Posted by: Winslie Gomez | 17/05/2007


 Review by Winslie Gomez for Multimedia Communication Class
Russian language acronym for
‘Teoriya Resheniya Izobreatatelskikh Zadatch’: 

‘The theory of creative problem solving’ or ‘inventive problem solving’

TRIZ (pronounced ‘Trreeez’)

 “Altshuller wrote: good results are only possible with a high culture of thinking.  Scientists, builders and inventors need strong and lively powers of imagination.  Unfortunately, many people have a very low imaginative potential.  It is possible that the application of laws, procedures and standards can be diametrically opposed to – flights of fantasy.  The entire apparatus of TRIZ is intended to support strong and easily controllable powers of imagination.” (Inv Thinking Through TRIZ. M A Orloff  Pg 251.
ISBN/ISSN  3540440186. Berlin ; London : Springer, c2003)

The review looks at three papers:

1. The real world:  TRIZ in two hours for undergraduate and masters level students! By Dr R. Filmore

2. Inventive Problem Solving by Ray Girvan

3. WHAT IS TRIZ? By Eric Spain

1. The real world:  TRIZ in two hours for undergraduate and masters level students! By Dr R. Filmore
Publication/ Conference Proceedings of TRIZCONF2006, Milwaukee, USA, 29 April – 1 May 2006 
Dr. Paul R. Filmore
School of Computing, Communications & Electronics
University of Plymouth, UK

Abstract The reality of overloaded university syllabi is very limited time for introducing challenging and comprehensive concepts like TRIZ. This paper shares experience and knowledge, based on five years of ‘teaching’ TRIZ in the UK. Key areas covered are:-
•  Creating a need in the student to learn more e.g., demonstrate that TRIZ has more potential than student’s other present problem solving strategies
•  Using an interesting learning case study; researched by the author with Michelin (USA): the Tweel
•  Reporting the use of a computer assessment based on the lecture and self study. The assessment focuses students to access an electronic TRIZ book, electronic resources and the internet, to self study greater understanding of TRIZ (NB this is one way to get around limited timetabled lecture time). Results from student perceptions of their understanding of TRIZ and of experiencing a rich learning environment, are also examined. Results from undergraduate and MSc student cohorts who have undertaken a TRIZ learning experience designed around the above, demonstrate a high appreciation of the potential of TRIZ and a measurable level of understanding.  

Dr Filmore is concerned with how TRIZ can be taught as an academic subject and the paper deals primarily with his findings.  It is interesting to note e.g. 

As can be seen (and expected) the MSc students on the whole had higher average marks.

Not so expected was that quite a few undergraduates gained marks higher than the best MSc students!

This is interesting because while academia digs deep, its scope is narrow in that each individual specialize in a particular topic within a particular field within a discipline.

An inventor however, must have a broad and varied knowledge base.

Dr Filmore is positive about teaching TRIZ as a subject to undergraduates and one can sense his passion.

In constructing a learning experience around TRIZ, the following are some of the key areas. Which were introduced to lay the foundations on which TRIZ tools could be established?
1. The background of patents being one of human kind’s greatest sources of creativity and how these were analysed by Altshuller (TRIZ history)
2. Making students aware of what happens when they cannot solve a problem  (By giving problems that require ‘thinking outside the box’) and so developing the awareness that a problem is often only a problem when one’s own mind is limiting the ‘solution space’ etc.
3. Further reinforcing the awareness of how we naturally (as we are human) are affected by psychological issues and how TRIZ can help get around these mental barriers.
4. Developing an awareness of the difference between ‘incremental’ and breakthrough innovation’ and so show how TRIZ can take students outside their own ‘thinking space/ limitations’ and thus develop solutions which they would unlikely be able to do generate.
5. Show examples of good TRIZ results (cases and examples) that students can identify with and become aware of the power of TRIZ (i.e., realise that they would not have thought of such solutions and that somehow the solutions are a ‘leap forward’). Also thus for the student to realise that TRIZ has more potential than their present problem solving strategies.
6. Introduce TRIZ theory in such a way that students can feel that they can adopt it and that when they try using the tools, they work i.e., approachable and non-threatening!

The Ideal Final Result (IFR) tool was used to highlight its ability to challenge engineers and managers to break out of ‘continuous improvement’/ incremental change thinking, to which most organisations are prone. The IFR is defined in terms of ‘ideality’ (which is where technological evolution migrates towards). The history of the definition was introduced, adapted from the value equation of Value Analysis and Engineering in the early 1950’s (Rantanen & Domb, 2002):

Ideality = (Perceived) Σ Benefits (Σ Costs + Σ Harm)

i.e., an ideal system would then have all the (Σ = ‘sum of’) benefits without any cost or harmful effects. Features could include: being free, self calibrating, self cleaning, self regenerating, self regulating etc.

A powerful learning environment has been developed and discussed, which has resulted in a measured high appreciation of the potential of TRIZ. From student feedback, it is clear that many will look to use TRIZ in the future. Central to the delivery of the learning experience are quality TRIZ case studies. These need to be made available to the education sector for every relevant subject discipline. The TRIZ community has the responsibility to help with this, if it is committed to the growth in adoption of TRIZ.

2.Inventive Problem Solving by Ray Girvan

Girvan on the other hand begins with a brief history of the founder Genrich Altshuller and traces the history in time, across continents and the part the changing economics affect the growthg of TRIZ.

He also introduces us to products that are spin off’s:

TriSolver Professional, the ‘Idea Generator and Manager’ originally developed as an in-house tool for the TriSolver Group, Hannover, is more typical. Its function is to act as an ‘idea pool’ for managing material, perhaps generated during a brainstorming workshop, in multiple document formats such as PDF, Word, Excel, and HTML. As with TRIZ Explorer, this is coupled with a categorised tree of TRIZ concepts, but with further tools such as the TRIZ Contradiction Matrix and TriSolver’s adaptation of ARIZ. TriSolver’s customer base is largely within Germany, but it comes in German and English versions.

As well as
Innovation Machine, based in Boston, has a narrower brief, specialising in supporting the pre-CAD stage of technical development.

He also points to a different point of view which brings some balance into the flowery success language of TRIZ

The TRIZ market has its dissidents, notably Yevgeny Karasik, one of Altshuller’s ex-students and a classical Triznik, who is highly critical of current offshoots from the original vision of a general, non-computerised, approach to innovation. He notes that ‘There is still no proof that algorithmisation of problem solving – an art – is achievable. Altshuller’s research technique is hard to reproduce effectively, as nobody is as good at formalising the intuitive process of extracting interesting and novel inventions from the ocean of all inventions. However, that aim is appealing; there’s an objective necessity to significantly improve the innovation process in industry. TRIZ (and all its modifications) promises to fill that vacuum; that is why it finds clients.’
Though Karasik is in a minority, I think he acts as a very necessary gadfly in ridiculing the excessive claims for TRIZ, such as the fallacious argument of retrofitting it to innovations found in other ways (‘TRIZ would have done it this way, therefore TRIZ works’). Another problem is finding case studies. Despite the many major companies cited as using it, it’s hard to find concrete examples akin to those, say, publicising particular applications of mathematics packages. TRIZ suppliers argue that this is largely down to issues of company secrecy over intellectual property. Brian Campbell, Innovation Engineer for Creax, told me: ‘We do need more case studies to improve the credibility of TRIZ. But some people are coming forward, such as Ian Mitchell of Ilford Imaging – a small company, showing it’s not just for corporates – who documented how he used TechOptimizer to improve a photo emulsion coating process.’
‘The key drawback, to my mind, is the name,’ Campbell added. ‘The fact that it’s a Russian acronym doesn’t help; the literal translation is inaccurate. While it’s inventive, it’s not merely a theory; it has solid empirical backing. And it can be applied to more than problem solving. Current trends are to apply it to wider issues such as social and business, and to incorporate it into Six Sigma [the quality management system used successfully by Motorola and other US companies]. On the UK academic circuit, Darell Mann [Creax director and president of the European TRIZ Association] is using it at the University of Bath, and the Plymouth University BSc/BEng course is starting to teach TRIZ alongside other systems, such as brainstorming and Quality Function Deployment, for solving design problems. Our inaugural meeting of TRIZ South-West, a regional group to discuss TRIZ, was there on December 3rd.’
This still leaves me with doubts about the fringes of TRIZ, such as its application to politics, or claims that it could have predicted the 9/11 World Trade Centre attack. However, its strengths in its core area of scientific and technical innovation look very tangible.

3. WHAT IS TRIZ? By Eric Spain 

Associate Member:HKIVM. Hong Kong
‘He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils for Time is the greatest innovator’.   Francis Bacon (1625)

There is nothing more difficult to carry out, not more doubtful of success, not more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.  For the reformer has enemies in all who profit from the old and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order.  Machiavelli (1560)

Spain begins with the history: 

The ‘inventor’ (or perhaps, ‘discoverer’) of TRIZ was Genrich Altshuller who was born in 1926 and whose his first invention, for obtaining hydrogen from hydrogen peroxide, was filed when he was 14 years old.

As a mechanical engineer, he developed a conviction that there should be a standard method for problem solving that would be:

1.  systematic: step by step;
2.  a process from broad solutions to specific solutions;
3.  repeatable and not dependent upon psychological tools (e.g. ‘brainstorming’);
4.  create a body of inventive knowledge for future access;
5.  teachable

From 1946-48, he served in the Russian navy as ‘Inspector of Inventing’ and was able to explore this conviction by studying the patents lodged by inventors.  This was made relatively easy in that all inventions were owned by the state and the inventor was issued with a single-page ‘Author’s Certificate’. Thus, Altshuller, together with another, Raphael Shapiro, were able to go through 200,000 patents and reduce them to 40,000 for their study.

This not only strengthened Altshuller’s convictions but also enabled him to start developing a process. With a sense of patriotism, they wrote to Stalin explaining how Soviet engineers and scientists could do better. The result was arrest, torture and a sentence of 25 years in Siberia for attempting to undermine the state. (See Machiavelli!).

In 1953, Stalin died and, in 1956, Altshuller published his first article on TRIZ.  During the period 1974 – 85, he wrote over 14 books and published in education and the media.  For children, there was a regular TV show and a book ‘And Suddenly an Inventor Appeared’.  The notion of education for innovation was far ahead in Russia than in the west and it was not until 1985 when two ‘followers’ migrated to the USA, that anyone outside Russia had taken any notice.

If you try to improve any parameter, others worsen.  ‘Engineering’ is usually, therefore, finding the optimum set of compromises.

By analysing the patents,  Altschuller, was able to identify what inventors had done to stop one parameter getting worse at the expense of another and listed the ‘40 inventive principles’.

The status of TRIZ Girvan’s summary is precise.

TRIZ is a set of tools to aid innovation that is still not widely known.  The whole ‘edifice’ of TRIZ is complex and takes a long time to master but the experience of many teachers is that remarkable results can be achieved in quite short courses.

The main barrier to being more widely used comes down to the basic one affecting all thinking tools including Value Management:  the widespread lack of understanding of the value of giving time to them. Managers want action!

Anyone in the area of thinking processes – including Value Management practitioners – must be struck by Altshuller’s finding that 95% of ‘new problems’ have already been solved – probably many times over.  Do we spend most of our time ‘reinventing a wheel’?

I have found this a stimulating subject and a shortcut to problem solving and the been influenced just as much as George Polya of the school of Heuristics

This course Multimedia Communication Class has both been challenging and opened up a whole new world of blogging through David V. Boles.

Thank you.


  1. Who is this “David V. Boles” person you mention?

    He sounds like a fellow I’d love to meet — I’d follow the hotlink but it leads to nowhere! :mrgreen:

    Best Wishes,

    David W. Boles

  2. David,
    Glad you asked; amazingly bears the same name to yourself. Even go so far as to say, the two of you would have so much in common.

    Never met him myself nor seen an image.

    All I can say, that I was attracted to his site because of the layout of the page, the image and above all the arresting title “Urban Semiotic” plus the meaning to that title, of course.

    Thanks for dropping by. Fixed the link!

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