This is the second part of a three-part blog on Triz. The first blog covered the background to Triz and its foundation in learning from previous experience and not inventing the wheel.
One of the key elements to Triz is the concept of contradictions. A contradiction is a combination of elements or things that are opposed to one another and it this inconsistency that makes a problem challenging to solve.
Triz defines two types of contradictions. One is when as one parameter improves another parameter gets worse. An example might be that to make a structure stronger you add more material and that makes it heavier. So the parameter that improves is strength and the one that gets worse is weight. One way to approach this type of contradiction is simply to trade off strength with weight - in other words maximise the strength for a given weight. Triz suggests an alternative approach where there is no trade off. You design it in a different way.
One of the most innovative concepts in Triz is the categorization of solutions. In his analysis of patents and the contradictions they solved, Altshuller bundled the solutions into 40 types. These are called “Inventive Principles”. The inference being, that a solution should be available from one of those 40 types. From his research, he produced at matrix of 39 parameters and plotted the inventive principles that solved each of the contradictions. These are called “Technical Contradictions”.
The second type of contradiction is where the parameters are completely opposite. For example, if you have a cup of coffee you want the coffee to be hot but the cup itself to be cold enough to hold. You need it both hot and cold. This type of contradiction concerns both time and place; in the case of a coffee cup you need it to be hot and cold at the same time and in the same place. For other contradictions, it might happen at the same time but a different place. And for others at the same place but a different time. Altshuller identified the Inventive Principles that would solve these types of contradictions and bundled them into 6 different categories. These are called “Physical Contradictions” and are solved by separating the contradiction.
These two tools are incredibly powerful and can be used effectively to solve challenging problems without needing to trade off parameters against each other.
They do take some effort to learn, but it is well worth the investment in time as they can get to solutions (or potential solutions) in record time. A matter of minutes or hours rather than days or weeks. The speed with which people can develop workable ideas is astonishing - it is just a different way of thinking about things.
There is a lot of information available on the internet for further research. If you are interested, our Idea Catalog has an extensive library of the 40 Inventive Principles (currently 670) along with tools for Technical Contradictions and Physical Contradictions. You have to register to use but it is free.