This is the third and final part in a series of blog post on basic Triz. The first blog covered the background and rationale behind Triz and the second blog covered the key Triz concept of contradictions. This blog explains a few of the other Triz tools along with sources for further information.
It is worth repeating Altschuller’s finding that:
- A breakthrough solution is a result of overcoming a contradiction.
- Inventors and strong thinkers use common patterns.
- Creative problem solving patterns are universal across different areas.
- Evol ution of man-made systems follow recognised trends.
In summary, new innovative ideas can be produced by reusing previous experience and the patterns of previous solutions.
ARIZ is a Triz process used to solve complex problems. It is a step-by-step approach that uses a questioning approach and has undergone a number of iterations (1977, 1985 and 1991). However, the approach can be broken down into three main steps that are logical and sensible. Each of the steps makes use of a number of different tools and methods:
Restructure the original problem. Most problems are ill-defined leading to poor, or wrong solutions so this is all about improving the problem definition. Some useful tools include IFR, 5Ws and Nine Windows.
Remove the contradictions. Tricky problems always have contradictions and so resolving those will generate breakthrough solutions. This step uses Technical and Physical Contradictions.
Develop the solutions. Using different tools, you can then develop a solution that is as close to what you want as possible. Some useful tools include System Mapping, Standard Solutions and MCDA.
Ideal Final Result
The Ideal Final Result (IFR) is what you want from the system in an ideal world. In alternative parlance, this might be called a “Need” or a “Requirement” except the the IFR does not have a compromise - it is an ideal and the goal is to get as close to ideal as possible.
It is often stated as an equation where Ideality = sum of all the benefits / sum of all the costs and harms. So, not a million miles from the definition of value for money or return on investment. Hence the reason why Ideality is such a good concept to use in optioneering or the evaluation of alternative where you are trying to get the best you can but spend the least money (or reduce other harms such as environmental or safety factors).
However, one of the very key points to note about the IFR is not the equation but to understand that it is all about an ideal solution. That is a solution to your problem that does not even need a system.
Standard Solutions (sometimes called “Inventive Standards”) are used for developing ideas that improve a system, product, process or technology. These are used for problems where there is no contradiction and it uses the method of breaking a system down into three elements - a subject, an object and a field - and then using the standard solutions to significantly improve the system.
The categories for system improvements are called “classes”:
- Class 1 - Used where you don’t want (or cannot) change the system very much.
- Class 2 - Used where you need to substantially change the system.
- Class 3 - Used when even changing the system won’t be sufficient; you need to change the super-system or a number of the sub-systems.
- Class 4 - Used for systems that measure or detect something.
- Class 5 - Used for fine-tuning and enhancing an already improved system.
Within each class are a set of solutions and with a systematic approach, they can be used to quickly generate ideas that have been proven to improve a similar system before.
These patterns or trends have been categorised into 8 types and attempt to define the life-cycle of a product, process, technology or system. The idea is that, if you can identify where you are on the life-cycle, you can forecast or predict where and how the technology might evolve. The patterns are:
Evolution Toward Increased Ideality
Stages of Technology Evolution
Non-Uniform Development of System Elements
Evolution Toward Increased Dynamism and Controllability
Increased Complexity, Then Simplification
Evolution with Matching and Mismatching Elements
Evolution Toward the Micro-level and Increased Use of Fields
Evolution Toward Decreased Human Involvement
The patterns can, and do, interact with each other (and different experts have come up with different patterns). Clearly they cannot actually predict anything with certainty but they are a very useful method to look at things in a different way to usual and will often provide fresh new insight.
I’ve listed just four Triz tools in this blog but there are many others. The key is using the right tools for the job and this can only come with experience. That said, inexperienced people can use the tools and come up with some good stuff! The point about Triz is that it encourages you to think in a different way to how most of us have been taught or how most teams currently work. It is based on a systematic approach using proven patterns rather than brainstorming based on people's own, imperfect, knowledge. Triz is not a panacea and it still requires scientists, engineers and managers to think hard and bring their experiences to bear to a problem. However by thinking differently and reusing previous knowledge (often from other disciplines or industries) you can very quickly come up with high quality potential solutions to your problem(s) that you would not have achieved otherwise. It is both efficient and effective.
There is a huge amount of information available on Triz if you want to know more and some useful starting points are listed below.
All of these articles are from the Triz Journal which is a huge, free, resource of Triz-related information.
Another source (plug!) is to look at my book “Successful Problem Solving for Complex Technical Challenges”, Ian E Seed, 2016 and available to purchase from the Cogentus website or Amazon. It isn’t exactly a Triz book but does have many of the tools explained in detail including examples (plus detailed references for further research if required). The book integrates Triz with other tools and methods and explains the process from problem definition, through to ideas generation (potential solutions) and finally the evaluation of the potential solutions.
Finally, our Idea Catalog is available that includes a number of Triz elements with examples. This is particularly aimed at Technologies and is designed to see what others have already done in a particular field to avoid reinventing the wheel or to build on what already exists.