The benefits are reduced confrontation, improved synergies, and extreme efficiency. This tool is a much more effective alternative to traditional brainstorming.

Six Thinking Hats is a simple, effective tool which helps teams be more productive, focused, and mindfully involved. Easy to learn, this tool can be implemented quickly.

Six distinct directions are identified and assigned a color. The six directions are:

  • Managing Blue – what is the subject? what are we thinking about? what is the goal?
  • Information White – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions Red – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Discernment Black – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative
  • Optimistic response Yellow – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creativity Green – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes

Colored hats are used as metaphors for each direction. Switching to a direction is symbolized by the act of putting on a colored hat, either literally or metaphorically. These metaphors allow for a more complete and elaborate segregation of the thinking directions. The six thinking hats indicate problems and solutions about an idea the thinker may come up with.

The tool allows teams to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic “thinking hat.” By mentally wearing and switching “hats,” you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation, or the meeting.

Brainwriting – Better Alternative than Brainstorming


Brainwriting is a great technique to generate lots of ideas in a short amount of time. The difference between brainwriting and brainstorming is during brainwriting participants generate ideas individually, silently. This allows full participation from everyone and eliminates premature discussions, critiques, and removes the competition to “be heard” In addition, it requires minimal facilitation and is very efficient.

Most often brainwriting is referred to as 6-3-5. This indicates 6 participants, 3 ideas per round, and 5 minutes per round. A specific topic is focused on, each participant has 5 minutes to write 3 ideas, then passes their worksheet to the next person. That person reviews the ideas and then generates 3 more. This continues until all 6 people have completed the worksheets. This enables a fast method to generate lots of ideas and provides a structured method to stay-on-topic. Once the worksheets are filled-in, then the team discusses and clarifies the ideas, and generates any critiques as top ideas are chosen.

Trimming Technique


Another excellent technique for developing creative ideas, is the Trimming Technique. As it sounds, the goal is to analyze a product, service or process and trim any part without impacting customer needs. This can also lead to creating a new value driver. Too often products have excessive amounts of features, many of which consumers never use. When you can identify what is of true value, you can remove the excess, potentially lower your costs, lower the price for the consumer, or both, and gain new markets.

Dissecting the whole to get to the core is a great way to imagine new ways for product usage. The benefits are reduced costs, remove problem steps, reduce complexity, find new niche markets, and/or get around competitive patents. An example, is the tire. Removing the inner-tube resulted in the tubeless tire that reduced complexity and costs. Water-less toilets removed the water from the process, creating a positive environmental impact and reducing overall maintenance costs.

Looking at current items from a new perspective can result in remarkable results.

The Benefits of Painstorming


Another excellent tool to develop creative ideas and innovative solutions is Painstorming. The purpose of Painstorming is to document a comprehensive list of “pains” that affect the customer. Map every step of the product usage and identify the pains within each step. Focus on frustrations, annoyances, hassles, stresses, inefficiencies, etc. Prioritize the list and then determine which “pains” to solve to drive the most value for your customers and develop competitive advantages.



Systematic innovation requires using a process to develop creative ideas that become innovative solutions. Using proven tools and techniques to improve ideation allows for improved idea formation and more efficient innovation sessions. A great tool that can be used to help generate ideas for new products and services. SCAMPER allows users to think creatively, with multiple perspectives, to improve products. SCAMPER stands for:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse

The tool is extremely effective as you go through each element for the product or service. The process allows you to come up with new methods to improve the product or create new products from the new ideas or modifications you develop. Using systematic innovation techniques provides a clear process to better develop new and innovative ideas.