TRIZ READINGS — ALTSHULLER’S TRADITION CONTINUES
Simon S. Litvin
One of today’s major challenges of TRIZ is that the methodology and implementation are stagnating. To fight this stagnation, the TRIZ community should introduce effective and realistic directions of further development for the methodology. And, these changes should be not incremental, but dramatic.
Keywords: TRIZ Readings, Engineering System, Product, Process, Business Problem, Engineering Problem, Function-Oriented Search, TRIZplus, substantiation, TRIZ development.
Conferences on the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (Russian acronym TRIZ) occur regularly across the world. Many have become important landmarks in TRIZ development. However, the majority of these events are characterized by disadvantages:
· Attendees comprise beginners and experienced TRIZ specialists, TRIZ practitioners and theoreticians, teachers and scientists; thus, the level of knowledge is very wide and varied.
· Some conferences have an overtly advertising tone, and are intended for development of potential business.
These variables make it rather difficult to discuss new scientific TRIZ developments and identify promising directions of theory development.
Not denying the importance and usefulness of such conferences, it is obvious there is now a need for a permanent scientific TRIZ conference, with a sufficiently high level of requirements to studies and developments in this field. The best studies and their authors will be distinguished as a result of these conferences. It would allow to not only identify the most interesting and promising TRIZ work, but also to increase the overall level of scientific studies and developments. Holding such conferences in both Russian and English would allow to integrate TRIZ achievements made in different countries.
The tradition of such conferences dates back to 1980, when G.S. Altshuller gathered 20 TRIZ developers — the leading specialists at that time — in Petrozavodsk, Russia. For three days, the meeting participants discussed only the most important issue — how to further TRIZ development; mainly, ARIZ. The outcome of these first lectures was a significant modernization of ARIZ (Algorithm of Inventive Problem Solving), which resulted in the appearance of ARIZ-82; and then, the most powerful version —— ARIZ-85B — which appeared during the life of G. Altshuller.
Subsequently, due to the illness and death of the undisputed leader of the TRIZ community, this utterly important and useful initiative was not continued. Twenty-five years passed, and the problems of collective TRIZ development became obvious.
Two years ago, the initiative group of TRIZ developers, including representatives from Russia (M. Rubin), Israel (V. Petrov) and USA (S. Litvin), proposed to resume the broken tradition. We gave the TRIZ scientific conference the name of "TRIZ Readings" (“TR”).
The first TRs were conducted in July 2005 in Komarovo, a suburb of Saint Petersburg, Russia. The initiative group invited leading TRIZ developers to participate in a topic-specific one-day session. Presenters included the following TRIZ Masters: A. Lyubomirskiy, B. Zlotin, S. Litvin, A. Zusman, V. Petrov, A. Kudriavtsev, A. Podkatilin, V. Gerasimov, A. Kislov, V. Mikhailov, G. Ivanov, M. Rubin, Y. Murashkovsky. Other TRIZ Masters and Specialists in attendance were: V. Mitrofanov, M. Gafitulin, V. Kriachko, S. Ikovenko, A. Selutskiy, A. Guin, K. Sklobovskiy, S. Strizhak, and others. S. Litvin led and facilitated the Readings.
There were a lot of productive and constructive discussions and, according to the unanimous opinion of both the presenters and the attendees, the event was very successful. A decision was made to hold the Readings on a regular basis and on specific topics.
How are the main directions of TRIZ development now viewed, based on the results of TRIZ Readings? The vision presented below is that of the author, it is not representative of the common view of the participants of TRIZ Readings.
The following is considered to be a textbook rule in TRIZ: before rushing into generating ideas, it is necessary to determine what problem we are going to solve. Naturally, this holds true to TRIZ itself, as well.
First, I would like to emphasize that when I write TRIZ in this article I mean only its technical part, i.e. the Theory of Engineering Systems Evolution and the Methodology for Improving Engineering Systems. In this case, Engineering Systems (ES) — Products/Goods and Technological Processes for their manufacture — are the objects of analysis.
The main problem of TRIZ is that the methodology itself and the practices of its application have been in a state of stagnation for a long time. The main signs of this stagnation are the insignificant rates of methodology effectiveness growth, very low level of "implementability" of results of technical TRIZ and, as a consequence, low rates of TRIZ acceptance in science and production sectors. G. S. Altshuller  himself had warned about TRIZ not being ready for mass implementation.
As we know, it is almost pointless to deal with stagnation by using purely cosmetics methods and minor changes. Serious combined efforts of the TRIZ community, understanding of specific reasons for the existing situation, and effective ways for overcoming the crisis are needed. Our task is to make TRIZ more effective and reliable, as well as to make it a mass methodology.
So, what are the problems that hinder TRIZ development and acceptance? And, hence, how should TRIZ develop in order to solve these problems?
1. Weak connection (or complete lack thereof) between engineering solutions and innovations with business problems.
TRIZ was created for — and is geared toward — solving engineering problems. In “real life,” leaders of industrial companies usually don’t fully comprehend any engineering problems. Instead, they always encounter business-related problems: how to raise production volume, how to increase profit, how to take a market segment from competitors, and so forth .
Therefore, for the successful development and effective introduction of TRIZ, it is necessary to build bridges between business problems and engineering problems. This requires the development of new effective methodological tools and their practical application and optimization. There are some newly developed tools representing Business-to-Technology bridges – Main Parameters of Value revealing, Market Trends/Technology Evolution Trends Combined Analysis, Competitive Benchmarking and Landscaping, etc.
2. Solving "incorrect" engineering problems.
Even if a Company knows which particular engineering problem (not a business problem) it wants to have solved, it still does not mean this particular problem (inventive situation according to terminology of G. S. Altshuller) must be subjected to all tools available in ARIZ. According to our statistics, it is just not necessary to solve the vast majority of initial specific problems.
Another important TRIZ direction follows from here: the preliminary analysis of an engineering system with the aim to identify underlying key problems that hinder its improvement. By the way, a key problem often turns out to be so simple that a solution for it is obvious, and does not require use of powerful TRIZ tools.
In this case, the TRIZ paradigm is actually changed — the Theory of Engineering Systems Improvement appears instead of the Theory of Inventive Problems Solving.
3. Non-resolved contradiction between the effectiveness (strength) of an engineering solution and ease of its implementation.
This contradiction is inherent in TRIZ itself. On one hand, the most powerful and effective solutions (of the 3–4 levels according to the scale proposed by G. S. Altshuller) imply serious changes of design, technology or even operating principle of an ES. On the other hand, the orientation of ARIZ on a mini-problem requires minimum changes in an initial ES; this fact is exceptionally important for the facilitation of engineering solution implementation.
In connection with this, one of the most important TRIZ directions is the creation and optimization of a methodology that would allow obtaining not only simple ideas as engineering solutions (including engineering solutions of a very high level), but also ready-made technologies, which exist in other fields of engineering and which could be transferred to the initial ES. This direction of TRIZ development is presented by the Function-Oriented Search technique .
This is actually a paradigm shift of not only TRIZ, but also of the notion of inventive activity on the whole; instead of devising a new idea with subsequent painful long-term implementation, it is possible to search for ready-made solutions and transfer them to a required field.
4. The virtual and impractical nature of TRIZ results.
What represents a result of work according to TRIZ? Of course, it is a new engineering solution, an idea; however, the real world is changed not by new ideas, but by new Products and Technologies. Unfortunately, the statistics of TRIZ solutions implementation are rather unpromising. One of the main reasons is that many secondary problems arise during implementation of even the most wonderful idea. For a production facility, where an idea is implemented, each such problem is a dead-lock — the idea does not work!
Hence another important direction of TRIZ development follows: the creation and optimization of methodology for forecasting and solving secondary problems, "implementation follow-up." The example of such a tool is Failure Anticipation Analysis.
5. Insufficient effectiveness of TRIZ tools.
The modern TRIZ-based creative work is an "exact science" (using the terminology proposed by G. S. Altshuller) in no more than 75-80% of the effort. The other 20-25% represents talent, skill, assiduousness, and so forth. This manifests itself in insufficient reproducibility of TRIZ results (for example, try to ask 10 different TRIZ experts to draw an S-Curve of evolution, or a Su-Field model of the same ES), low effectiveness of training, and minimal number of successful TRIZ companies.
As of today, the following possible ways for solving this problem are:
· Upgrading the effectiveness of existing TRIZ tools (micro-algorithms of ARIZ steps, specific mechanisms of the Trends of ES Evolution, and so forth).
· Introduction of new effective tools where the gap between available recommendations is too wide (specific problem solving tool selection recommendations, Trimming technique, Feature Transfer, TRIZ Benchmarking, Parallel Lines of Evolution, SuperEffect technique, Directed Evolution, etc.).
· Establishment of TRIZ working teams led by TRIZ Masters who would ensure guaranteed high level of results.
6. TRIZ orientation on an individual user or inventor.
Today’s innovation process is fundamentally based on team work. Even the greatest TRIZ expert cannot single-handedly carry out a survey of competing products and technologies, analysis on compliance with the Trends of ES Evolution, function analysis, identification of key problems, solving of these problems, substantiation of effectiveness of proposed ideas, and so forth, in a relatively short period of time.
Hence, another direction for TRIZ development could be the development of a methodology and process for professional collective improvement of ESs.
Of course, I have indicated only a few main TRIZ problems and the appropriate ways for TRIZ development. However, I would like to draw the readers’ attention to the fact that these proposed directions are the result of my practical experience in TRIZ consulting for the last six years.
1. G.Altshuller, (1990), "Prospects for TRIZ Development", TRIZ Magazine, No. 1.2. – pp. 4-5
2. M.Treacy, (2003), “Double-Digit Growth”, Portfolio, USA
3. S.Litvin, (November 2-5, 2004), "New TRIZ-based Tool – Function-Oriented Search", ETRIA Conference TRIZ Future 2004., Florence, Italy.