An Interview with Boris Zlotin: TRIZ Scientist
Editor | On 25, Nov 1998
Michael S. Slocum, Ph.D.
The Inventioneering Company
Adjunct Assistant Professor
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695
On the 10th of October 1998, I enjoyed the pleasure of a long, detailed discussion with Boris Zlotin, Chief Scientist of Ideation International, in his office in Southfield, Michigan. I was attending the course completion for TRIZ Specialist certification offered by Ideation International and wanted to address several issues with the man who was a colleague and student of Genrich Altshuller. The perspective I will relay in this interview is historically oriented and will provide what I believe to be an extremely interesting timeline of key events (not intended to be an exhaustive series of temporal events) associated with the development of TRIZ. Omissions are unintentional and this author understands other people were involved. The purpose of this interview is to highlight Mr. Zlotin’s adventure.
In 1861 Alexander II effected the Emancipation of Russia. Mr. Zlotin mentioned this event as he believes that this revolution precipitated the counter-revolution of 1917, the October Revolution. I believe this to be an important observation in light of the decline of Russian supremacy during the ensuing decades.
When Mr. Zlotin was fourteen years old he began work as a metal worker. His talents progressed and he subsequently worked as a designer and then a research engineer (he was 27 years old at this point).
In 1974 Mr. Zlotin worked for plant Electrosila as a test engineer and he had the need to take a twenty-four hour train trip. Having no reading material (critical to Mr. Zlotin to this day) he searched for a suitable text to read for the duration of his trip. The book he found was Algorithm of an Invention by Genrich Altshuller. This author was unknown to Mr. Zlotin and there were few other options for reading material. Therefore, this was the book for the trip. Mr. Altshuller’s comments to the effect of being able to improve the innovative ability to solve problems was found to be offensive to Mr. Zlotin as he believed his skills in these areas were already perceived to be adequate and the book was nearly tossed from the train. It was only the thought of one day with no book that stopped him. An immediate result of reading the book during the train ride was the resolution of a difficult problem that existed, unsolved, for two and a half years. This problem was solved in one hour and implemented in one month using ARIZ ‘71.
In 1977 Mr. Zlotin became a professional problem solver for Electrosila. This was due to his previous successes solving problems for several departments. In March of 1977 Mr. Zlotin began corresponding with Mr. Altshuller. They finally met at the First Annual TRIZ Conference in Petrozavodsk, Russia.
In March of 1981 the first TRIZ seminar was taught by both Mr. Zlotin with Genrich Altshuller as part of a continuing education program with the Russian Ministry of Electro-Technical Industry. This seminar was approximately one month in duration. In October of 1981 in Kishinev, Moldova, the second long seminar was taught with Genrich Altshuller. There were twelve seminars taught with Genrikh Altshuller with a total contact time between Mr. Zlotin and Mr. Altshuller of nine months. In the October time frame of 1986 Mr. Altshuller became ill and this ended the series of seminars taught by Mr. Zlotin and Mr. Altshuller. There were three books authored by Mr. Zlotin and Mr. Altshuller, et alia, during this time.
In 1982 the expansion of TRIZ began to include social issues and organizational issues but was kept secret due to the political intolerance of the Soviet regime. This work was kept secret until 1986.
It is interesting to consider some observations Mr. Zlotin made concerning the origination of the contradiction and the relationship of Marxism to the modes operandi of Ford. Hegal formulated the resolution of a contradiction by describing the removal of opposition in a two party system by the death or destruction of one of the parties. Marx promulgated this idea by applying the resolution to political and socio-economic classes as described by Hegal in the following formulation: thesis – anti-thesis – synthesis; the struggle between the proletariat and the beouguois. This resulted in the bloody revolution that precipitated the advent of communism. Henry Ford’s fundamental premise was anti-thetical to this Hagellian contradiction resolution adopted by Marx in the struggle for class supremacy. Henry Ford sought to eliminate the proletariat (not the bourgeois like Marx) by supplying the worker with a good job, a car, a home, etc.,…. An important oversight can be made concerning the method of resolution adopted by Marx, thesis – anti-thesis – synthesis; the secondary problems associated with the eradication of a layer of society. The following fundamental question must be asked: why are these socio-economic striations in existence ?
In 1985 a policy of openness (perestroika and glasnost) was adopted by the Soviet government and the formation of the Kishinev School for TRIZ in Moldova was accomplished.
In 1986 the first commercial company that practiced TRIZ as a consulting firm was formed by Mr. Zlotin and his colleagues. This company was named Progress. The period of time from 1986 until 1989 showed very little prosperity for the company although problems were solved. In 1990 the History of Capitalization in Russia was written by Krylov. This paper indicated Progress as the first private engineering firm after the October Revolution. In 1988 a problem for the Soviet helicopter industry was solved and this was the first significant success for Progress. In March of 1990 the Soviet government passed a law indicating that private companies, like Progress, could not perform subcontract work for government or military contracts. Also, this law stated that moneys owed private companies by the government or military were not collectable. This nearly devastated Progress again despite solving problems effectively. Progress began working with non-technical fields such as the Moscow Stock and Commodity Exchange.
In 1992 a partnership was entered with Zion Bar-El. Several social (non-technical) projects were completed in Moldova focusing on anticipatory failure determination associated with political elections. Favorable completion was normal and success seamed assured. In 1996 Mr. Bar-El became chief executive officer of Ideation International.
This interview is not intended to capture the complete process necessary for the realization of the present situation of Mr. Zlotin but to indicate certain aspects Mr. Zlotin thought important enough to relay as a first conversation. I respect and admire his talents and his candor.