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All Solutions Are Not Equal

| On 08, May 2008

Michael S. Slocum

Regardless of how extensively you deploy TRIZ, or some other systematic innovation engine, one of the first steps you take is to define your ideal state. In TRIZ, this is your Ideal Final Result (IFR), a philosophical construct that provides a measurable framework within which you can gauge progress on an innovation project, as well as an overall innovation roadmap. The IFR can also be used to create the perfect solution to strive for in problem solving.


Leonardo da Vinci has suggested that it’s good practice to think of the end before the beginning, suggesting the definition of a target before taking aim. The TRIZ methodology proposes that you develop this target, so that you don’t find yourself randomly shooting, and then feel surprised when you don’t hit anything. From this perspective, it’s not important whether the IFR is practicably attainable; what does matter is that you release the creative process from the hold of psychological inertia, and that you accept the possibility for a perfect innovation event to occur.

The IFR is a tremendous improvement over current approaches that promote the search for mediocrity, which, of course, people refer to as “compromise.” If you don’t envision the IFR, you never really know how weak your resolutions are, and you never know how to gauge innovation progress. Therefore, four IFR criteria apply to the configuration of any IFR for any innovation project:

One, the IFR does not introduce new harm into the system at hand.


Two, the new solution preserves all advantages of the existing system.


Three, the new solution eliminates the disadvantages of the existing system.


Four, there is minimal or no increase in complexity.

Pragmatically, the IFR of any innovation problem is conceptualized into a metric called Ideality, which is the sum of the useful functions in a system divided by the harmful functions in a system. Although the IFR is philosophical in nature, Ideality is mathematical in nature. Ideality is a useful metric, because IFR attainment is usually not possible, but multi-generational progress toward the IFR is possible and expected.

In other words, concepts develop during TRIZ problem solving are not equal, and the litmus test for all innovation ideas is the metric of Ideality, which, simply stated, is the inverse of the distance between the current state of a system and the ideal state of the system. Therefore, the closer the current state is to the ideal state, the higher Ideality is.

In all, the notions of the IFR and the Ideality equation are critical in the battle against mediocrity and are, therefore, absolutely necessary ingredients of systematic innovation. If you can increase the useful functions in my system and decrease the harmful functions, with no additional cost per unit of benefit, you’ve achieved the objective of innovative adaptation.

It is the intention of the TRIZ practitioner to maximize Ideality by maximizing the numerator and minimizing the denominator. However, the actual calculation of Ideality may never be strictly necessary, or possible, as it’s difficult to capture every element in a system, then perfectly distribute each element’s impact on the numerator and the denominator — let alone normalize all the units of measure involved.