Unlocking the Power of TRIZ: The Basics of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

Creativity is often perceived as a random or chance occurrence, but this is not the case, according to Russian patent examiner Genrich Altshuller. After observing that 98% of patented inventions were based on an already known principle and only 2% of all patents were truly new innovations, he set out to develop a standardised process for successful innovation: TRIZ – The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. 

TRIZ encompasses a range of inventive ideas, techniques, and processes that can be used to address difficult problems. It has been adopted by global organisations such as Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, and Samsung to develop innovative products and gain insight into market trends. 

At its core, TRIZ has five basic principles and 40 inventive principles designed to help people think outside the box to achieve an ideal end result. These principles also encourage people not to settle too quickly with solutions they come up with; instead, they should always strive for more effective outcomes. Moreover, TRIZ reminds us that there is no need to invest large sums of money into solving problems; sometimes, the answer is right in front of us or can be found using existing materials. Furthermore, it allows people to search for potential solutions in unfamiliar fields outside their primary expertise and see if any fundamental contradictions exist between two different systems or objects. Finally, it suggests certain patterns in how technology evolves through time which can help predict future developments. 

For these reasons and more, TRIZ has become extremely popular among engineers and corporations worldwide as a tool for solving complex problems while simultaneously realising innovation and improvement in various areas. Altshuller’s original goal was achieved with his theory; it has become a universally applicable system providing tools for planning long-term success coupled with short-term fixes whenever needed. Every developed solution can be traced back to one or more of the inventive principles provided by TRIZ – making each problem easier and faster to solve than before.

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Altshuller was determined to understand the science behind successful innovation, viewing them as anything but mere coincidences. His research concluded that 98% of patented inventions were built upon an already existing principle; only a couple of patents truly exceeded initial expectations. This revelation signalled the importance of uncovering what underlying principles could be reasoned with and used as a launching pad for creative discovery. By doing this, Altshuller provided tools to assist innovators in developing unique solutions faster and more effectively.

The TRIZ approach has been a key foundation for multinational success for many years. It champions the power of problem-solving through creativity, offering an umbrella of measures to tackle even the most intractable problems in manufacturing and product design. Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, and Samsung are just some of the organisations that have put TRIZ principles at the heart of product design and process optimisation, enabling them to understand their market dynamics better. From broadly applicable strategies to more bespoke solutions, TRIZ holds potential as a powerful tool that aids innovation and results in real-world success.

TRIZ basic principles

To arrive at improvement, TRIZ uses 5 basic principles and 40 inventive principles. TRIZ forces us to look at problems differently.

Basic Principle 1. The ideal end result

For achieving the ideal end result, taking a step back and thinking out of the box is key. The TRIZ methodology encourages this approach; it empowers individuals to challenge conventional solutions and strive for something greater. Going beyond what has been done before helps unlock creative possibilities, while actively seeking better alternatives will likely lead to an even more impressive outcome.

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Basic Principle 2. Less is more

This principle emphasises that value can be significantly improved using existing resources and minimal effort. For example, a business may not need to invest in costly new components or materials – they may already have the answer waiting in their current product lines or processes. By taking an inventive and creative approach to problem-solving, businesses can often find that the most efficient solution lies right before them. Better use of existing materials requires careful consideration of functional equivalence between components, which leads to significant savings and improved efficiency across their operations. When applied thoughtfully, Less Is More delivers substantial gains with minimal effort.

Basic Principle 3. Solutions already exist

This principle mirrors a mantra often adopted in business and innovation strategies: advanced solutions don’t always require complex problem-solving. The answers may already be present or discovered with only slight tweaks. By utilising TRIZ’s tools, we can discover existing solutions while increasing our level of creativity to find the optimal approach. This encourages maximal efficiency and allows us to look outside our field of expertise for insights that may have been overlooked in the search for resolutions.

Principle 4. Search for fundamental contradictions

This principle encourages searching for fundamental contradictions when attempting to innovate and solve problems. Focusing on the respective issue from a different angle could reveal core inconsistencies that can lead to the resolution of the problem. Recognising and actively working on such contradictions can easily identify and deploy effective problem-solving strategies. Therefore, companies should strive to proactively search for fundamental contradictions to identify the best solution path.

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Principle 5. Lines of evolution

Systems do not evolve randomly. However, there are fixed patterns that make the evolution of technology predictable, allowing for the development of sophisticated solutions. TRIZ encourages us to think about how a given product or process can be improved by following established patterns of evolution rather than trying to force a solution from scratch. By recognising and understanding these patterns, businesses can better anticipate the next step in their development cycle. This allows them to take advantage of existing technology and resources to generate higher-value products and processes.

A Powerful Methodology

TRIZ offers a powerful framework for problem-solving, innovation, and decision-making. By utilising the five basic principles and numerous inventive strategies, businesses can develop creative solutions that are both effective and efficient. This helps them tackle problems effectively or create new opportunities without sacrificing time or resources. TRIZ provides a strong foundation for successful product development, process optimisation, and organisational growth. With proper guidance and application, it can be a powerful asset for any business.

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