TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) offers a set of tools and approaches to help you solve difficult, technical problems and to invent new products. TRIZ is a problem-solving, analysis and forecasting tool derived from the study of patterns of invention in the global patents. Genrich Altshuller (1926-1998), Soviet inventor and science fiction author, and his colleagues developed this framework beginning in 1946.

 

This methodology is important for two reasons:

  • It helps you predict the future versions of current products, services, and inventions
  • It provides a set of tools to solve contradictions, which subsequently allows the evolution and creation of new products, services, and inventions

 

Types of Contradictions

 

Many of the most complex problems are tough to solve because they contain contradictions—the opposition between two conflicting forces or ideas. These problems require unique, innovative solutions to solve.

 

Within the TRIZ framework, there are primarily two types of contradictions: technical contradictions and physical contradictions.

 

Technical Contradictions

A technical contradiction is a situation where an improvement of one component in a system results in the worsening of another component. Technical contradictions are often stated in the form of an “if- then-but” statement:

  • If (state what change is made),
  • Then (state what good happens)
  • But (state what bad happens)

 

Example: If the trapping arm force is high, then the mouse is confined, but the mouse is damaged.

A Standard Mouse Trap that Harms Mice

A Standard Mouse Trap that Harms Mice

Common approaches for solving:

  1. Change properties of one or more existing components
  2. Introduce and replace components, scientific principles, and technologies in the system
  3. Narrow down and trim damaging and insufficient component interactions within and adjacent to the system.

 

Solution: We could make a box with a door that opens only one way. The mouse could trap itself.

Reusable Humane No Kill Mouse Trap

Reusable Humane No Kill Mouse Trap

 

Physical Contradictions

A physical contradiction is a situation where a component within a system needs two qualities that are the opposite of each other. Physical contradictions are often stated in the form of an “A and Anti-A” statement:

  • To provide the useful action, X must be A, and to eliminate the negative action, X must be anti-A. X must be A and anti-A.

 

Example: To fly fast, an airplane must have wings with a small surface area. To successfully land and take off, an airplane must have wings with a large surface area. The surface area of an aircraft’s wings must be large and small.

F-117A 'Nighthawk' with a Fixed Wing Span

F-117A ‘Nighthawk’ with a Fixed Wing Span

Common approaches for solving:

  1. Separate conflicting characteristics by time, space, relation or system level.
  2. Introduce and replace components, scientific principles, and technologies in the system.
  3. Narrow down and trim damaging and insufficient component interactions within and adjacent to the system.

 

Solution: An airplane with variable wings that can sweep back to fly fast, and wings that can expand to take-off and land.

F-111 Aardvark with Variable-Sweep Wings

F-111 Aardvark with Variable-Sweep Wings

Primary Concepts of TRIZ

 

In addition to the concepts explained above, here is a quick overview of many of the primary concepts of TRIZ that are used to create innovative solutions. In future articles, each of these concepts will be explained in great depth.

  • Contradiction Matrix – a 39 by 39 cell table used to solve technical contradictions. Improving and worsening general parameters are identified by the user and the table is used to reference up to four of the most commonly used inventive principles to solve the conflict. There are 40 inventive principles in total.
  • The Trend of Increasing Ideality – states that over time, technical systems develop towards increased ideality. Ideality (the value of the system) will increase if functionality increases. Ideality will also increase if the use of resources, the number of components used, the amount of space and time used, and harmful effects decrease while preserving functionality.
  • Ideal Final Result(IFR) – a description of the best possible solution for a problem situation, regardless of the resources or constraints of the original problem. Think of it as an ideal end-state without any strings attached from the current issue you are facing.
  • The Five Levels of Solutions – helps to gauge the innovativeness of a solution. The classifications in this framework help to judge how significant an innovation is and identify what level of innovativeness we would need to solve particular problems. Level 2 through 5 solutions typically resolve contradictions.
  • Functional Models – illustrates how components in a system and its supersystem function and interact with each other. This tool is one of the most effective ways to pinpoint which component interactions in a system are harmful and ineffective. This knowledge helps you to craft an optimally effective solution.
  • Trimming – the process of identifying and removing harmful and insufficient interactions between components in a functional model.
  • Nine Windows – a diagram that allows you to view the past, present, and future conditions through three perspectives: system, subsystem, and supersystem. Systems contain subsystem components. Furthermore, systems are part of supersystems (external components a system interacts with).
  • Scientific Effect  – a phenomenon (mechanical, chemical, thermal, electric, magnetic, acoustic, etc.) that can be used to solve a problem.
  • Separation Principles –  the conflicting requirements of a physical contradiction can be solved by separating them in time, space, relation, or system level.

 

Sources:

  • Cameron, G. (2010) Trizics: Teach yourself TRIZ, how to invent, innovate and solve ‘impossible’ technical problems systematically. Available at: https://www.amazon.com/Trizics-yourself-impossible-technical-systematically/dp/1456319892 (Accessed: 7 January 2017).
  • Altshuller Institute (2007) TRIZ Associate Certification. Available at: http://www.aitriz.org/triz-certification/associate-certification (Accessed: 7 January 2017).
  • TRIZ (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIZ (Accessed: 7 January 2017).
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