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TRIZ (pronounced [treez]) is a Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TIPS) developed by Genrich Altshuller and his colleagues. TRIZ is a Russian acronym for "Teoriya Resheniya Izobreatatelskikh Zadatch".
Is it possible to learn to be an inventor? Russian engineer and scientist Genrich S. Altshuller believed that it is - and to prove it, he developed TRIZ, a theory and practice of the art and science of invention. His results are being applied to solve creative invention problems in all branches of engineering and even in non-technical fields.
G. S. Altshuller began to develop TRIZ methodology while working in USSR patent office at the time of Stalin. He and his colleagues analyzed in detail over 200,000 patents in order to find out in what way the innovation had taken place. Incarcerated under political charges, he continued his work in TRIZ while in Gulag. He eventually developed 40 Principles of Invention, several Laws of the Evolution of Technical Systems, the concepts of Technical and Physical Contradictions that creative inventions resolve, the concept of Ideality of a system and numerous other theoretical and practical approaches; together, this extensive work represents a unique contribution to the development of creativity and inventive problem-solving.
Identifying a problem: contradictions
A problem, says Edward de Bono, is simply "the difference between what we have and what we want". Altshuller believed that problems stem from Contradictions (one of the basic TRIZ concepts) or tradeoffs between two or more elements, such as "If we want more acceleration, we need a larger engine - but that will increase the cost of the car". That is, more of something desirable also brings more of something else undesirable, or less of something else also desirable. These are called Technical Contradictions by Altshuller. He also defined so-called Physical or inherent contradictions: we may need at the same time more and less of something. For instance, we may need higher temperature in order to melt a compound more rapidly, but less temperature in order to achieve a homogeneous mixture.
An inventive situation might involve several such contradictions. The inventor typically does not resolve a contradiction by stepping in the middle of the tradeoff -for that, no special inventivity is needed. Rather, he develops some creative approach for dissolving the contradiction: for instance, he would invent an engine that does produce more acceleration without increasing the cost of the engine.
Inventive principles and the matrix of contradictions
Genrich S. Altshuller screened patents in order to find out what kind of contradictions were resolved or dissolved by the invention and the way this had been achieved. From this, he developed a set of 40 inventive principles and later a Matrix of Contradictions. Rows of the matrix indicate the 39 features that one typically wants to improve, such as speed, weight, accuracy of measurement and so on. Columns refer to typical undesired results. Each matrix cell points to principles that have been most frequently used in patents in order to resolve the contradiction.
For instance, Dolgashev (see its "Table of Contradictions" java script ) mentions the following contradiction: to increase accuracy of measurement of machined balls without incurring in expensive microscopes and control equipment. The matrix cell in row "accuracy of measurement" and column "complexity of control" points to several principles, among them the Copying Principle, which states "Use a simple and inexpensive / optical / copy (with a suitable scale) instead of an object which is complex, expensive, fragile or inconvenient to operate". From this general invention principle, the following idea might solve the problem: take a high-resolution image of the machined ball. A screen with a grid might provide the required measurement.
Laws of technical systems evolution
Altshuller also studied the way technical systems have been developed and improved over time. From this, he discovered several trends ( so called Laws of Technical Systems Evolution) that help engineers to predict what are the most likely improvements that can be made to a given product. The most important of these laws involves the ideality of a system (another basic TRIZ concept).
Law of increasing ideality
The ideality of a system is a qualitative ratio between all desirable benefits of the system, and its cost or other harmful effects. When trying to decide how to improve a given invention, one naturally would attempt to increase ideality: either to increase beneficial features, or else to decrease cost or reduce harmful effects. The Ideal Ultimate Solution would have all the benefits at zero cost. That cannot be achieved; the law states, however, that successive versions of a technical design usually increase ideality.
Rantanen (2002) mentions a surprising example where the ideal ultimate system is about to be achieved. The problem addressed is "improve the muffler of a gasoline engine lawn mower such as it makes less noise". But looking at the system the lawn mower serves, the real problem is how to get the grass to be short without making much noise. The ideal solution thus is to make lawn mowers unnecessary, by purchasing transgenic seeds that produce short grass which does not grow too much! These seeds have not been invented yet, but given the accelerating pace of transgenic development, they might soon.
Other laws of technical systems evolution
One more technique that is frequently used by inventors involves the analysis of substances, fields and other resources that are currently not being used and that can be found within the system or nearby. Note, that TRIZ uses non-standard definition for substances and fields. G.S. Altshuller developed methods to analyze resources; several of his invention principles involve the use of different substances and fields that help resolve contradictions and increase ideality of a technical system. For instance, videotext systems utilized television signals to transfer data, by taking advantage of the small time segments between TV frames in the signals.
ARIZ - algorithm of inventive problem solving
TODO: actual examples of use of TRIZ in industry. Managerial and other non-technical examples.
There are several other approaches that purportedly help develop the inventive power of our minds. Most of them are quite heuristical.
TODO: briefly review their shortcomings and weak sides. Compare with TRIZ so as to increase NPOVness of this article...
Evolution of technical systems:
Development of creative personality:
- Altshuller, Henry. 1994. The Art of Inventing (And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared). Translated by Lev Shulyak. Worcester, MA: Technical Innovation Center. ISBN 0-9640740-1-X
- Savransky, Semyon D. Engineering of Creativity: Introduction to TRIZ Methodology of Inventive Problem Solving. Boca Raton : CRC Press, 2000, 408 pages, ISBN 0849322553
- Rantanen, Kalevi & Domb, Ellen. Simplified TRIZ : New Problem-Solving Applications For Engineers & Manufacturing Professionals. Boca Raton : St. Lucie Press, c2002
- Altshuller Institute for TRIZ studies
- TRIZ Journal
- TRIZ Experts
- Interactive TRIZ Matrix
- Glenn Mazur's TRIZ page
- TRIZ Austria
- TRIZ Switzerland
Commercial TRIZ software
- TRIZ Contrasolve