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ASIT’s Five Thinking Tools With Examples

| On 21, Sep 2001

Dr. Roni Horowitz
start2think.com
10 Dov Friedman Street, Ramat Gan

Israel.
Email: Roni.Horowitz@start2think.com

Web site: www.start2think.com

Introduction

In a previous article (see http://www.triz-journal.com/archives/2001/08/c/) I described the four main steps that converted TRIZ into ASIT. One of these steps transformed the forty principles of TRIZ into ASIT’s five thinking tools: Unification, Multiplication, Division, Breaking Symmetry and Object Removal. This article will elaborate further on ASIT’s five tools and supply illustrative examples for each. The examples will cover a broad spectrum of domains to demonstrate their wide field of applicability.

As a reminder, TRIZ’s 40 principles were reduced to ASIT’s five idea-provoking tools by: eliminating principles that are too problem-specific; eliminating principles that are not used very often; grouping similar principles together.

Before we delve into detail, here is a short summary of ASIT’s five tools:

1. Unification: Solve a problem by assigning a new use to an existing component.

2. Multiplication: Solve a problem by introducing a slightly modified copy of an existing object into the current system.

3. Division: Solve a problem by dividing an object and reorganizing it parts.

4. Breaking Symmetry: Solve a problem by changing a symmetrical situation into an asymmetrical one.

5. Object Removal: Solve a problem by removing an object from the system

Applying each tool is a five-step process. In the first step we define the problem world by listing the problem objects and the objects in the environment. In the second step we prepare for the application of the tool by collecting relevant data and making a few simple decisions. The third step is where we actually apply the tool and where the idea is born. In the fourth step the idea is captured in one sentence, and in the fifth step it is expanded and elaborated into 4 – 5 sentences.

Here is a detailed description of the tools, including examples:

The Unification tool
The following is a problem that I will use to demonstrate the Unification tool (a classic TRIZ case study):

Here is a description of an experiment to check if materials are resistant in acidic environments. Different pressures and temperatures are applied to the samples, metal cubes, which are made from the tested material and placed inside a metal vessel. (The vessel is used both as a container for the acid and to control ambient conditions). After the samples are taken out of the vessel they are examined to test how the acid affected them. The problem is that the vessel itself is damaged as the acid attacks it as well.

We will now solve this problem using the Unification tool.

Note: I will use the following format throughout the presentation of the techniques: Everything between curly brackets {}, is the problem solver’s response to the tool’s instruction; everything in smaller font is an annotation explaining the relevant step.

1. Define the problem world

Make a list of problem objects

{Acid, Vessel}

Make a list of environment objects

{Samples, Air}

The problem objects are those actually involved in generating the undesired effect. This explains why the SAMPLES are not listed here – they do no harm and are not being damaged.

2. Prepare for Unification

Define the undesired effect

The undesired effect is a very short and factual description of the problem. It usually takes the form of stating what damage object X inflicts on object Y.

{The ACID attacks the VESSEL}

Please note how simple and non-creative this definition is. ASIT prevents the problem solver from trying to be too smart at the wrong stage in the problem solving process.

Derive the wanted action that eliminates the undesired effect

The wanted action is usually derived from the undesired effect by adding the words “to prevent …from…” While the progression from the undesired effect description to an action description seems trivial, it’s importance is mainly psychological: to transform a description of a fact to a description of an action.

{To prevent the ACID from attacking the VESSEL}

Some people would say that this is already very close to the solution. My reaction is this:” is a solution not what we are looking for?” There is no psychological or other law stating that we should move in circles before we make an attempt to find a solution.

Select an object to perform the wanted action

{SAMPLES}

If you happen to be a TRIZ instructor you are probably familiar with the following response from course participants: “You selected the SAMPLES because you know the solution”.

Well I have to admit that I do indeed know the solution. But seriously, the idea is that we select one object at a time until we arrive at the solution. For the sake of brevity, I selected the object that leads to the solution.

3. Apply Unification

Imagine the selected object performing the wanted action. Keep in mind that:

– The selected object can be modified

– Other objects can be modified

Here we simply have to imagine the SAMPLES preventing the ACID from attacking the VESSEL. (Each of these three objects can also be modified to help prevent this).

4. Define your core idea in one sentence

{The SAMPLES will contain the ACID, thus preventing it coming into contact with the VESSEL}

5. Elaborate the idea in 3 – 5 sentences

{We will drill a hole in the samples and pour the ACID into the hole. This way the ACID will never come into contact with the VESSEL. The SAMPLES need to be large enough so that the ACID will not leak out}

[Repeat steps 2 – 5 until you arrive at a satisfactory idea]

The Multiplication tool

To demonstrate the Multiplication tool I intentionally selected a non-physical problem to show you that ASIT tools are indeed universal in application.

So here is the problem: Your kid comes home and you want to know everything about his day at kindergarten. You ask him, “How was your day?” and he answers abruptly, “It was good,” and then turns on the TV…

1. Define the problem world

Make a list of problem objects

{Kid, Story about his/her day, TV, parent}

Make a list of environment objects

{Kindergarten}

2. Prepare for Multiplication

Define the undesired effect

{The KID does not tell the STORY to the PARENT}

Please note again how simple and non-creative this definition is. It is a natural tendency of problem solvers to be too smart too soon. ASIT tries to prevent it.

Derive the wanted action that eliminates the undesired effect

This time we do not need to prevent something from happening, but rather to force something to happen.

{To make the KID tell the STORY}

Select an object to perform the wanted action

{STORY}

3. Apply Multiplication

Imagine a new, slightly modified, copy of the selected object added to the problem world and performing the wanted action. Keep in mind that:

– The new object may not be the same as the existing one
– There may be a desired interaction between the new object and the original one

Here we simply need to imagine bringing in a new STORY that will make the KID tell his own STORY.

4. Define your core idea in one sentence

{A new STORY about the day at kindergarten will make the KID tell his own STORY}

5. Elaborate the idea in 3 – 5 sentences

{We will tell our KID the following: “OK, if you don’t want to tell me what happened at kindergarten, I’ll tell the STORY”. Then we start telling the STORY based on small details and facts that we know about the KID’S life at kindergarten. The KID will be attracted to the STORY about himself and will correct all the incorrect details in the STORY}

Note: I actually tried it – it worked perfectly!

[Repeat steps 2 – 5 until you arrive at a satisfactory idea]

The Division tool
The following problem demonstrates the Division tool:

Mountaineers use sophisticated electronic barometers to measure air pressure.

After receiving many complaints about their barometers, a manufacturer discovered that a tiny electronic component in the instrument was sensitive to extreme cold in mountainous areas. The manufacturer decided to develop a new barometer that would be resistant to cold. Research quickly showed that it would not be possible to find a replacement for the tiny component affected by the cold. The manufacturer almost gave up until one of his engineers came up with a brilliant solution to the problem

1. Define the problem world

Make a list of problem objects

{Barometer, Cold air }

Make a list of environment objects

{Mountaineer, Mountain, Ice, Snow}

2. Prepare for Division

Select one object to be divided

{Barometer}

Make a list of the parts of this object

{Display, Electronic component, Wiring, Pressure sensor}

3. Apply Division

Imagine one of the parts being separated from the rest, and then think what would happen if:
– That part was to be moved to another place
– That part was to be treated differently from the others
– That part was to show up or disappear at different times

{What would happen if we moved the ELECTRONIC COMPONENT to another place?}

4. Define your core idea in one sentence

{The ELECTRONIC DEVICE will be moved to the MOUNTAINEER’S body}

5. Elaborate the idea in 4-5 sentences

{The ELECTRONIC DEVICE will be separated from the rest of the BAROMETER and moved to the MOUNTAINEER’S body, which maintains a constant temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. The DEVICE will be connected to the BAROMETER by a wire. The manufacturer will supply with the BAROMETER a means for attaching the DEVICE to the body}

The Breaking Symmetry tool

In the following problem I will demonstrate the Breaking Symmetry tool:

Regular candles drip wax while burning, thus dirtying the surrounding area – the residue that does not burn drips down the side of the candle causing the messy drops of wax. Suggest a way of stopping the candle from dripping.

1. Define the problem world

Make a list of problem objects

{Wax, Heat, Flame}

Make a list of environment objects

{Wick, Air}

2. Prepare for Breaking Symmetry

Select an object that can be made asymmetrical

{Wax}

Make a list of the variables of this object

{Diameter, Length, Melting temperature, Color}

3. Apply Breaking Symmetry

Select one variable. Imagine that the selected object has a different value for the selected variable:

– At different locations

– At different times

{What if the WAX was to have different melting temperatures at different locations?}

4. Define your core idea in one sentence

{The outer part of the candle will have a higher melting temperature than the inner part}

5. Elaborate the idea in 4 – 5 sentences

{The outer part of the candle, due to its higher melting temperature, will melt a few minutes after the inner part. This will create thin walls of WAX that will prevent the melted WAX from dripping downward}

The Object Removal tool

The following problem demonstrates the use of the Object Removal tool:

Currently, helicopter pilots are unable to escape the helicopter in case of technical problems. A good solution would be to eject the pilot upward before he parachutes down. But this is impossible because of the danger of being hit by the rotor.

1. Define the problem world

Make a list of problem objects

{Pilot, Rotor}

Make a list of environment objects

{Air, Helicopter}

2. Prepare for Removal

Select one object to be removed

{Rotor}

3. Apply Removal

Imagine one of the selected objects being removed from the problem world

{What if we remove the ROTOR?}

4. Define your core idea in one sentence

{The ROTOR will be removed just before the PILOT is ejected}

5. Elaborate the idea in 4 – 5 sentences

{Since the PILOT made a decision to eject, the HELICOPTER is not functioning and the ROTOR is actually not needed any more. The idea is to fix explosives to the ROTOR axis to be explode just before the ejection}

Conclusion

This article presented ASIT’s five thinking tools. I tried to show that the tools are universal, widely applicable, domain independent and easy to learn. The examples presented the application of the tools in their pure form: only one tool was applied to solve each problem. It is also possible to use more than one tool (e.g. removing an object with Object Removal and then fulfilling its action through Unification) but this is beyond the scope of this article.

The next article in this series will deal with the application of ASIT’s tools to invent new products.

Editor’s note: To see a review of Dr. Horowitz’s on-line ASIT training course, see the July 2001 issue of The TRIZ Journal. To take the on-line ASIT training class, http://hop.clickbank.net/?ellendomb/star2think

References

Altshuller, G. S., 40 Principles: TRIZ Keys to Technical Innovation, Translated by Lev Shulyak, Technical Innovation Center, Worcester, MA. 1998
Horowitz R., Maimon O., “Sufficient Conditions for Design Inventions” IEEE Systems Man and Cybernetics, part C, Ahugust 99.
Horowitz R., Maimon O., “Creative Design Methodology and the Sit Method”, Proceedings of DETC’97: 1997 ASME Design Engineering Technical Conference, Sacramento, 1997.
Horowitz, R. http://www.start2think.com

About the Author:

Dr. Roni Horowitz has been working on ASIT development in the past 12 years. Roni got his Ph.D. form the Engineering Faculty of Tel Aviv University in the field of creative problem solving and design; B.Sc. in Aeronautical Engineering (the Technion, Haifa), and M.Sc. in Industrial Engineering (Tel-Aviv University). Roni has extensive experience in conducting inventive thinking workshops and full credited academic courses in Israel and worldwide.