Thursday, November 23, 2006

TRIZ: Top 12 questions (part 2)

7. Is TRIZ a Contradiction Matrix and 40 Inventive Principles?

Only partly. Both Contradiction Matrix and 40 Inventive Principles were developed by the middle of the 1960s. After that time, a number of more sophisticated techniques were developed, like Substance-Field Analysis, Function Analysis, 76 Inventive Standards, Databases of Effects, Algorithm for Solving Inventive Problems (ARIZ), Theory of Technology Evolution, and so forth (For an overview of modern TRIZ components see Annotated List of Key TRIZ Components). There was even a period when the Contradiction Matrix was abanoned from TRIZ, but later in the beginning of 1990s it was brought back due to its easiness of use and ability to provide a good entrance to TRIZ for beginners. While 40 Inventive Principles and Contradiction Matrix still remain the most popular techniques, they represent only a small part of modern TRIZ. And TRIZ is still evolving: the existing techniques are improved and new techniques are introduced.

8. Is TRIZ a technique, a database, a method, a theory?

This is a difficult question. Modern TRIZ is a large body of knowledge, which, in turn, includes several methods and techniques. It has as well some strong theoretical foundations, but as a theory from a philosophical point of view it is incomplete, more studies and research is needed to make TRIZ complete and consistent as a theory. It is better to say that today TRIZ is an evolving science of creativity and innovation which has already been used to build a number of practical and working tools and techniques.

9. I want to buy TRIZ software, is it enough to work with TRIZ?

There is no single software package available on the market which supports all aspects of modern TRIZ. Besides, TRIZ is not just a process or a database, it is combination of logical analysis, knowledge bases of inventive principles, and thinking skills. While some TRIZ software packages provide some good tools for problem and system analysis and databases of principles, they can not replace thinking skills, especially abstract thinking. Although I personally was involved to the development of three TRIZ software packages, I still recommend TRIZ software as tools to provide fast access to the TRIZ databases and support analytical parts of problem solving process only, and to get most of these tools you need to learn and understand how TRIZ works.

10. What is main difference between TRIZ and SIT?

SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking) or ASIT (Advanced SIT) are methods for creative ideas generation recently developed in Israel. They are often mentioned as being derived from TRIZ and developed to simplify TRIZ and make it easier to learn. But as a matter of fact, TRIZ and SIT are two very different methods and have very little in common. SIT only uses several TRIZ ideas, and while SIT can be learned within a couple of hours, TRIZ mastering requires months and years of skill perfecting. SIT and TRIZ would probably compare as an electronic calculator and a computer: SIT uses a very limited set of idea-triggering concepts, while TRIZ targets at deep understanding of factors driving systems evolution, thorough study of emerging conflicting demands, has extensive databases of invention principles and scientific knowledge. If SIT can help to improve traditional brainstorm, TRIZ can be used to solve most complex problems in systematic way and provide scientifically based forecast of next product and services generations. This of course does not limit the ability of SIT to help with generating great ideas (since ideas and solutions are produced by people anyway), but with TRIZ the idea generation and problem solving processes are brought to the next level.

11. Can anyone learn and use TRIZ?

With enough patience, open mind, and commitment, yes. I have not yet met a person who would not be able to learn and use TRIZ. However, learning technological TRIZ requires some basic engineering background. In addition to technological TRIZ, there are other versions of TRIZ, and one of them even targets at teaching the TRIZ way of thinking to kids starting at the age of 3 (with fairy tales, puzzles, drawings, etc). A project “Jonathan Livingston” in the countries of the former USSR unites 10.000 teachers who introduced this method in their schools. Rececntly a book "Thoughtivity for kids" was published which summarized their experiences.

12. How TRIZ can be implemented in my organization?

First of all, an organization should have or move towards establishing an innovative culture and be willing to invest time and effort to properly learn and introduce TRIZ. If there is no innovative atmosphere at the organization, nothing will help – neither TRIZ, SIT, nor Lateral Thinking. Usually TRIZ is implemented as a pyramid-like model with three-four competence layers: a cross-functional group of TRIZ professionals headed by a TRIZ leader provides dissemination of TRIZ across the organization as well as facilitates and assists innovative projects. Other employees can be trained in TRIZ to acquire basic skills and know how TRIZ can help them and cooperate with TRIZ professionals.

TRIZ: Top 12 questions (part 1)

1. Should I learn TRIZ?

If you wish to increase both efficiency and effectiveness of your problem solving and idea generation capabilities, you will find learning TRIZ useful. TRIZ is a heuristic science which studies trends of system evolution, reveals patterns of inventive solutions, and attempts to extract principles and understand a process of inventive thinking. Knowledge of TRIZ helps considerably increase your innovative productivity. Interestingly, my first acquaintance with TRIZ was negative: back in 1986 I bought a book of Altshuller at the university bookstore, and after reading 30 pages put it away since I decided that it was all science fiction rather than real science. A year later I was working on a project and I was stuck – there seemed to be no solution available to my problem. I checked all the sources during 3 months – no solution was available and no one was capable of producing one. And then, by accident, I had visited a short 2-hours introductory evening TRIZ workshop at my university, and when I came back home I applied a technique I learned at the workshop and immediately found a solution to the problem I was working on! Needless to say, next day I hurried to the lab at the university which was experimenting with TRIZ. Three months without a solution and 2 hours to find it – this speaks for itself. Today when sustainable innovation becomes not just a competitive advantage but a matter for survival, learning TRIZ which provides “innovation on demand” becomes even more crucial than ever before.

2. Is TRIZ different from brainstorm?

Brainstorm is the oldest method of producing ideas by trials and errors. This is our natural way of thinking. It works well when a problem is relatively simple and we do not need to explore large knowledge area; therefore we do not need to make many trials to find a solution. But modern innovation demands thinking out of the box and exploiting outside knowledge more and more often. Many innovations, especially the most difficult ones require a huge number of trials and errors. As pointed by the Industrial Research Institute (Washington, DC), on average, one successful project requires 5.000 raw ideas to be generated. When Altshuller started to work on TRIZ, his primary goal was to overcome this major disadvantage of brainstorm. TRIZ provides navigation within the search space thus directing a problem solver towards a right segment with the highest chance to find a required solution.

3. I took one day training in TRIZ, but still, why can't I produce great inventions?

In fact, technology around us demonstrates that all great inventions were made without any TRIZ at all. But is it true? TRIZ is not just a number of techniques but a way of thinking, and TRIZ studied how inventions were produced – in some way, by possessing TRIZ skills we become capable of working just like strong inventors – and probably they used the same way of thinking as introduced by TRIZ. In my professional life (thanks to it I very often meet all types of creative and inventive persons) I only met few persons who were what I call “natural born inventors” and could successfully deal with virtually any complex problem due to vast and encyclopedic massive of knowledge they possessed. One day of TRIZ training can provide you with a good introductory overview of TRIZ and develop some very basic skills with its simple techniques, but I doubt one day is enough to absorb the TRIZ way of thinking and learn TRIZ at a proper level. TRIZ does not solve problems; the problems are solved by people; and you need practice and knowledge how to use the tool. In addition, there is no a single unique path from an inventive problem to its solution: all problems are different, some of them can be solved by simply rearranging existing knowledge, but some require outside knowledge, and some require complete problem reformulation to achieve desire results. TRIZ is complex since it helps attacking a large variety of different problems.
Minimum 40 hours of training is a necessary condition to start successfully applying TRIZ in most cases. Since TRIZ is not a just a set of tricks, it is not easy to learn and master; but this investment pays back.

4. Does TRIZ work in other areas besides technology?

Yes. TRIZ studies how to deal with a category of problems which we call “inventive”, and these “inventive” problems can arise everywhere, not necessarily in technology only: in business, in organizations, in family life. And it seems like our brain deals with all inventive problems similarly no matter where they come from. This makes the TRIZ way of thinking universal. Today we know extensions of TRIZ to business and management, arts, advertising, public relations, politics. However each new area of application requires TRIZ to speak with its own terms.

5. Are there successful examples of TRIZ applications?

As reported by Samsung Electronics, in the years 2002-2005 there were over 200 successful projects which used TRIZ to come up with innovative solutions which resulted in economic benefits of Euro 2 billion up to date. At Value Innovation Program Center “the goal is to train every engineer and researcher in the company in TRIZ think” (see Fortune, 75, 2005: "A Perpetual Crisis Machine" ). Most commercially successful product of Procter & Gamble, Crest Whitestrips was developed with TRIZ, generating $200 million in sales in the first year. TRIZ was used to win over competition in developing a new refueling tanker by Boeing. In fact, there are a lot of successful applications of TRIZ within different industries, although many companies often choose not to mention that they use TRIZ to maintain their competitive advantage. In 1984, Altshuller wrote in his report on TRIZ that there were thousands of successful applications of TRIZ in the former Soviet Union reported to him and his associates.

6. Does TRIZ replace creativity?

Absolutely not. Instead, TRIZ enhances creativity by introducing knowledge-based and systematic approach to understanding problems and defining the best strategies to search for a solution. In some cases TRIZ recommendations can directly lead to solutions, but it is not always the case. Most of TRIZ recommendations have generic and abstract nature, and creativity is definitely needed to translate these recommendations to specific ideas and solutions.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

TRIZ Future 2006 is over

The 5th ETRIA Conference TRIZ Future 2006 in Kortrijk, Belgium is over. In total, 120 participants from 27 countries (including Australia, Brasil, Japan, Korea, USA, Taiwan) visited the conference. If to express my impressions about the conference in one sentence: both many of the papers presented and Belgian culinary delights were definitely matching each other! I also enjoyed numerous discussions with many of the conference participants. But as a result I lost my voice and must recover it by Monday.

I wanted to comment on the conference but there is no need for that: Ellen Domb (The TRIZ Journal Editor) provided live coverage from the conference in her blog; so anyone interested can find rather detailed information about the conference stream there.

And some photos from the conference are available at:

It was six years ago in 2000 when me, Pavel Livotov, Denis Cavalucci and Darrell Mann founded ETRIA. And now it is great to see that the Association is growing to a large global professional network of TRIZ users, developers, and researchers.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Can TRIZ solve any problem?

Can TRIZ solve any problem? This is the question that I hear very often. Sometimes it is asked by people who were not experienced in TRIZ but ordered TRIZ services and were unhappy with the results; and complained that a TRIZ service supplier who worked with them had mentioned that TRIZ could solve any problem. And I believe these unhappy customers are right with their complaints. In fact, my answer to this question is pretty straightforward: TRIZ can not solve any problem since TRIZ does not solve problems. Problems are solved by people while TRIZ is a method which supports problem solving process by introducing rules and guidelines indicating how to transform a problem to a solution. Can a computer solve a difficult math problem? Not at all, unless it is equipped with a proper software package that can process input data and generate output data. In both cases - TRIZ and the computer are tools, or platforms which organize and support the process. Being "equipped" with TRIZ, a person solves a problem. But software itself cannot solve the math problem without hardware. Similarly, TRIZ is an ingredient of a more extended problem solving framework, which usually involves different knowledge sources - from an owner of the problem to external experts who possess knowledge necessary to interpret an abstract solution idea produced with the help of TRIZ.
The bottom line: with TRIZ, any problem which can be solved, can be solved. But not by TRIZ.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Google trends: search for TRIZ

When trying to explore at who most actively searches for the word "TRIZ" at Google, the following results appeared:

No signs of Europe or US except Austria. Seems like Austrian TRIZ Zentrum does a good job to promote TRIZ. And one more chart - results for "innovation":
Singapore and Malaysia - most innovative places in the world?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

TRIZ Case Studies Book: Call for Papers

During recent discussions with numerous people, it became obviuos that we need a book presenting a collection of real TRIZ case studies. An independent editors team was formed (thanks Ellen Domb, Marco Aurelio de Carvalho, Hongyul Yoon for joining). The book will be available as a e-book for free. Therefore we invite all interested authors to submit their papers or express their intention to write a paper. The call for papers is available at

Saturday, September 30, 2006

TRIZ and Business Week

A new TRIZ reference in Businesss Week in the section "Innovation Tools and Trends to Watch" : As correctly pointed by Ellen Domb, "Bad news -- it (TRIZ) is only wildly complex if it is badly taught and it works very well for solving management problems, too".
Eearler, Business Week published another article on TRIZ: "The World According to TRIZ". Interestingly, most of the articles on TRIZ in mass media mention Altshuller Matrix only. It is not surprising since Altshuller Matrix is the most popular TRIZ tool; but there is more, much more in modern TRIZ.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Problems and Solutions: The Wise Owl story

A nice story about problems, solutions... and consulting:

"Once upon a time, there was a forest. Suddenly, for whatever reasons, a population of wolves started to grow, and this was really bad for rabbits who were eaten by the wolves more and more. So the rabbits decided to ask the wisest creature in the forest, the Owl, what to do. They came to the Owl, and the Owl said: “Now, it is easy. You rabbits have to become hedgehogs. The wolves do not like hedgehogs. So you will be safe”.
The rabbits liked the advice! Who does not like when your problem is solved? But the next day they came back to the Owl. “Listen, the wisest Owl, but… how do we become hedgehogs?”. And the Owl said: “I am sorry, this question is beyond my scope, I only do strategic advice. I've solved your problem, just as you asked, and now it is up to you how you implement my solution!”.

"Why Smart Companies...." and innovation

Interesting article in Guy Kawasaki's blog: "Why Smart Companies Do Dumb Things". Are the same reasons valid for slowing down innovation?

"Dutch" TRIZ: Our article in The TRIZ Journal

The article written by me together with Jacques Stevens of Stevens Ide Partners about our "Dutch" experience with TRIZ (with several case stidues) appeared in the September issue of the TRIZ Journal:

TRIZ: a meta-theory of creative innovation?

If a role of TRIZ has to be defined in a single sentence, TRIZ helps provide creative phases of innovation with knowledge-based systematic support. While most of the basic TRIZ principles were drawn from the studies of technological inventions, the ways we solve problems and generate ideas are rather similar in virtually every area. For instance, TRIZ postulates that one of the major driving forces of technology evolution is resolution of contradictions (which was known as a philosophical concept long before TRIZ, but TRIZ developed this concept further within the area of technological innovation). The same idea appears to be true for many other domains: social, political, business, economic. As an example, an old and seemingly solid business model will not survive when its business environment changes because the model starts facing contradictions; and in many cases the model has to be radically changed since compromising and optimizing will only help to incrementally improve the model.
What is more important about TRIZ, that it has identified strategies and patterns for resolving contradictions: both very generic like resolving contradictions in time, space, etc. and more specific, like "Consider doing the opposite action instead of an intended one". The high degree of abstraction makes major discoveries and principles of TRIZ domain-independent with respect to creative problem solving and systems evolution. To my opinion, even current system of generic principles and patterns of TRIZ can be applied to all artificially created systems that are created to deliver a certain value. Today we know that TRIZ is used in business, software architectures, marketing and advertisement, pedagogy. But more research is needed to establish a well-systematized ground for cross-domain TRIZ applications, both at generic meta-level and domain-specific levels.

Friday, September 08, 2006

TRIZ Future 2006 Conference

A program of ETRIA TRIZ Future 2006 Conference has just been published:

The conference will be held in Kortrijk, Belgium, October 9-11, 2006. With 49 presentations and 4 keynotes it promises to be a very interesting event. I will be presenting TRIZ for business problem solving case and methodology on the first conference day right after the conference opening.

xTRIZ: Welcome to Creative Innovation

About 7 years ago, I wrote a short article "Four Views on TRIZ" to answer the question which I was asked too often: "and yet, what exactly TRIZ is?" I guess, this question is still asked today and will be asked many times in future.

Despite the fact that TRIZ originated more than 50 years ago, it is still very young: at both theoretical and practical sides. Still, there are many ongoing debates about usefullness of TRIZ. To me personally TRIZ has been useful, and I know many other people who find it useful as well. Hence it is not a question if TRIZ is useful to everybody. Can something be useful to everybody without exception? Perhaps, if that something covers our most basic needs and there is no other alternative. Like a specific medicine. A need to innovate is not among basic human needs, therefore the answer would be "no, not everyone needs TRIZ." TRIZ is for those who are eager to recognize, understand and solve problems, find best and ideal solutions, and want to innovate. Probably, this list is not on everyone's agenda.

A main difficulty with accepting and properly positioning TRIZ in our minds is that TRIZ is a cross-disciplinary study. It operates across the borders of philosophy, system theory, engineering sciences, physics, technology, sociology, psychology. So many find it difficult to learn and accept. But is there an easy way? In my professional career I had a chance to meet a lot of great creative thinkers, problem solvers and inventors; and noticed one common feature among them. These people used to be hungry for knowledge; and not just knowledge in their field, but in many different fields. I wonder if there is a correlation between a capability of a person to generate innovative ideas and a size and diversity of his/her library.

TRIZ is also difficult because it is mainly a "thinking" method rather than a toolbox or a database of scientifc effects. TRIZ provides a meta-theory of guiding our mind through the forest of knowledge to use this knowledge in order to solve problems and generate new ideas. TRIZ also is a parallel process: by solving a problem with TRIZ we usually apply several different TRIZ concepts and lines of reasoning at the same time. That's why attempts to create clear step-by-step TRIZ algorithms have not been very successful so far.

Although today there are many "incarnations" of TRIZ, like I-TRIZ, CreaTRIZ, TRIZ+, (and now welcome to xTRIZ, of course), all these versions have been emerging to extend, improve and make TRIZ easier to learn and more effective to apply. I am sure one day we will have clear and concise TRIZ.

So what is xTRIZ and why? "x" stands for eXtended TRIZ. I believe TRIZ should not be positioned as a standalone tool (or whatever we name it). Just like modern innovation requires more and more resources, TRIZ can be enriched with new techniques and tools with complement TRIZ and the entire process of creative innovation. Therefore xTRIZ focuses on using and developing new techniques which help dealing with problems and producing innovative solutions. In addition, xTRIZ will explore how modern technology can help with innovation: emerging ICT solutions, social software, web 2.0, collaborative intelligence, and so forth.

So with starting this blog I intend to be more personal than in articles or books. I hope this will be a platform for thinking and new ideas. And it will be not limited to TRIZ: everything that helps innovation, and especially new systematic approaches, methods, techniques, and tools for creativity and innovation will be discussed here as well.