ADVANCED TRIZ DEVELOPMENTS At the Leonardo da Vinci Institute (division of RLI, Inc.)
Editor | On 16, Mar 1998
James F. Kowalick
Voice: (916) 692-1944
(Dr. Kowalick is considered to be the leading American TRIZ master. He regularly teaches CREATING BREAKTHROUGH PRODUCTS, a two-day overview session for executives at Cal Tech’s Executive Leadership Center in Pasadena, California. His corporate clients include Fortune 500 as well as smaller leading-edge, high-tech companies. RLI offers in-company training for technical and professional staff members, who bring their most difficult problems and design challenges to the training session, and leave with solutions – often patentable. Dr. Kowalick directs a four-level certification program for TRIZ practitioners. This is conducted both in-person and by Internet. Dr. Kowalick holds numerous patents. He is a registered professional engineer, actively engaged in all engineering and scientific disciplines.)
HISTORY Studies on the science of creativity began at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute in 1975. The first development was “triads,” a symbolic engineering design language to support conceptual product design. The triads approach is applied in the first stage of engineering design – the concept design stage – to (1) solve difficult technical problems, (2) conceive next-generation designs, and (3) forecast breakthrough designs of the future.
In the early 1980’s, the Leonardo da Vinci staff customized an engineering optimization approach used in the second stage of engineering design – robust design. Robust design is conducted using the principles and practices of Dr. Genichi Taguchi. After a product or process design is conceived, much work remains to be done. Functional performance needs to be optimized and cost minimized. Product and process performance should be independent from generally uncontrollable effects such as (I) variations from parameter target values, (ii) material degradation, (iii) manufacturing variability, (iv) environmental variability, and (v) the practices and treatments of users. The output from the second stage of engineering design is a world-class, “robust” product or process. Its performance is insensitive to variabilities of all kinds.
During the late 1980’s the Leonardo da Vinci Institute revisited the creative design approach called TRIZ. TRIZ was only beginning to be introduced to companies in western nations at that time. The brilliance and creative genius behind this approach lies with its discoverer and developer, Genrich Altshuller. Altshuller and his assistants contributed to the evolution of TRIZ (the Theory of Inventive-Problem Solving) from the late 1940’s through the last decade. The TRIZ approach is the creative revolution of this century. Corporate R&D groups, including engineering designers charged with creating breakthrough products and processes, have been using it to great advantage. World class companies are using it to achieve marketplace domination.
ADVANCED TRIZ DEVELOPMENTS Shortcomings of the TRIZ approach were recognized by “TRIZniks” themselves, right from its inception. At the Leonardo da Vinci Institute, these shortcomings have been categorized into several areas. Each area is the subject of advanced development by staff members. A brief description of each of these areas and its shortcomings is presented below. Along with each description is a description of the advanced developments achieved at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute.
SHORTCOMINGS OF TRIZ, AND ADVANCED DEVELOPMENTS
AREA # 1. PROBLEM-SOLVING ALGORITHMS. The current algorithm used by the TRIZ community is “ARIZ” – Algorithm for the Solution of Inventive Problems. ARIZ is periodically upgraded and refined by the Russian TRIZ community. Reactions by American engineers attempting to use this algorithm has generally been negative. ARIZ is long and cumbersome, time-consuming to learn, and far from “user-friendly.” It is narrowly focused, aiming at “the best” design solution. It does not offer many, if any, design alternatives. It is a dialectic logician’s tool, but not a convenient engineering design tool. It focuses primarily on the logical flow of the problem-solving process – not on the important relationships among the objects and actions of a technical system.
Advanced Developments at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. The staff at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute developed eight problem-solving algorithms. Users can print out generic design solutions in a matter of minutes. Alternative design possibilities (i.e., solutions to problems) are presented, allowing users to approach problems from several different angles of perspective, depending upon various constraints. The entire problem-solving procedure is friendly to engineers and scientists. Each algorithm is an “inventive operator.” Applied to the technical system of interest, and to the functions in these technical systems, it generates design solutions. Each of these eight algorithms have been successfully tested by technical professionals from RLI’s client companies. These companies use the resulting designs to achieve breakthrough products for their respective markets – this leads to market capture.
AREA # 2. FUNCTIONAL LANGUAGE. “S-Fields” is the functional language used in TRIZ to describe generic relationships among essential “objects” and “actions” in the technical system. “S-Field” or “Substance-Field” models are used to describe generic problem situations as well as generic solution situations. A large S-Field database has been generated by the TRIZ community. The core of this database is a collection of “standard solutions” – relationships between standard generic problems (expressed as S-Field models) and standard generic solutions (also expressed as S-Field models). Seventy standard solutions have been identified. The main problem with S-Fields is that they are not complete. They inadequately express and describe engineering functions. Users of the TRIZ approach – particularly new users – find it difficult to create S-Field models that validly describe objects and actions of their technical systems. S-Fields have always “suffered” from being incompletely developed.
Advanced Developments at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. Functional analysis is a specialty of the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. The S-Fields of TRIZ describe “interactions” – not entire functions. Triads – a development of the Institute – are symbolic forms that fully describe both functions and functional relationships. S-Field practitioners teach that “A function is complete when it includes all the elements of an S-Field.” But what is “complete” is the interaction – not the function. An interaction occurs between two “objects,” while a function requires three “objects” in order to be complete. In S-Field analysis, one definition of “field” is “a source of energy that permits the required interaction between two objects to be completed.” This definition is often useful, but sometimes it is misleading. The fact is that it is an object “behind” the field that is responsible for completing the interaction. Substance-Field analysis at its best is still somewhat “hazy” and incompletely defined. For the reasons discussed above, some TRIZniks have (at least publicly) abandoned its use.
A “triad” is a group of three “objects” that represent a necessary requirement for a function to exist. Triads are discussed in a previous paper published by The TRIZ Journal. One significance of triads is that they open up far more solution possibilities for problem solvers. Triads have been incorporated in the Leonardo da Vinci Institute’s problem-solving algorithms discussed above. The use of triads is an important part of RLI’s in-company TRIZ training sessions.
AREA #3. FUNCTIONAL DECOMPOSITION. To some limit, a function can be divided or “decomposed” into sub-functions that occur sequentially. This fact is well know, and is a practice used in traditional value engineering and analysis (VAVE). The result is a “Functional tree diagram” describing the functions of a technical system. TRIZ and other problem-solving practitioners currently use S-Field analysis, functional analysis, and flow-charting techniques to describe functional relationships among parts of a technical system. The generation of functions (and goal statements connected with them) is, however, still a subjective process. This process is not conducive to developing a better understanding of a problem situation. The process inadequately assists problem solvers who want to quickly hone in on the right problem definition.
Advanced Developments at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. The discovery presented above states that “All functions require three objects in order to manifest.” This universal law of triads applies to all events, functions, and phenomena. Another law has been discovered at the Institute: “All functions capable of being decomposed, can be decomposed into a fixed number of ‘universal’ sub-functions.” This law has been practically exploited at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. The pharmaceutical industry develops and manufactures new drugs as therapeutic agents to treat various diseases. An American company, BioFutures, applied the law of functional decomposition to this problem: “How to predict, in chemical detail, molecules that will act as therapeutic agents for selected diseases?” They used a “Molecule Predictor Algorithm” to find solutions – in the form of specific drug molecules – to this problem. This universal law of functional decomposition can be applied to identify, in compositional detail, any molecular substance or mixture, for application to any selected technical function. This is a major breakthrough in materials synthesis.
AREA #4. TRIZ INSTRUCTION AND TRAINING. Initially the only TRIZ training available in the west was from TRIZ practitioners from the former USSR. A severe language problem still prevents effect communication (as can be verified by scanning the offerings of some TRIZ providers on the world wide web). There are also cultural problems. With a few exceptions, TRIZ providers from the former USSR do not understand the needs of western companies. Too often their “style of service” has included customer intimidation (sometimes involving legal threats or litigation about intellectual property), and a lack of customer consciousness. One former USSR TRIZ provider is on record as stating that “total quality” practices are unimportant. Another problem: TRIZ as taught in the former USSR is too often presented in a strictly “academic” way. One former USSR practitioner recently stated, “It takes twenty years to learn TRIZ.” Yet, engineers from western companies want to be able to use and apply TRIZ to real problems, and to obtain design solutions, in several days. The number of western consultants and trainers who offer TRIZ training and consulting is limited. Among these, only three (in the author’s opinion) are capable of actually applying the TRIZ approach – during a training session – to real problems. There are also national security considerations connected with the use of non-citizen consultants and with firms who employ non-citizen TRIZ practitioners.
Advanced Developments at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. RLI, through the Leonardo da Vinci Institute, has developed “Experiential TRIZ Courses” and instruction manuals. The basic problem-solving session is three days in length. Class size is typically twenty. Class participants bring their toughest problems and design challenges with them to the session. They get to use software during the training session – to accelerate the problem-solving and breakthrough design session. They leave the session with design solutions. Often these solutions are patentable. These sessions have been conducted on both consumer and defense products.
TRIZ Internet Training and TRIZ Certification. The Leonardo da Vinci Institute has an advanced TRIZ course for those who have already had TRIZ basic training, and who have already applied TRIZ to create improved and breakthrough designs. There is also a four-level TRIZ certification program for TRIZ practitioners who want to rapidly increase their creativity and problem-solving capabilities. The certification program includes one in-person class day per month, with reading and homework assignments between classes. All communication is by the Internet, fax and phone. The four TRIZ certification levels are: Basic; Practitioner; Expert; and Master. Certification is highly individualized and personalized, according to the pace and desires of the student.
AREA #5. TRIZ FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS, HIGH SCHOOLS, AND UNIVERSITIES. TRIZ training for children, high-schoolers and university students has been sporadic at best in Russia and former USSR countries (see February TRIZ Journal articles on TRIZ and education). Yet there is an unaddressed, national need for creativity in all areas in the USA.
Advanced Developments at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. For the past three years, Dr. James Kowalick has been teaching TRIZ to high-schoolers in northern California. The results have been miraculous. High school students are changing the ways they think about problems. Their creative capacity is significantly increased. They are able to handle very difficult problems with relative ease. Some elementary students have also received training. Dr. Kowalick is also teaching a local (California) class of adults – some of whom plan to teach TRIZ to children. The Leonardo da Vinci Institute is developing teaching manuals for use in grade schools and high schools, and also developing courses for teachers of gifted and talented students who want to teach nationwide.
AREA #6. BIOMEDICAL AND PHARMACEUTICAL TRIZ APPLICATIONS. There is no organized effort in this direction in Russia, or in any of the former USSR countries.
Advanced Developments at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. Working with a start-up firm, BioFutures, Inc., the Leonardo da Vinci Institute tailored and customized the TRIZ approach for use by technical professionals in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries. BioFutures applied this approach to drug delivery systems – products such as inhalers and transdermal patches – and has discovered means of increasing the capability of transdermal drug systems to deliver large-sized drug molecules – previously believed to be undeliverable.
AREA #7. TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH OF TRIZ ARTICLES FROM OTHER LANGUAGES. Many of the older TRIZ books written in Russian, and published in the former USSR, are obsolete or outdated. There are, however, recent TRIZ books, articles and reports from various countries (former USSR countries, Israel, the Netherlands, Germany, etc.) on current applications and advanced developments. Until recently, this information was unavailable in English.
Advanced Developments at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. The TRIZ Institute is allied with the PQR Group and the Leonardo da Vinci Institute to translate important books, articles and reports on TRIZ, into English. To continue this important work, they have formed a Translation Consortium made up of several corporations (and a few individual consultants). Annual membership in this Translation Consortium supports the translational effort. Consortium members receive copies of the translated material which they use for study purposes only. The Leonardo da Vinci Institute has a collection of twenty-one TRIZ books written in Russian. Companies and individuals interested in joining the Translation Consortium can call The TRIZ Journal offices at 909-949-0857.
AREA #8. ACCELERATED PROBLEM SOLVING. Little effort has been made by the TRIZ community to accelerate the problem solving process. In part, this is because of the fragmentation that has occurred in the former-USSR TRIZ community. Many former USSR practitioners have moved to other countries. The population of TRIZ organizations in countries of the former USSR has steadily decreased. There is minimal organized effort to advance the TRIZ approach (with the possible exception being in the area of invention software). Even with invention software, the role of TRIZ has been significantly de-emphasized.
Advanced Developments at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute. Leonardo da Vinci Institute developments have significantly accelerated problem-solving in two ways: (1) through their introduction of the TRIZ problem-solving algorithms mentioned above; and (2) through the incorporation of “triads” into the problem-solving process. As a result, corporate users report significantly increased productivity. These developmental activities have resulted in the rapid conception of breakthrough products for a broad range of industries.
SUMMARY TRIZ advanced development efforts at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute, a division of the Renaissance Leadership Institute, Inc., are continuing. The goal is to offer American companies the capability to rapidly conceive breakthrough products. These products capture significantly more market share.
(Readers can respond to this article by phone, fax or e-mail. Dr. Kowalick can be reached at the Leonardo da Vinci Institute of RLI at the following numbers: VOICE: 916-692-1944; FAX: 916-692-1946; e-mail: email@example.com)