Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ)

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Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) - short version

An innovation methodology that uses a proven matrix of generic solutions to solve specific problems.

Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) - long version

Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) or known as TIPS is "a problem-solving, analysis and forecasting tool derived from the study of patterns of invention in the global patent literature". It was developed by the Soviet inventor and science fiction author Genrich Altshuller and his colleagues, beginning in 1946. Following Altshuller's insight, the theory developed on a foundation of extensive research covering hundreds of thousands of inventions across many different fields to produce a theory which defines generalisable patterns in the nature of inventive solutions and the distinguishing characteristics of the problems that these inventions have overcome.

An important part of the theory has been devoted to revealing patterns of evolution and one of the objectives which has been pursued by leading practitioners of TRIZ has been the development of an algorithmic approach to the invention of new systems, and the refinement of existing ones. The theory includes a practical methodology, tool sets, a knowledge base, and model-based technology for generating new ideas and solutions for problem solving. It is intended for application in problem formulation, system analysis, failure analysis, and patterns of system evolution.

TRIZ presents a systematic approach for analysing the kind of challenging problems where inventiveness is needed and provides a range of strategies and tools for finding inventive solutions. One of the earliest findings of the massive research on which the theory is based is that the vast majority of problems that require inventive solutions typically reflect a need to overcome a dilemma or a trade-off between two contradictory elements. The central purpose of TRIZ-based analysis is to systematically apply the strategies and tools to find superior solutions that overcome the need for a compromise or trade-off between the two elements.

By the early 1970s two decades of research covering hundreds of thousands of patents had confirmed Altshuller's initial insight about the patterns of inventive solutions and one of the first analytical tools was published in the form of 40 inventive principles, which could account for virtually all of those patents that presented truly inventive solutions. Following this approach the "Typical solution" shown in the diagram can be found by defining the contradiction which needs to be resolved and systematically considering which of the 40 principles may be applied to provide a specific solution which will overcome the "contradiction" in the problem at hand, enabling a solution that is closer to the "ultimate ideal result".

The combination of all of these concepts together – the analysis of the contradiction, the pursuit of an ideal solution and the search for one or more of the principles which will overcome the contradiction, are the key elements in a process which is designed to help the inventor to engage in the process with purposefulness and focus.

One of the tools which evolved as an extension of the 40 principles was a contradiction matrix in which the contradictory elements of a problem were categorized according to a list of 39 factors which could impact on each other. The combination of each pairing of these 39 elements is set out in a matrix (for example, the weight of a stationary object, the use of energy by a moving object, the ease of repair etc.) Each of the 39 elements is represented down the rows and across the columns (as the negatively affected element) and based upon the research and analysis of patents, wherever precedent solutions have been found that resolve a conflict between two of the elements the relevant cells in the matrix typically contain a sub-set of three or four principles that have been applied most frequently in inventive solutions which resolve contradictions between those two elements.

The main objective of the contradiction matrix was to simplify the process of selecting the most appropriate Principle to resolve a specific contradiction. It was the core of all modifications of ARIZ till 1973. But in 1973, after introducing the concept of physical contradictions and creating SuField analysis, Altshuller realized that the contradiction matrix was comparatively an inefficient tool and stopped working on it. Beginning ARIZ-71c contradiction matrix ceased to be the core of ARIZ and therefore was not a tool for solving inventive problems that Altshuller believed should be pursued. Physical contradictions and separation principles as well as SuField analysis, etc became the core. Despite this, the 40 principles has remained the most popular tool taught in introductory seminars and has consistently attracted the most attention amongst the tens of thousands of individuals who visit TRIZ-focused web sites in a typical month. Therefore, many of those who learn TRIZ or have attended seminars are taught quite wrongly that TRIZ is primarily composed of the 40 principles and contradiction matrix, the truth is ARIZ is the core methodology of TRIZ.

ARIZ is an algorithmic approach to finding inventive solutions by identifying and resolving contradictions. This includes the "system of inventive standards solutions" which Altshuller used to replace the 40 principles and contradiction matrix, it consists of SuField modeling and the 76 inventive standards. A number of TRIZ-based computer programs have been developed whose purpose is to provide assistance to engineers and inventors in finding inventive solutions for technological problems. Some of these programs are also designed to apply another TRIZ methodology whose purpose is to reveal and forecast emergency situations and to anticipate circumstances which could result in undesirable outcomes.

One of the important branches of TRIZ is focused on analysing and predicting trends of evolution in the characteristics that existing solutions are likely to develop in successive generations of a system.


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