Whatever problem you’re trying to solve, someone else has probably already solved it! That’s the founding principle of TRIZ, and for those of you who haven’t come across TRIZ before, here is a quick and basic introduction:
- TRIZ is an acronym for “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving”, in Russian.
- Devised by Genrich Altshuller, and now in open source, with more than 400,000 patents studied
- By studying literally thousands upon thousands of patents Altshuller observed that 99% of inventions use an already known solution principle.
- This is the founding principle of TRIZ… That whatever problem you’re trying to solve, someone else has probably already solved it.
- Typically, as humans, when we encounter a problem we need to solve, our instinct is to immediately think of solutions.
- This is an unstructured creative process which often results in a “moment of inspiration”
- TRIZ is different. Using logical techniques techniques (RCA, 40 solution patterns etc) it brings structure and direction to the creative process. It helps to identify, understand, and manage problems by reducing the search space, and boosts new idea generation by reusing previous knowledge. It also helps to fight mental inertia and stimulates out of the box thinking.
Here is a diagram that should make it clear to you what TRIZ is trying to achieve:
As you can see, when using TRIZ for problem solving, specific problems are translated into abstract problems, thus trial-and-error is eliminated. This can lead to some very novel solutions. The alternative to TRIZ which we are all familiar with is Brainstorming. An advantage of TRIZ over brainstorming is that it can lead to more creativity, because we don’t jump straight to the solution as it typically the case with brainstorming. Note that there are 40 solution principles in TRIZ.
In TRIZ, we have the concept of the Ideal Final Result (IFA) which is a system which does not exist, but whose function is delivered. In order to move us towards our IFA, TRIZ postulates we must remove contradictions. Contradictions arise when:
- We know how to solve the problem, but a solution method is inapplicable due to negative effects arising from its use
- We reach a barrier imposed by the existing principle behind the system; the stronger the barrier is, the more difficult the problem
An obvious example of a contradiction is a mobile phone: as we make it smaller (positive) the ergonomics get worse (negitive). By the way if you figure out how to solve this one then get in touch 🙂
So there you have it. TRIZ can be difficult to get your head around, so I hope this post really breaks it down for you. By the way, as a practical example, TRIZ was used in the functional design of the Apple notebook. In essence, TRIZ combines logic and creativity. Remember, with any problem you’re trying to solve, someone else has probably already solved it!