TRIZ – Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

An introduction to TRIZ

The theory of inventive problem solving or TRIZ is an interesting and unique problem-solving and innovation technique. I will explain the method in a fun way. Not just that, I will try to provide some examples to you from my past experience using this method. Since I have published case studies, articles, and papers on TRIZ, I shall also share the same on this page. So bookmark the page.

If you have tried TRIZ already, here is a classical TRIZ contradiction Matrix tool for you to find solutions to your contradictions – better, faster and smarter.

How do we look and try to solve our problems?

Generally, everyone thinks in his or her circle of concern. This circle of concerns is either of the four – emotional, intellectual, social, or technical. But when our interest is to find out a solution for any problem relating to any particular technical field this becomes rather more obvious and clear that we tend to search into our field of expertise to find a better way or solution for anything. I shall explain this with a joke I heard when I was doing my Engineering:-

Once 4 engineers were traveling in a car. One was from mechanical, another from electrical, third one was chemical and last one was Computer science engineering btream. Suddenly the car stopped. Everyone was puzzled.

Mechanical engineer suggested that that there is some problem with the engine. Electrical wngineer suggested that its due to the fault in ignition system.

Chemical engineer said “no-no car was making some strange knocking and the problem was with the fuel.”

Now it was turn of the computer science engineer. He intervened and said that “I think we need to go out and then come in the car (log out and log in).”

The above joke may give you an idea about the “circle of concern” I am talking about, that is everyone tries and looks into his field of expertise for finding a solution to any problem.

A new look at the same thing

This “circle of concern” is called “Psychological Inertia”, which limits even experts to come up with better perhaps “OBVIOUS” solutions (in terms of experts of another field) for any particular problem or improvement.

TRIZ provides a big leap for experts to learn to look beyond their area of expertise. This provides a fresh perspective to the problem and have a generic look at the same problem. Thus, an expert can look at the problem in an abstract fashion and find a similar problem in another field.

Many similar types of problems are solved in different industries or fields of study. The expert can now apply the method of solving the problem in another field and then customize the solution according to his/her need. Thus, it gives a generalized method for solving virtually every problem in any field.

History of TRIZ

TRIZ is a Russian acronym that means “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving”. A Russian Patent Examiner, Mr. Genrich Altshuller, and his friends devised “The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving” – TRIZ method for innovation. They studied over 200,000 patents. They looked for a set of unique problems and the ways these problems were solved. Of these only a small fraction (more precisely only 40,000) had somewhat inventive solutions; the rest were straightforward improvements.

With these studies, Alshuller came up with a systematic approach, termed TRIZ. It was a generalized way of finding out solutions to any technical difficulty or for any further improvements.

TRIZ concept in a nutshell

TRIZ method is a simple four-step method. It has the following steps

  1. Identifying the problem, or finding out opportunities for improvements in the present product, design, etc.
  2. Formulating the problem and searching for similar, previously solved problems with an overview to understand the concept of the solution.
  3. Looking for analogous solution(s) for presently defined problem or conceived improvement.
  4. Applying the best identified analogous solution.

Thus, TRIZ gives a general concept, for virtually every field, to find out opportunities and solutions for problems or improvements sought.

Note – I published this article in 2005 for my one-off blog.