The TRIZ-Methodology - an always ongoing innovative cycle
Editor | On 17, Mar 2002
The TRIZ-Methodology –
an always ongoing innovative cycle
The TRIZ Methodology is a relatively new creativity tool, although the roots of this method date back to the 40th of the 20th century. The origin research work of this tool was done in the former USSR by G.S. Altshuller. But the propagation of the TRIZ method first began over the USA just as the borders of the USSR and other eastern countries opened about 10 years ago. The TRIZ methodology is the first creativity tool at all in the world, which teaches a systematic procedure for solving inventive problems. Up to now the search for appropriate inventive problem solutions has been a Sisyphean task. Hardly you have made a trade-off, which can all live with, you already see its limitations again. The really advantage of the TRIZ methodology is, that you are enforced to find the ideal solution (s. fig. 1), because you are able to burst the psychological inertia barrier. So you are at first able to solve all the contradictions of the basic system problems without accepting trade-offs as it happens with all the other classical trial and error creativity methods.
Figure 1: Search for solutions without and with TRIZ
This purposeful, reproducible approach of the technical and scientific based TRIZ methodology assists us in a nearly ideal manner during inventive problem solving because this way of doing is that, what we have been taught at school for years. The possibility to get a specific, nearly ideal solution bypassing the psychological inertia barrier reduces the number of compromises or ineffective trials extremely. This means that the effective use of all the knowledge of the universe, which is the source for inventions, improvements and further developments, assists us in reaching the advantage in our society required for our economical survival. Enforces us already this simple problem (s. fig. 1) to work for an ideal solution in a well aimed manner, how important is this having a complex problem (s. fig. 2).
Figure 2: Concepts found by Trial-and-Error-Method for a complex problem
At the beginning of its development this complex problem has been only a biological problem. According to the knowledge of one individual (company, branch of industry) the trial and error method normally is following the psychological inertia vector and may find (mostly not) the ideal solution which is an interdisciplinary solution of chemistry and physics far away from the branch biology. So in this case the TRIZ method also assists in finding the ideal solution in the most economical way. Mostly this ideal solution is located outside the main part of a working field. The TRIZ method is not only applicable to technical problems but also to any other system like administration, organization, etc..
The main difference between the TRIZ-method and all other innovative or creativity methods is the reduction of ineffective solutions by using a purposeful and systematical procedure and by passing over the psychological inertia barrier. The method of TRIZ to burst the psychological inertia barrier is the abstraction of the initial problem (s. figure 3). That means, generalization of my specific problem to an analogous standard problem, comparison of this standard problem with analogous standard solutions well known in other scientific branches and industries and back transfer of this analogous standard solution to my specific solution.
Figure 3: Path from my specific problem to my specific solution
This basic approach once more is described for a simple mathematical problem, the solution of a quadratic equation (s. figure 4). With the classical methods, that means the trail-and-error-methods, you solve the equation by trials. With some luck you finally will find the solutions only, if the problem is not to difficult. The alternative, much more comfortable method is the TRIZ method, which solves the problem by several steps: abstraction of the specific problem, solution of this abstract problem by a proper operator and finally application of the abstract solution to my specific problem.
Figure 4: Comparison of the traditional way to find a solution by brain storming and TRIZ
Before you can use the TRIZ methodology, you have to understand the classification of the system TRIZ and the linkages of the different tools of the method between each other. The TRIZ method in its actual version comprises a complete box with different tools for innovative problem solving. This tool box can be divided into the four following groups
- Analogy and
These four groups also are called the four TRIZ-columns and characterize the four elementary properties a good scientist should have. Each of these columns comprises a number of tools. An overview about the four TRIZ-columns and its tools is shown in the TRIZ chart in figure 5.
Figure 5: The four columns of the TRIZ method and its tools
These groups also indicate, with which column you should start a TRIZ project. The assumption therefore is, that you know whether you have a technical problem you will optimize or an innovative situation while looking for a really new product.
As you have seen before, there are two types of problems possible, if you like to start working with the TRIZ method. One type is a problem, which has to be optimized. The other type is a problem, where you like to start to develop an absolutely new generation of a product. Both problems perfectly can be solved with the TRIZ tool box. The only difference is the starting tool. If you have an optimization problem then you should start the TRIZ project with the tools belonging to the group Analysis. If you like to develop an absolutely new generation of a product you should start the TRIZ project with the tools belonging to the group Vision. Shall a new product to be improved or optimized, then you start the TRIZ project with the tools belonging to the group Analysis again. With this understanding of the TRIZ methodology you are able to develop a so called TRIZ cycle with the four TRIZ columns as defined in figure 5. This TRIZ cycle is shown in figure 6.
Figure 6: The TRIZ cycle
In this figure you see on the cycle the names of the three columns Analysis, Analogy and Vision, in the center point of this cycle the column Knowledge. The solving of an optimization problem starts with the tools of the group Analysis. In this group the problem will be structured, analyzed and sometimes queried. If you will do this task in a definite time, you have to consult the tools of the group Knowledge. With this assistance you can systematically and adequately prepare the basic problem. As solution of this analytical work you get the problem definition. This problem definition then determines exactly the tool of the group Analogy you have to work with. This tool helps you to generate new ideas on the background of analogous solutions in other scientific branches and industries with similar problems. The tool of the group Analogy, which you are using for solving your problem, also is effectively consulted and assisted by the tools of the group Knowledge. This optimization procedure for the same product can start again for several times until a saturation of the product development is achieved. The demand for really new products is generated in better coming into your mind. That is the time where you use the tools of the group Vision. The tools in the group Vision deal with the questions how a product will look like in a couple of years or in the future, which stages of (technical) evolution has a product left behind or are coming soon and how this change will be influenced by technical, social and other trends. The tools of the group Vision also consult the tools of the group Knowledge, which substantially assists the generation of new ideas for finding a solution. Is the product of the next or after next generation well defined, the renewing of the product development starts again, because of the requests for new properties and applications. So the further development or optimization of the new product starts. The tools of the group Analysis come into interest again. The cycle of the development of a product (system, …) or the TRIZ cycle is closed.
Figure 6 only gives you a rough view about the TRIZ cycle with its four elementary columns. The TRIZ chart in figure 5 shows you the different tools of each of these elementary groups. The working with the tools of each group is subjected to certain rules. These rules will be explained now. Let us begin with the tools of the group Analysis.
The column Analysis includes 8 tools (s. Figure 5):
- the Innovative Situation Questionnaire,
- the Resources-Checklist (RC),
- the Object-Modeling (OM),
- the Problem Formulation Modeling (PF),
- the Smart Little People Modeling,
- the Operator Size/Time/Cost,
- the Anticipatory failure Determination (AFD) and
- the Ideality (IFR).
The working in the tabulated order as shown above during a TRIZ project is highly recommended, but is not a forced condition. This consecutive sequence also can be pictured in an octahedron diagram (s. figure 7).
Figure 7: The octahedron of the group Analysis
If you have an optimization problem, you always start your TRIZ project with the Analysis group. There you begin with the Innovative Situation Questionnaire. After you have done this questionnaire you have two possibilities, you follow the arrows in the octahedron and use one of the following tools of the group Analysis or you follow the arrows outside the octahedron which in this case (Innovative Situation Questionnaire) leads to the groups Analogy and Knowledge to solve your problem there. The arrowhead of the fourth group Vision (s. figure 7 at Innovative Situation Questionnaire) shows in the opposite direction than the arrowheads of the two other groups Analogy and Knowledge. The direction of the arrowhead shows you, which tools can or should be the next step or which tools are a precondition to work (for example with the tool Innovative Situation Questionnaire in the group Analysis). The arrows only are an advice no requirement for handling a specific problem. You also can start with classical creativity tools and later you work with the creativity tools of the TRIZ method or vice versa. Each method is allowed to work with for solving an inventive problem. But this method should help to solve the problem more economically.
Let us remain for a moment in the group Analysis and figure 7. After the problem definition with the TRIZ tool Innovative Situation Questionnaire you can use all other 7 tools of the octahedron in the group Analysis as the next step finding a solution. If you have decided to work with the Problem Formulation Modeling as the next step, then it makes not very much sense to work with one of the tools Resources Checklist or Object Modeling as one of the next following steps. However it makes sense in this case to do the next step with one of the Analysis tools Smart Little People Modeling, Operator Size/Time/Cost, Anticipatory Failure Determination, Ideality (s. figure 7) or you leave the group Analysis and work with one of the other three groups Analogy, Vision or Knowledge. But should you come to the conclusion, that you need urgently the tool Object Modeling of the group Analysis because you have forgotten something, so you have to go back one (or sometimes more) step(s) and continue working there. Then the next step is following the logical order in the octahedron diagram of figure 7 again.
The column Analogy includes three tools (s. Figure 5):
- System Conflicts,
- Physical Contradiction and
- Substance Field Analysis .
The working with the tools of the group Analogy normally follows after the systematical analysis of a specific problem by the tools of the group Analysis. From that problem definition you get a solution with the tools of the group Analogy. There exists also a consecutive sequence in this group, which you can use or not. This consecutive sequence can be pictured in a triangle diagram (s. figure 8).
Figure 8: The Analogy triangle diagram
If you like to solve your problem with the Substance Field Analysis, you can choose the tool Physical Contradiction or the tool System Conflicts as the next consecutive step in the group Analogy. But seems your basic problem to be solved to your satisfaction with the Substance Field Analysis, you can use the tools from one of the other groups like Knowledge or Vision or the TRIZ project has come to its end. If you have an optimization problem this often will be the fact.
The next column Vision includes two tools (s. Figure 5):
- the S-Curves of Evolution or evolution in stages and
- the Laws of Development of Evolution.
The working with the tools of the group Vision follows either after the working with the tools of the group Analogy or is the start for working with the TRIZ tools, if you like to create absolutely new generations of products. There exists also a consecutive sequence in this group, which you can use or not as you know. This consecutive sequence can be pictured in a diagram (s. figure 9).
Figure 9: The Vision diagram
You start working in this group with the determination of the S-curves or stages of Evolution to classify “my” product or similar into the S-curves of evolution. After you know where your product is located in the S-curves of evolution you can work with the tools of the group Vision, that means the Laws of Development of Evolution or you leave this group and start working with the tools of the groups Analysis or Knowledge. But this always depends on the basic problem.
The last group of the organization chart of figure 5 is the group Knowledge. This group is located in the center of the TRIZ cycle as shown in figure 6. This column Knowledge includes three tools (s. Figure 5):
- the Scientific Effects Data Base,
- the Internet Data Base Research and
- the Patents Data Base Research.
All the three groups which have been described before consult this fourth group Knowledge. On the other hand the group Knowledge with its tools assists all the other groups Analysis, Analogy and Vision. In this group also exists a weak consecutive sequence, which you can use or not. This consecutive sequence can be pictured in a triangle diagram (s. figure 10), too.
Figure 10: The Knowledge triangle diagram
As figure 10 and also figure 6 show, the solving of a innovative problem without consulting the world wide knowledge is absolutely impossible. Therefore you need always the assistance of knowledge data bases. These are scientific effects data bases, Internet data base Researches in the world wide web or the specific Intranet of companies and in addition patents data base researches.
So the conclusion of all about this is that the TRIZ methodology for solving inventive problems, as described above with its four groups Analysis, Analogy, Vision and Knowledge, is a never ending cycle, which is being renewed again and again like the four seasons of a year. With the understanding of this cycle you are able to describe not only the patterns of evolution of each product (system, organization, …) but also how to optimize existing products and also develop absolutely new products. So this know-how about this cycle makes it easier to work with the TRIZ-methodology for getting new ideas.
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About the author
Dr.-Ing. Arthur Löbmann, born 1954, studied chemical engineering at the Technical University Munich (TUM). >From 1981-1986 he worked at the Department A for Chemical Engineering of TUM with o. Prof. Dr.-Ing. E. Blaß. Since 1986 he is a process engineer at Wacker Siltronic AG in Burghausen.