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Book Review: 40 Principles: TRIZ Keys to Technical Innovation

| On 03, Apr 1998

Book Review: 40 Principles: TRIZ Keys to Technical Innovation

Ellen Domb, Ph.D.
The TRIZ Institute, 190 N. Mountain Ave., Upland, CA 91786 USA
+1(909)949-0857 FAX +1(909)949-2968

Lev Shulyak, translator of the popular And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared has translated, edited, and published a new book, 40 Principles: TRIZ Keys to Technical Innovation, by Genrich Altshuller, with drawings by Uri Fedoseev, and additional material by Lev Shulyak. The book is available for US$40.00 from the Technical Innovation Center, 60 Prescott Street, Worcester, MA 01605 USA,

Mr. Shulyak based the book on a brochure published by Altshuller in 1974 as part of the course notes for his seminar on TRIZ. The 40 principles and the contradiction matrix that guides the user from the contradictions that define a problem to the principles recommended for its solution are in the public domain thanks to Altshuller’ s generosity. (See the July, 1997, issue of The TRIZ Journal for one version available for downloading.) The additional material explains the use of the 40 principles, reconstructs the drawings by Mr. Fedoseev for the class, and provides some example problems and worksheets from Mr. Shulyak’s classes. The Contradiction Matrix is presented in a multi-page format, with a list of the 40 principles on each page, and highlighting to make it easier to find the rows and columns of interest.

The introductory essays put the work in context. Mr. Shulyak’s overview of the tools of TRIZ is helpful, since it shows the reader who is new to TRIZ the power of the 40 principles, and also introduces the reader to some of the tools (ideality, ARIZ, S-field analysis and the standard methods, the patterns of technical evolution) that are outside the scope of this book. The “three steps for solving a technical contradiction” and the worksheets for applying the method will be very useful to TRIZ beginners. They provide a very detailed method for analyzing the problem, deciding which elements of the problem require improvement, and choosing which methods to apply to developing a solution.

The core of the book is the translation of Mr. Altshuller’s original work on the 40 principles. The cartoon illustrations are excellent. Examples from a wide variety of technologies are used, and the illustrations make it easy for the non-specialist to understand the examples. Since the purpose of the examples is to help the reader learn how to apply the principle to his/her own technical problem, this non-specialists’ approach is very helpful.

The translation is very good. There are very few grammatical or typographical errors, and those that are there do not interfere with the understanding of the points that are being made.

A few readers may object that there are very few examples from modern electronics or biotechnology (the original book was written in 1974), or chemistry, and none from service industries. Another objection might be that there is no information on whether the inventions shown were ever produced, and, if so, were they commercial successes. This book was intended to show the universality of the 40 principles, and their application to problem solving in a wide variety of technical fields, not to be a compilation of industry best practices for specific industries, or a text on the application of TRIZ to all types of situations. With this understanding, 40 Principles: TRIZ Keys to Technical Innovation should be a worthwhile addition to any library of TRIZ books.