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The Triz Journal | November 18, 2017

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Fantogramma: a Technique for New Fantasy Ideas

By Valeri Souchkov

Fantogramma is a powerful thinking tool for producing new science fiction and fantasy ideas in a systematic way. The idea of Fantogramma was originally proposed by the founder of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ), Genrich Altshuller, in 1971 as one of the techniques designed for developing and improving personal creative skills and later became a part of the creative imagination development courses within the TRIZ community.1,5

To search for creative solutions to problems, it is important to:

  • Relax constraints
  • Withdraw from accumulated personal experience
  • Get rid of mental associations
  • Free the mind from known concepts (as much as possible)

Working with Fantogramma improves the ability to think out of the box, it helps migrate through different system levels to imagine new creative ideas and it develops skills to recognize hidden possibilities.

Fantogramma might be found useful by science fiction and fantasy authors, futurists, movie directors, creative advertisers and anyone interested in producing really new fantastic ideas.2 Its primary function, however, is to provide a platform for further development of a creative imagination which can be used by anyone who is willing to expand her horizons of creative thinking when inventing new concepts and ideas.3

Process with Fantogramma

The process for using Fantogramma consists of five steps:4

  1. Select an object on the basis of obtaining a new fantastic idea and define a set of specific features of the object selected (so-called specific indicators in Fantogramma).
  2. Change any specific indicator of the object selected according to the so-called methods of changing indicators.
  3. Imagine how the object will change and what it can become. Invent a new object by using the imagination. At this step, try several combinations (specific indicator, method of changing indicators) to generate a number of ideas.
  4. Select one of the ideas produced at the previous step.
  5. Imagine how all other indicators (specific features) will change according to the idea of the changed object. Generate new ideas.

Fantogramma is represented as a two-dimensional morphological matrix, where the indicators are listed along the vertical axis and methods for changing the indicators are listed along the horizontal axis. Cells in the matrix can be used to record new ideas.

Table 1: Two-dimensional Morphological Matrix
Universal Indicators (U) Specific Indicators (S) A B C D E F G H I J K
1U 1S
2U 2S
3U 3S
4U 4S
5U 5S
6U 6S
7U 7S
8U 8S
9U 9S
10U 10S
11U 11S

Universal indicators are the most important indicators. They describe any large group of objects:

  1. Matter (substance) comprises an object (chemical composition, phase state).
  2. Subsystem (components of an object consists of).
  3. Type of object, name of object.
  4. Supersystem (a higher level system where the object belongs to the environment).
  5. Direction of evolution.
  6. Method of reproduction (or production).
  7. Type of energy consumption.
  8. Method of transportation.
  9. Area of distribution.
  10. Level of organization and control.
  11. Goal (purpose).

These universal indicators will be exactly the same for every object, while specific indicators are defined every time for each selected specific object.

Table 2: Methods of Changing Indicators
A Increase – decrease
B Merge – separate (segment)
C The other way round: replace a given feature (property) with a feature that has an opposite feature property (anti-feature)
D Accelerate – slow down
E Shift in time forward – shift in time backward
F Change relations between an object’s property and time or an object’s structure and time
G Separate a feature or a function of an object and transfer it to another component of a system or supersystem. Alternatively, bring in a property (function) to an object that is a property of its environment (supersystem)
H Change a way that an object is linked to its environment or change environment
I Change quantity featuring an indicator
J Make a static property dynamically change, a dynamic property – static
K Make artificial alive – make alive artificial

Readers familiar with TRIZ will quickly recognize that these heuristic methods are similar to the 40 Inventive Principles of TRIZ. And similarly these methods were identified by a large study of science fiction literature undertaken by Altshuller and his associates.

Using Fantogramma: Case Study

Suppose an individual wants to invent a new fantastic animal. The basic object is a multi-cell biological organism like a cat.

Step 1: Define a set of specific indicators for a selected object. See Table 3.

Table 3: Defining Specific Indicators
Universal Indicator (U) Specific Indicator (S)
1S. Matter Proteins, colloidal solutions
2S. Subsystem Biological cells
3S. Object A cat (multi-cell biological organism)
4S. Supersystem Herds, prides, etc.
5S. Direction of evolution From a single cell toward an organism
6S. Method of reproduction Self-reproduction
7S. Type of energy consumption Oxidation of food
8S. Method of transportation Walking, running, swimming, jumping
9S. Area of distribution Soil surface, forests, deserts
10S. Level of organization and control Self-intelligence
11S. Goal Participation in the biological evolution (food chain)

Step 2: Select any combination of any specific indicator and any method of changing indicators. For instance, take the combination “3S and A”. (There are no rules defining which combination to select, so any can be taken.)

For example, in this case, a cat (chosen as an object “3S”) has to vary its sizes.

Step 3: Study how a selected specific indicator will change. It is important to not limit a scale of possible changes. A fantastic animal is invented. Try to imagine, how an object and its environment will change and what they will become?

For example, imagine a cat that is the size of a molecule. It does not matter that this contradicts the laws of physics (remember the goal is to invent a fantastic animal). Or imagine a cat the size of a house or a continent or even an ocean (such examples are known in science fiction, for example, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem reads: a whole ocean is a single living organism or an animal a size of a planet.

Step 4: Select one of the ideas generated at the previous step.

For example, the want is to continue with a mountain-sized cat.

Step 5: Study the changes that indicators “1U-11U” will experience (except already selected indicator).

  • How to feed the mountain-sized cat?
  • How does it reproduce?
  • How does it move?

To improve the idea generation process, it is advised to use the methods of changing indicators.

For example, invent a new idea on how to feed a mountain-sized cat. Use the method of changing indicators “#G: To separate a feature (or function) from an object.” The feeding process, therefore, is not organized by the huge cat but by the atmosphere where the cat lives.

Another example, the cat does not need water since it can drink from clouds. Or the cat does not feed itself at all. There are other smaller animals (like tiny dogs) that live in the fur of the cat (like in a forest) and brings the cat food. Thus, the mountain cat develops symbiosis with dogs and so forth.

Consider changing another indicator, how will the cat evolve? Use a combination of “5U and G.” Can evolution be separated from an animal? Why not? Imagine that the cat becomes super intelligent and wants to colonize a newly discovered planet, however, the conditions on the planet are not comfortable. The cat, therefore, produces a number of models (copies, clones) of itself with different characteristics and sends them to a new planet. The fittest will survive while the original cat can enjoy the safety of its home planet.

Case Study 2: Phone

Fantogramma can be applied to any type of objects:

  • Alive and artificial
  • Material and immaterial

Apply the same approach to invent a new object on the basis of a traditional telephone.

Step 1: Define a set of specific indicators for a selected object.

Table 4: Specific Indicators of a Selected Object
Specific Indicator (S) Value
1S. Matter Plastics, metals
2S. Subsystem Electronic components
3S. Object Telephone (artificial device)
4S. Supersystem Phone network
5S. Direction of evolution From wired to wireless, from large to small
6S. Method of reproduction Manufactured
7S. Type of energy consumption Electrical energy
8S. Method of transportation Carried out by someone else
9S. Area of distribution Office, home, street, city
10S. Level of organization and control Electronic, human-controlled
11S. Goal Transmit voice over a long distance

Step 2: To select a combination of any specific indicator and any method for changing indicators. For instance, take the combination “4S and I.”

For example, in this case, the phone network has to vary from a single phone to billions of phones.

Step 3: Analyze how a selected specific indicator will change. Imagine, how an object and its environment will change and what they will become?

Since the phone network has to vary from a single phone to billions of phones imagine that the phones in a huge network would become small, of molecular size, so that an individual can have its own phones installed everywhere and anywhere, as to not have to carry one.

Step 4: Select one of the ideas defined at a previous step.

For example, a phone network of billions of micro-sized phones.

Step 5: Imagine change indicators “1U-11U” for a selected idea (except for the indicator selected in Step 2).

  1. Substance that comprises an object (chemical composition, phase state): molecule.
  2. Subsystem: atoms acting as electronic components.
  3. Object: a phone that is a single molecule.
  4. Supersystem: phone molecules wirelessly connected.
  5. Direction of evolution: to acquire new functions.
  6. Method of reproduction: molecular synthesis (nano-assembly?).
  7. Type of energy consumption: radio-waves.
  8. Method of transportation: not necessary to carry. A phone built into clothes, a pen, etc.
  9. Area of distribution: everywhere.
  10. Level of organization and control: artificial intelligence.
  11. Goal: provide smart wireless voice communication.

Thus, an individual can play not only with fantastic modifications of a selected object but create a whole new world around it.

Features Transfer in Fantogramma

There is another approach to working with Fantogramma: by transferring features of one object to another object and using the methods of changing indicators to generate new sets of ideas around an invented idea.

Step 1: Select two different objects. Define specific indicators for both objects. Then take any value of an indicator, which belongs to the first object and replace the corresponding value of the second object with the first value.

For example, take a specific indicator “#7: a method of reproduction.” Telephone is manufactured, while a cat is self-reproducible. What will happen if the phone becomes self-reproducible?

Step 2: Follow all changes of the modified object according to “1U-11U” indicators. To intensify ideas, use methods for changing indicators.

For example, what will be an object in the case of a self-reproducible phone? Will it be a biological phone? Now imagine phones that can combine to herds, prides or become organic parts of human beings and so forth.

Conclusion

Fantogramma can be used to invent new fantastic objects with new properties and features that an individual has never thought about before while building new ideas around the objects. Fantogramma is not limited to inventing a single idea. By using methods of changing indicators an individual can create a whole spectrum of ideas and even entire new fantastic worlds. And this process might not be limited to creating science fiction or fantasy ideas. The technique can be used to create ideas of new products, creative advertisements and so forth. Its main power, however, is in practicing and developing a creative imagination. The technique is universal and can be practiced by kids and adults.

References

  1. G. S. Altshuller, Fantogrammas (in Russian), 1971.
  2. B. Zlotin and A. Zusman, A Month Under the Stars of Fantasy (in Russian), Kishinev, 1988.
  3. G. S. Altshuller, Notes for Trainers in Creative Imagination Development (in Russian), 1990.
  4. V. Souchkov, Fantogramma, white paper, 1998.
  5. P.E. Amnuel, Creative Imagination Development (in Russian), 2000.

About the Author:

Valeri Souchkov has been involved with TRIZ and systematic innovation since 1988. During that time his main activities have been training and assisting customers worldwide, among which a number of the world’s largest companies, as well as the development of new TRIZ tools. In 2000, he initiated and co-founded the European TRIZ Association ETRIA and since 2003 has headed ICG Training and Consulting, a company in the Netherlands which trains and assists commercial and government organizations in both technology and business innovation. Mr. Souchkov is also an invited lecturer of the University of Twente in TRIZ and systematic innovation. Contact Valeri Souchkov at valeri (at) xtriz.com.