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Comments on “If TRIZ is Such a Good Idea…”

| On 13, Apr 2002

Editor Ellen Domb sent Brian Campbell” article to some of the other TRIZ Journal authors, asking for comments. Marco Aurelio de Carvalho posted it on the TRIZ e-mail list, and that got more interest. (To join the e-mail list, go to http://www.topica.com, search on TRIZ, and follow the sign up directions.) If you have comments on Brian” article or on any of these comments, please send them to and we�ll publish another group.

From Larry Ball, larry.ball@honeywell.com

I am going to make a statement that I know is inflammatory because it is so extreme, but I hope that it might spark a little productive debate. The statement is this—Most people who end up using TRIZ are people who love to solve problems, and always have. These individuals are already constantly on the lookout for things to improve. In fact, they can’t help themselves. The true search is not for students that can understand TRIZ, but those who are already motivated to solve problems, wherever they may be found. (NO, I’m not going to take my medication!!).

I can imagine a variety of groups that enjoy problem solving. Many are non-technical. Each group would have their difficulties learning TRIZ, depending on background and temperament. Engineers as a group tend to lean toward certain temperaments and backgrounds. However, we should not assume that most engineers love to solve problems. In reality, only a small percentage of engineers are motivated by the challenge of a difficult problem.

Although I am an engineer myself, I find that many engineers have difficulty learning TRIZ, even ones that like to solve problems. One reason is that engineers are taught from an early stage how to “optimize” trade-off solutions. Many analytical and software tools have been created for finding the best trade-offs. Engineers take great pride in their ability to arrive at “good” trade-offs. It is not unusual to hear an engineer, especially management, exclaim that “better is the enemy of good enough.” It is difficult to find an engineer that believes that he or she can have his or her cake and eat it too. Hence, as Ellen has alluded to me, many people cannot tell a good solution from a bad one. I have concluded that engineers are among the worst examples of this. It is not unusual for an engineer to put off the resolution of a problem to a later day. The underlying problem is patient and will later manifest itself, usually during development or qualification of the product or in the next generation product. Compromise solutions are much more risky than most engineers will admit. The conclusion of this is that technical people need to be taught the difference between a good solution and a bad solution and WHY one is “good” and the other is “bad”.

On the bright side, I am beginning to have some success teaching TRIZ to non-technical and technical people. The teaching approach is to begin with a simplified process, which uses elements of the full-blown process but is complete enough to provide practical, yet ideal, solutions. Thus, the student is able to experience success from the beginning. In other words, the student is able to come to a complete solution which can be sketched up and later produced. Success begets greater motivation. As time goes on, the student is anxious to learn more elements of the full process. This method of teaching is widely used in teaching a variety of skills, such as mathematics, and how to play a musical instrument. Some TRIZ concepts are hard to grasp and will require time to learn. These should be delayed as long as possible.

Another approach that appears to be working is the concept of “Recreational Inventing”. When TRIZ is taught as recreation (this works perfectly for people who love to solve problems anyway) it is natural to find projects all around. The student is encouraged to use a little time every day to improve something around them. In conclusion, the spread of TRIZ is primarily related to identifying individuals who love to solve problems anyway. Attracting and identifying these people, and then teaching them in a way that relates to their particular backgrounds is the main way that TRIZ will spread.

From Ellen Domb, editor@triz-journal.com

My experience has been similar to Brian Campbell” in many areas. The one remark that I take exception to is “The engineer would be happier helping out the operators rather than being told how to solve the problem by a consultant.” I have never seen engineers who were happy to be told anything by anybody! The most successful change management prescription for all kinds of team activities has been to include all the people who will be affected by the change in the team that decides what change will be necessary. So, if shop floor changes are being analysed using TRIZ or any other method, the engineers who will do the implementation should be part of the group that does the analysis.

This comment stimulated the following story from Marco Aurelio de Carvalho, marco@nupes.cefetpr.br

I agree with you. In fact, I have an interesting experience concerning this. Back in 1993, just after finishing my B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering, I went to Germany and worked as a trainee at a German plant of a famous American company. There, I worked at “Vorschlagswesen” Suggestions Department). First, I spent 1 month helping with the bureaucreatic process of managing suggestions. As in most suggestions programs, suggestions were collected from all over the plant, pre-evaluated by the suggestions department, sent to concerned departments, evaluated there by specialists and adopted or not. As expected, most suggestions came from operators. If adopted, the author would receive a prize. If not, he would receive a copy of the evaluation and a “thank you for participating” letter. After the first month, I spent 5 months designing, building, testing and cost-evaluating promising suggestions. Do these tasks seem strange for a Suggestions

Department? I agreed. And I asked my supervisor about it. He told me that this was the only solution they found to overcome some engineers’ resistance to changes in their designs (both industrial engineers’ and engineering designers’). Today I would say they applied “extraction” inventive principle, because the feasibility evaluation was removed from traditional departments. Suggestions Department team would re-evaluate promising non-adopted suggestions and, if they were considered feasible, we would implement them and prove feasibility to concerned departments. It was then a lot more difficult to argue.

On the subject or TRIZ adoption, I agree with most of the author” arguments and would include the “complexity” one: perhaps traditional TRIZ has too many methods, heuristics and knowledge for the practitioner (at least for the sophomore practitioner). Besides being too many, these methods, heuristics and knowledge are not very well organized, yet. It is difficult to choose the best one for each situation. One could say: use ARIZ! – but ARIZ is quite complicated and requires knowledge of all traditional TRIZ methods. One possible approach to cope with TRIZ complexity is to concentrate on TRIZ basic concepts of contradiction, ideality, resources and system approach and try to use them for problem solving (this approach is also embodied in R. Horowitz” SIT method).

From: Penttsoderlin, pentti.soderlin@netlife.fi

Dear Collegues,

“If TRIZ is such a good idea, why isn’t everyone using it?” A very good question! The Americans say that the selling starts when the clients says no!

However, you have to remember the classification of inventive levels by Altshuller. According the patent study he found that Level 1 inventions are over 30% and Level 2 over 40%. The Level 1 is not at all inventive, i.e. it contains only a technical task, which a qualified person executes without any doubts.

Maybe this is the basis: most of the time people have only routine type work. Consider the fact that routine work is done by 90% of people. Real R&D work is the rest.

Problems occur (according to L.D. Miles, father of Value Analysis) due to

Lack of information (people don’t know enough of client demands or new technology, of their cost, of their problems)
Lack of ideas (people are happy to have one working solution and at the same they miss better ones)
Changed or temporary circumstances (there has been advance in technology, production methods, needs)
Habits and attitudes (mental inertia; new things mean more work! Nothing new under the sun!)
Honest wrong beliefs (we don’t have problems! We can manage the usual way, actually we are working the same way as TRIZ!!!)
Fear of personal loss (everything new includes risks; people avoid risk taking)
These are the greatest obstacles in any development. There should be a real need for improvement: competition, cost, obsolescence, customer complaints, continuous harms in the process, etc. Everything can be improved.

When there are needs, people seek for tools. This is a pyramid of people: the most at the bottom don’t see their need; the second level feels the pain, but don’t take any steps; the third realizes that something has to be done and fast. The question is: how to find these people?

Fashion fatigue, TRIZ books, TRIZ courses, TRIZ is not a quick fix, We solved the problem but we didn’t use TRIZ, Problems, and How to implement TRIZ?

I quite agree with your text. Especially the “How to implement TRIZ?” I changed the order a little. Here are some additional notes:

Important to involve one’s best people. Yes, because there is no motivation amongst the people who are reluctant to try new methods and who don’t want to develop themselves. To become a student means you are privileged. TRIZ is not for anyone. It is only for the best!
Line up problems in advance . Yes, there should be suitable projects prepared for the seminar in cooperation with the seminar leader. Avoid eternal or perpetum mobile-cases!
Course in isolation is a waste of time. Yes, people should work on their own projects (after dummy TRIZ cases which introduce the method) in their own premises, say 60 % of the seminar time. Propose follow-up to secure the implementation and payback of results.
Be patient, it might take a year or so before real results are achieved. Yes, people say that TRIZ is very good, but the treasures are in a very deep well. You should organize additional “Brush up-sessions”, consultant projects etc.
Organize contacts. Yes, only successful references and peers can motivate your people and help you in the actual implementation.
Find out a sponsor. Get somebody from the top management who is responsible of business results and has enough budget means to finance the implementation and give you backup. Sell through him the idea of TRIZ to other managers.
Happy hunting!

From: Kalevei Rantanen, kalevi.rantanen@kolumbus.fi

Short comments to Brian’s letter:

1. “Cover less subject matter…, but teach it better and more thoroughly.” (First golden rule of teaching in Engestr’s book Training for Change). Or as Juran put it: “few vital” instead of “useful many”. Five concepts: contradiction, resources, the ideal final result, patterns of evolution, and the 40 principles. Not more.

2. Phrase “If TRIZ is such a good idea, why isn’t everybody using it?” If the speaker seeks truth, the answer is simple: Mankind needs much time to implement even the most simple, cheap and profitable things. Often, however, the question is rhetorical and emotional. In this case it remains necessary to repeat, again and again, the results. Altshuller formulated this as follows: “A man colliding head-on with the ‘impossible’ first exclaims before actually thinking, This cannot happen!” He may repeat this a thousand-or ten thousand-times before finally saying: ‘But, what if…’

” (Izobretenia, Journal for the Altshuller Institute, Vol. I, p. 9).

From: Hugo Sanchez hsanchez@inpyme.gob.ni

Problems that people face have a “distribution”: most of them are simple enough that they can be successfully approached by trial and error. Relatively few problems are so important and interesting that they deserve the time and efforts that TRIZ consume.
People who face problems not always have the background in physics and other basic sciences, nor the right training to use TRIZ as a first hand tool.
Industry, education and government do not encourage deep studies of their problems. Instead, they prefer to ask for some kind of quick fix.
TRIZ someday (I hope) will be presented with several degrees of complexity. Basic principles are simple, as Einstein postulates in Theory of Relativity. Under these conditions, a “TRIZ thinker” person could be developed since basic education. But, is our educational system prepared for that? Is TRIZ prepared?