March 18, 2005
Vol. 2, No. 11

Published Weekly on Fridays
By Leadership University

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A Note from the Founder – Mike R. Jay, Master
Business Coach

Leadership & Lines of Evolution

During the past year, I’ve been studying a process
called TRIZ.

What is TRIZ?  TRIZ (pronounced TREEZ) is the
Russian acronym for the Theory of Inventive
Problem Solving. It is a proven algorithmic
approach to solving system problems. It began in
1946 when the Russian engineer and scientist
Genrich Altshuller discovered that the evolution
of a system is not a random process, but is
governed by certain objective laws. These laws can
be used to consciously develop a system along its
path of evolution — by determining and
implementing innovations. [Source: ]

If you haven’t been exposed to this process, do
whatever you have to do to expose yourself as soon
as possible. At Leadership University, an
introductory program is offered by TRIZ Innovator,
Jack Hipple. This program was recorded to audio
and is available at

Ok, with those attributions out of the way, let me
say something about how the line of evolution,
which is a TRIZ mainstay, applies to leadership.

I often call this process, orders of consequence,
where a what if question or two, or the benefit
chain is used to identify what comes next. In
TRIZ, you can use the line of evolution process to
create alignment by de-layering ideality…another
TRIZ mainstay.

The reason that I’m writing about this concept
relates to the concept of how leadership evolves
over time. Usually this evolution is reactive to
emerging conditions and is problem-oriented. What
I’m suggesting to you here is that you begin to
see leadership and evolution as a co-generative
system. In other words, we can “affect” the future
through leadership evolution.

Let me offer an example:

Think about leadership, say in an organization of
100 people. The somewhat normal or accepted
process is to develop a strategic plan through any
number of well-known strategic processes and to
execute the strategy efficiently. (Let’s keep it
simple for the teachable point of view I’m
offering.) What I don’t see often is a line of
evolution being used to enhance ideality, or the
future desired state, except through one

Using the lines of evolution process, or what I
often refer to as a developmental path, we engage
the future through an iterative process and ask:
“what happens next?” Or, “based on what we know
now, how is the "what" going to evolve in the next

Back to the example:

Let’s say that the strategy says we’re going to
develop 25% new products based on attractive
quality creation (I’ll write about this soon),
which is just customer focused product and service
development. That sounds pretty good to everyone
and it came from a lot of discussions around
relying too much on current offerings, getting
left behind in the competitive market, etc.
etc.—all good strategy stuff.

Now, here’s what I’m asking you to do:

Ask the people in the organization to tell you
what is the next iteration after this effort is
placed in execution. What if you succeed, what if
you don’t succeed? What is the next likely thing
to occur…in the business, in the industry, in the
world, as a result of this success or failure? As
you look towards “why” you’re doing this, does
"what next" take you there?  Let me say that
again…does what you do and how you do it, take you
to the why?

In some cases, I’ll bet a dime to a donut that it
takes you away from the present why.

The question then becomes, if the likely or
probable lines of evolution take you away from the
present why, then is the current “why” the why
that needs to evolve? When you answer these
questions, you’re going to have a different
perspective on your leadership.

Using lines of evolution or a developmental path
process creates insights and feedback on our
leadership strategy and execution. While it seems
silly to say that in a complex, emergent, and
self-organizing world that we can impact
proactively the lines of evolution in our
organization, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Most of leadership practiced today is reactive or
retroactive. Lines of evolution are short and not
often explored among the leadership
constituency—which if you caught my drift
above—involving everyone as a leader in the
organization, at some level.

The Teachable Point of View:

Using dialogue, create a feed-forward system based
on feedback on strategy and execution lines of
evolution as viewed from all levels of the
organization. Learn to ask, "what’s next", and if
that’s next, what comes from that—asking
yourself—as a result, am I closer to the “why”
I’ve chosen…or do lines of evolution choose the

Once we know whether we’re adapting or reacting,
the allocation of resources to increase higher
probabilities of ROI (Return on Investment)
becomes proactive, rather than reactive. It also
creates a path, or line of sight that is in most
cases, more efficient, effective and sustainable
over time. These three elements are essential to
creating confidence and support from the

Join us in our learning community for leadership

Mike R. Jay, Founder

P.S.  Please visit my blog at to comment on
this and other articles about leadership.

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