The theory of inventive problem solving, or “TRIZ”, is a system for thinking outside the box that anyone can use to solve problems in any field.
The theory of inventive problem solving, or “TRIZ”, is a system for thinking outside the box that inventors can use to solve problems in any field. Russian engineer Genrich Altshuller developed it in the 1960s, and inventors have used it extensively since to help them create new and better products. The theory is based on the idea that creativity involves breaking old patterns and forging new ones, which can be done using various methods, including brainstorming and reverse engineering.
What is the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ)?
Imagine you’re an inventor who wants to create a better product, but you don’t know where to start.
Inventing can be daunting, especially if you don’t know where to begin. You might feel like you’re stuck in a rut, trying the same things repeatedly without getting anywhere.
TRIZ can help. This system for thinking outside the box can help you develop new ideas and solutions for your invention problems. TRIZ is based on the idea that creativity involves breaking old patterns and forging new ones. You can do this using various methods, including brainstorming and reverse engineering. With TRIZ, you’ll have the tools to create something unique and original.
Let’s explore TRIZ in more detail, including how it works and why it’s so useful for inventors.
How does TRIZ work, and why should you use it in your problem-solving process?
Suppose you’re an inventor and want to create a new product. You have an idea for something that will solve a problem people have been facing, but you have no clue where to start. What do you do?
In the past, your only option would be to brainstorm the problem repeatedly until you came up with a solution. But this is exhausting and can often lead to more problems. You need a system for thinking outside the box that you can call on every time.
TRIZ is that system. You could think of TRIZ as an instruction manual with instructions on how to think about your problem to find the most optimal solution. These instructions are called tools, which you can use to help come up with something unique and original. Some tools include problem definition, functional analysis, topological search, contradiction matrixes, etc.
Who created TRIZ? What is his background?
Genrich Altshuller was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, on October 10th, 1926. As a young man, he attended the Azerbaijan Oil and Chemistry Institute. Still, he never graduated, leaving school to join the army during World War II.
In 1941, Genrich began working at the Department of Aviation in Gorky, Russia (now known as Nizhny Novgorod), developing aircraft parts. By 1944 he was appointed department head and eventually became an assistant to the chief designer. Here, Altshuller began to see many problems with design inconsistency and product redundancies. He also observed that even though there was more than one solution to any problem, only the “most rational” was chosen.
Altshuller began to study patents and interview inventors to determine why they did not select the “most rational” solution. By 1957, Altshuller had put together his theory of inventive problem solving which he published in his book, “The Innovation Algorithm”.
In 1984, he founded the TRIZ movement and became known as “the father of TRIZ.”
Altshuller died on April 20th, 1998, at the age of 71. However, he left behind a legacy: more than 50 books and an instruction manual for problem-solving called TRIZ.
What are the main basic principles of TRIZ?
There are four main tools in TRIZ: contradictions, evolution/revolution, external/internal fields and processes. Each tool is designed to help you focus on one aspect of your problem to develop a solution as efficiently as possible.
Contradictions are what they sound like—a conflict between two things you must resolve. An example is a demand for “high quality” and “low cost.” Of course, these two might be logical opposites (one cannot have both high quality and low cost). Still, there is also an economic component—the more you spend on something, the more likely you will consider it high quality.
Evolution/Revolution is the idea that things move in waves or go through evolution (getting better) and then revolution (taking a step backwards). An example of this might be our current “green” movement; we are becoming more environmentally conscious and want to use better products for the environment. But unfortunately, companies now make other products that aren’t as environmentally friendly to meet demand.
External/Internal Fields is the idea that sometimes how something works can be more important than what it is, such as a bicycle (not very technologically advanced but handy). An example of this might be using hybrid cars instead of all-electric ones because they are currently more sustainable.
Processes are the steps that anyone must take to achieve a goal. An example of this might be heating food to kill bacteria, which doesn’t make you sick.
The TRIZ method contains 40 problem-solving principles. These are guidelines that you can use to help find a solution to your problem.
- Segmentation – This principle states that it is often easier to solve a problem if it is broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
- Extraction – This principle states that it is often possible to remove the root cause of a problem by extracting it from the system.
- Local Quality – This principle states that it is often easier to improve the quality of a product or process if the improvement focuses on a small area.
- Asymmetry – This principle states that it is often possible to achieve the desired result using two different or unequal methods.
- Combination – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by combining two or more existing solutions.
- Universality – This principle states that finding a solution to a problem is often possible by looking for similar issues you have previously solved.
- Nesting – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by nesting it within another problem.
- Counterweight (Anti-Weight) – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by adding an opposite force.
- Prior Counteraction – This principle states that it is often possible to prevent a problem from occurring by taking action in advance.
- Prior Action – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by taking action before it occurs.
- Cushion in Advance – This principle states that it is often possible to reduce the impact of a problem by cushioning it in advance.
- Equipotentiality – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by making all parts of a system equal.
- Inversion (The Way Round) – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by reversing it.
- Spheroidality – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by making the system more spherical.
- Dynamicity – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by making the system more dynamic.
- Partial, overdone or excessive action – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by taking partial, overdone, or excessive action.
- Moving to a new dimension – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by moving to a new dimension.
- Mechanical vibration – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem using mechanical vibration.
- Periodic action – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by taking regular action.
- Continuity of useful action – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by taking continuous action.
- Rushing through – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by rushing through it.
- Convert harm into a benefit – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by converting it into a benefit.
- Feedback – This principle states that feedback can often solve a problem.
- Mediator – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem using a mediator.
- Self-service – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by self-servicing.
- Copying – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by copying.
- Inexpensive short life – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem using an affordable short-life solution.
- Replacement of a mechanical system – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by replacing a mechanical system.
- Use pneumatic or hydraulic systems – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem using pneumatic or hydraulic systems.
- Flexible film or thin membranes – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by using flexible film or thin membranes.
- Use of porous materials – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem using porous materials.
- Changing the colour – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by changing the colour.
- Homogeneity – This principle states that it is often possible to achieve the desired result by making the system more homogeneous.
- Rejecting and regenerating parts – This principle states that it is often possible to solve problems by rejecting and regenerating parts.
- Transforming physical or chemical states (Parameter change) – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by transforming the physical or chemical state of the system.
- Phase transition – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by inducing a phase transition.
- Thermal expansion – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem using thermal expansion.
- Use strong oxidisers – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem using strong oxidisers.
- Inert environment – This principle states that it is often possible to solve a problem by creating an inert atmosphere.
- Composite materials – Principle 40 states that it is often possible to solve a problem using composite materials.
Integrated Principles for Technical Creativity
There are various ways of classifying the principles, but one way is to consider them into four main categories.
- Those that relate to the problem
- Those that relate to the solution
- Those that relate to the system
- and those that are general principles.
The first category comprises principles that specifically target the problem itself. These include: ‘partial, overdone or excessive action’; ‘moving to a new dimension’; ‘mechanical vibration’; ‘periodic action’; ‘continuity of useful action’; ‘rushing through’; ‘convert harm into a benefit’; and ‘feedback’.
The second category contains principles focused on finding an appropriate solution to the problem. These include: ‘mediator’; ‘self-service’; ‘copying’; ‘inexpensive short life’; ‘replacement of a mechanical system’; ‘use pneumatic or hydraulic systems’; ‘flexible film or thin membranes’; ‘use of porous materials’; ‘changing the colour’.
The third category includes those principles that consider the system and how it might be changed to achieve the desired outcome. These are: ‘homogeneity’; ‘rejecting and regenerating parts’; ‘transforming physical or chemical states’ (parameter change); ‘phase transition’; ‘thermal expansion’; ‘use strong oxidisers’; ‘inert environment’; and ‘composite materials’.
The fourth category comprises general principles that are not specific to any problem or solution but can be applied more broadly. These include: ‘divide and conquer’; ‘the law of unexpected consequences’; ‘serendipity’ (accidental discovery); and ‘chance favouring the prepared mind’.
It is worth noting that these principles are not mutually exclusive – in many cases, you can apply more than one principle to a given problem. Nor are they exhaustive – there are undoubtedly other principles that you could add to the list. Nevertheless, they must provide a practical starting point for creatively approaching a technical problem.
What is the topological search, and how does it fit into TRIZ?
The topological search is an algorithm used by TRIZ to help simplify problems by searching for possible connections.
It works by taking everything you know about your situation and listing them as “positive” or “negative.” Next, you eliminate anything negative (which doesn’t help solve the problem), then find connections between any remaining positives. Finally, you strive to have each positive relate to as many others as possible to create a “tree” of relationships. The tree has all the information you need to solve your problem and must be simplified to develop a solution.
Who uses TRIZ, and what are some examples?
TRIZ is used in many disciplines, including science, engineering, design, and business. It can help come up with solutions and solve problems more efficiently.
One example is the invention of Velcro, which was initially designed for space missions to be used instead of zippers since they didn’t work in zero gravity. However, they found that it had many other applications, including shoes and sporting goods, so they began to market it.
Another example is the development of the CAT scanner, which was inspired by a chocolate bar that had been melted and then cooled to create a 3D image; this was adapted to create a machine that could scan people’s bodies to look for diseases.
TRIZ can be used for any problem, whether big or small. It is a helpful tool to have in your arsenal when trying to come up with new ideas or solutions.
How to get started with TRIZ, including brainstorming and reverse engineering.
Brainstorming is an essential first step of TRIZ. When solving your problem, you want to make sure that you make all the possible connections between positives and negatives. Then write down everything you know about it (or brainstorm more widely, including everything from personal experiences to movies/books); this will give you a better understanding of your problem and allow you to see potential solutions you might not have considered before. Brainstorming is also a great way to get input from others who might be affected by the problem. By bouncing ideas off each other, you can come up with even more potential solutions. So next time you’re stuck on a problem, don’t forget to brainstorm!
Reverse engineering is a powerful problem-solving tool that can be used to develop innovative solutions. By starting with your goal in mind and then working backwards, you can identify any contradictions or barriers in your way. This process can be beneficial when developing new products or technology, as it allows you to find creative ways to overcome obstacles. In many cases, reverse engineering can lead to unexpected and elegant solutions that would not have been possible to find using traditional methods. As such, it is an invaluable tool for anyone looking to push the boundaries of what is possible.
The benefits of using TRIZ for creativity and problem-solving.
TRIZ can help you solve problems more efficiently by providing a system for thinking outside the box. Thinking outside the box is often difficult because people get stuck on what they already know (which isn’t necessarily correct). Using TRIZ, you can attempt to break old patterns and create new ones, giving you a new perspective on your problem.
Having a systematic approach allows R&D teams to challenge sacred cows safely; this means that research and development teams can question long-standing assumptions and practices that may no longer be relevant; this, in turn, allows them to come up with more creative and innovative solutions.
Very courageous conversations can occur within an organisation when everyone is focused on the same problem and working towards the same goal. This creativity and collaboration can lead to amazing breakthroughs and creative solutions.
TRIZ encourages people to think about the future, which is essential for long-term planning. Often, people get so caught up in the present that they forget to think about the future; this can lead to problems down the road, as they haven’t taken the time to plan. TRIZ helps people think about potential future issues and how to solve them before they become a reality.
TRIZ also provides a way to evaluate ideas critically. When you have many ideas, it can be challenging to know which ones are worth pursuing during the ‘innovation rush’ and which ones should be abandoned. Using TRIZ, you can systematically analyse and compare ideas to identify the best ones quickly; this saves time and resources in the long run, as you are less likely to pursue and carry out extensive research on dead-end solutions.
Applying TRIZ also allows you to suspend judgment and embrace paradox.
TRIZ also helps you find the root cause of a problem, which is often hidden beneath surface-level symptoms. By understanding the actual cause of a problem, you can develop more effective inventive solutions that address the issue at its source.
Additionally, TRIZ can help you generate multiple solutions to a problem rather than just one. It encourages you to think broadly and consider all possibilities. Having numerous solutions gives you more options than a more generalised solution and increases the chances that one of them will be successful.
Finally, TRIZ can help improve communication between team members by providing a common language and framework for thinking about problems; this can lead to better collaboration and faster solutions.
What is the guiding principle of TRIZ, and how does it work?
The guiding principle of TRIZ is “the evolution of intelligence.” This means that everything in nature constantly evolves and gets better, so we as humans should be able to do the same. To bring about this evolution, we must look for contradictions and solve them by creating new products or solutions.
For example, if a product is too heavy, we can make it lighter. Or, if a process is too slow, we can find a way to make it faster. By resolving these contradictions, we can generate innovative solutions that are more effective and efficient.
And that’s the goal of TRIZ: to help us create more ingenious solutions that improve our lives.
What are some common misconceptions of TRIZ?
One common misconception of TRIZ is that there is a single answer for any given problem, which isn’t correct because it is highly situational. What works in one case may not work in another, so the ability to think flexibly and creatively is essential. However, TRIZ can provide a framework for approaching problems that help to focus the mind and encourage out-of-the-box thinking.
Another common misconception is that TRIZ isn’t helpful for creative tasks such as music and writing, which is also incorrect. While it may not seem immediately obvious how you can apply TRIZ to such tasks, the principles of creativity and innovation are universal, and TRIZ provides a structure that can help spark new ideas.
So whatever your field of interest, don’t discount the potential benefits of TRIZ – it just might help you solve that next big problem.
The limitations of TRIZ.
While TRIZ isn’t a perfect system, it’s still a potent tool that you can use to solve a wide range of problems. Yes, it can be challenging to learn, but that means there’s a greater sense of satisfaction when you’re able to master it. And while some people argue that it lacks creativity, I would say that it fosters creativity by giving you a structure within which to be creative. After all, being creative isn’t just about coming up with ideas out of thin air – it’s also about being able to take those ideas and turn them into something tangible. And that’s exactly what TRIZ helps you to do.