Has TRIZ Led to Any Important Inventions?
Editor | On 01, Jan 2010Message: 1163
Posted by: Eric Sommer
Posted on: Saturday, 24th November 2007
Hi there, Can you tell us if Triz has led to any important discoveries or inventions? Most or all of the advances described in the Triz literature seem to be important but incremental improvements in existing products or processes. However, significant breakthroughs, such as the lighbulb, the microchip, the personal computer, html and the web, nanotechnology, and the like seem to be conspicuously absent. I like Triz, and would like to believe it has the potential, as claimed, to help us arrive at real breakthroughs through knowledge transfer between knowledge domains. If you could cite some examples, it would be helpful. Thanks, Eric Sommer
Posted by: Ellen Domb
Posted on: Monday, 26th November 2007
Yes, TRIZ has led to a large number of important inventions. So, where is the list? The problem has been that companies that are getting great benefit from TRIZ have been reluctant to publicize the benefit, because they don't want to encourage their competitors to do the same. This has been a problem for The TRIZ Journal, trying to get papers with real case studies, and for conference organizers.
Fortunately, in the last few years, there has been some relaxation of the corporate secrecy. For example, at the recent European TRIZ Association meeting, the German company Wittenstein AG showed their product which replaces bone that has been removed for cancer, and “grows” with the person–this means that child cancer suvivors won't need additional surgery every few years as they grow. ISixSigma Magazine featured Dow Chemical and their “marriage” of TRIZ and Six Sigma. Dow never publishes anything about their use of TRIZ in chemistry or chemical engineering; the cases shown of improvements in the design of the delivery system will have major impact on all bulk railcar systems. The P&G Whitestrip story was told at the Altshuller Institute and European TRIZ Association meetings in 2004-5–maybe not a “lightbulb” type breakthrough, but a billion dollar business in its first few years.
Small business stories are dramatic, but usually unpublishable. Every consultant knows of several small companies where the foundation product or service came from a TRIZ idea, and the company is now successful. See the August 2007 TRIZ Journal article on “Supereffects” to see how one idea gave birth to 30 and created a company that is so successful it is turning away investors, and may change the whole future of electronic assembly.
Hints are found in all the meetings: Samsung gives lots of papers about their training system–they have a multi-year plan to train 10,000 people in TRIZ, and 400 as internal consultants. Intel has over 1000 people trained at the beginner level, and a few dozen at the consultant level. General Electric has a huge program underway to train everyone in its global research centers. Boeing has been the host for the Altshuller Institute meeting 3 times. The Japan TRIZ meeting had people from dozens of “brand name” companies–Toshiba, Hitachi, Panasonic, … None of these companies would make this kind of investment if they were only expecting minor results.
And, yes, TRIZ is extremely good at incremental improvements as well as breakthrough improvements. Much of the research on innovation agrees that many thousands of incremental improvements are needed to make the environment ready for any one breakthrough.
I hope that many other readers will contribute to this discussion.
Ellen Domb, founding editor of The TRIZ Journal