I love TRIZ; I loathe TRIZ. I love it because it has been a central part of my life for the last quarter century, it has allowed me to travel the world and work with some of the smartest people on some amazing, meaningful innovation challenges. I can’t think of anything finer.
I loathe it for two reasons. One, because in all that time it has never been possible to bring the TRIZ community together. Two – worse – it seems very few people in the community appear to have any desire to actually use TRIZ.
The first failure is something close to a tragedy in my mind. How can it be that the most powerful problem-solving methodology on the planet – one might go so far as to say the only serious one – is still almost completely invisible in the world, and has had so little impact. How can it be that this is the case when our massively interdependent world has never faced so many unsolved contradictions? The TRIZ community quite literally has the keys to the kingdom. But then – apparently – has zero desire to put the key in the lock.
The second failure, in my mind, has gone beyond tragedy and entered the realms of surreal farce. TRIZ tells us the customer wants the function and then TRIZ consultants tell clients they must use their version of (classical) TRIZ. Even if there are better tools for the job. It’s like a bad version of the ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail’ cliché.
Then we get other TRIZ people getting themselves embroiled in futile either/or arguments – which are more important technical or physical contradictions? Are Trends advanced TRIZ or beginners TRIZ? S-Fields or Function Analysis? The list goes on and on. With seemingly no-one registering the fact that the problem statement is dumb. We’re supposed to be solving contradictions. Which means turning either/or situations into both/and. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.
So here we are. With the possibility of a new start. A final attempt, maybe, to do all the things that TRIZ tells us to do. To build a coherent community more interested in growing the pie rather than fighting over crumbs. To allow the subject to move forward without ridiculous cries of ‘don’t touch TRIZ’ from people with a vested interest in staying inside their comfort zone and pretending the world outside their office hasn’t changed since the mid-1970s. And then, thirdly, to recognise that we all live busier and busier lives in which there is an exponentially expanding amount of ‘content’ in the world, with less and less available time to take even a fraction of it in.
Inclusive. Progressive. Incisive. These are the three pillars on which I believe TRIZ Journal needs to be re-built. With these three words, I believe we attempt to make a return to not only the beginnings of TRIZ, but also the beginnings of the Journal itself. I believe we owe a great debt of gratitude to Ellen Domb, a person I consider not just as a great friend but also mentor and inspiration. If I can work half as hard taking on the responsibilities of the Journal as I know Ellen did, then I will sleep easy at night.
The world, looking back, probably wasn’t ready for TRIZ in the mid-1990s when the Journal first appeared. Much has changed since then. Much of it causes me to think – hope – that the tide might have turned. An end to fads. And a powerful desire to devote our time to things that are meaningful. Time will tell, of course. We live in turbulent times. Crisis times. Many societal dominoes are wobbling, and we will soon be at a point where if one tips over it will cause them all to fall over.
Crisis times always create winners. Two consistent features are present in such times: a surge in community and a surge in innovation.
This is our time. If we can put aside foolish rivalries and build our community.
I’m in. I hope you are too.