The “theory of inventive problem solving” (TRIZ) was developed at the end of the Second World War by Genrich Altschuller, scientific-engineer working in the "Inventions Inspection" department of the Caspian Sea flotilla of the Soviet Navy. He thought that technical systems’ evolution is not random but is linked to universal principles of invention.
Supported by a scientific team and the analysis of thousands of patents, G. Altschuller emphasized that inventions and innovations follow the evolution’s laws of the technical systems, common rules of inventions which allow to describe what has functioned or not. The practical application of the evolution’s laws and the use of the analytical tools of the TRIZ theory set a scientific frame to creativity.
By getting rid of psychological inertia which narrows inventiveness and by resolving inconsistencies to show the path to solutions, MeetSYS proposes, from the basis of TRIZ, a highly efficient approach to accelerate industrial innovation’s processes
In the description of his theory, the TRIZ inventor, Genrich Altschuller, firstly focused on capitalizing the available knowledge through four consecutive steps:
- Analysis of the patents,
- Analysis of the psychological behaviours (patterns) of their inventors,
- Analysis of the existing methodologies and tools,
- Analysis of the scientific literature.
The second point is a unique feature: it is effectively interesting to know what methods were used by Thomas Edison, Leonard de Vinci or Louis Pasteur to achieve their inventions, as it is productive to be inspired by their experiences, their errors and their genius.
Two specificities of TRIZ can be immediately pointed out as advantages: firstly, the analysis never takes into account the industrial field of application of the patent; secondly, the exhaustive analysis allows to identify fundamental and simple principles or physical, chemical and geometrical effects which are available in the specialised literature.
Consequently, the theory produces a functional classification of all the effects of the fundamental or applied physics, via the benefits they generated.
Concept of compromise
In a general manner, the vast majority of systems is composed of a certain amount of compromises. Those compromises come from some of the system’s parameters which cannot balance one with an other. Those elements are called “contradictions”. The TRIZ-based analysis focuses on the strategies and tools to find superior solutions (innovations) that overcome the need for a compromise between the two contradictory elements.
TRIZ classifies the contradictions in three categories: administrative, technical and physical. By dealing with contradictions, TRIZ allows simplifications, establishes oppositions or emphasizes the impossible nature of a situation. By formalizing everything on paper, this approach is already out of the usual way of thinking.
Think “out of the box”
TRIZ is based on the assumption that the vast majority of problems and improvements in the industrial field can be managed by using knowledge already acquired by the inventors. The theory’s tools aim at overcoming what Altschuller called the “psychological inertia”, by organizing the engineer’s thinking beyond his own competencies and, furthermore, beyond his present centre of interest. The psychological inertia is the main obstacle to individuals’ creativity, with its triggers like habits, high focus on a dedicated field or loss of communication due to specialist’s “jargon”. If the ideal solution is located out of the inventor’s prospective area, he will ignore it or never see it.
After having studied more than 2.5 millions patents, Altschuller defined three groups of laws referring to the evolution of technical systems. These evolution’s laws will guide the engineer along his researches, in order to anticipate the possible directions of system’s evolution and emphasize the “path to be followed”. Several major evolution’s laws are analysed by TRIZ, such as the unequal development of technical system’s parts or the energetic conductivity of a technical system. Please note that, in this context, TRIZ is a forerunner to “product’s life-cycle management” which is applied today in the biggest companies in their productivity and profitability processes.
Matrices and SuField
One of the first conclusions of Altshuller is that there are only 40 inventive principles which were used by inventors, whatever the industrial field. Using the principle of compromise and the resolution of contradictions, he defined 39 conceptual parameters linked to contradictions.
As a consequence, it becomes possible to establish a “contradiction matrix” in which contradictory elements of a problem are categorized according to the list of his 39 parameters; this simple representation allows to associate the current issue with existing principles or systems which may solve it. Searching for a parallel between chemical equations and problems’ resolving, Altschuller created a new fundamental definition: SuField (or Vepol). This neologism is the contraction of “Substances” and “Field”. A substance is an object, whatever its level of complexity; a field is generally the interaction’s energy between substances. In this approach, the problem’s resolution is based on formulas, selected through 76 inventive standards and on an algorithm which allows to use these models.
Thanks to these tools, Russian scientists indexed and classified the science under these “Vepol” models. Classifying the effects of the fundamental physics by the functions they provide is identical to classify them by ontologies of problems solved by innovations.
To complete the process to unleash creative thinking, TRIZ proposes complementary methodologies to transgress the psychological stereotypes of the engineers. One of them is based on the DTC (Dimension-Time-Cost) operators which allow to reformulate the problem through three groups of opponent questions: microscopic dimension/infinite dimension, instant time/infinite time, zero cost/prohibitive cost.
This “extremist” view of the problem can often bring a solution that was not previously forecasted. Based on a similar concept in the United States (the empathy), the MMD (Method with Miniature Dwarfs) consists in imagining the conflict zone in your system (machine, device, equipment) as a huge group of miniature dwarfs and in analysing the problem from the inside, with their own eyes.
As the true structural guide of the TRIZ theory, ARIZ (algorithm of inventive problems solving) is a systematic and evolutionary method which allows to use TRIZ in a structured, efficient and pragmatic way. This tool has a non-ending evolution as it is directly linked to TRIZ tools and concepts’ evolutions. ARIZ is composed of three major steps: the analysis of the original issue (programming), the elimination of the contradictions (action) and the analysis of solutions (control).
Summary of the methodologyEstablish a composite drawing of the solution
Define and identify the concepts
Carry out a Value Analysis
Classify the concepts according to “non immediate” or “convincing” categories
Eliminate non relevant directions of research
Capitalize experience on the function
Analyse the evolution’s laws
Cross-check and confirm research results
Validate choices through the screen of economics and marketing