Jan 7

More about the Tongs Model

As promised some time ago, I’d like to share a some more on a powerful yet simple TRIZ tool which I recently talked about at the European TRIZ Association Conference in Bergamo, Italy. The specific topic I presented related to the ā€œTongsā€ model, which is primarily intended to help learners new to TRIZ to start to useĀ basic TRIZ concepts and to develop their TRIZ skills. The word ā€œTongsā€ is not an acronym but instead refers to the way the model helps the user to get to grips with and manipulate a problem situation quickly and effectively – as an analogy to how Tongs are used to manipulate objects in the physical world. According the OTSM Axiom of a root of problem, fundamentally, any problem situation can be described as a conflict between human desire and objective factors or natural laws. An example of an objective factor or natural law is the law of gravity; our desire to fly like the birds is limited by gravity.

In the Tongs model we start with a statement of where we are now (the Initial Situation or IS) and we detail what the key negative effect of this might be. For example, I might be unhappy about washing the dishes after a family meal because it takes a lot of time. We then state a ā€œMost Desirable Resultā€ (MDR), that is, what we would wish for if we had a magic wand to wave over the problem situation. In the example of washing the dishes, maybe I wish that after use, the dirt simply disappears! Next we explore the barrier which prevents us from achieving the MDR; in the case of the dirty dishes, there is no means for the dirt to disappear by itself. Next we suggest a partial solution or explanation of how the dishes might be able to clean themselves ā€“ perhaps there is a removable layer on the dish which can be peeled off, removing the dirt from the dish surface. We can now iterate the model, creating a new IS and MDR and repeat the process, until we get very close to the MDR we have stated. Incidentally a potential solution which appears fairly quickly through this analysis is dishes made from many removable layers. This type of dish is often used in camping.
When used with other tools to break psychological inertia, Iā€™ve found the Tongs modelĀ helps TRIZ novices to develop their understanding of their problem rapidly and to improve the quality of the solutions they propose. Why not try it out and let me know how you get on?

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