Archive for the 'TRIZ concepts' Category

More about the Tongs Model

January 07th, 2011 | Category: Problem solving,TRIZ,TRIZ concepts

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 ‚ÄúTongs‚ÄĚ model, which is primarily intended to help learners new to TRIZ to start to use¬†basic TRIZ concepts and to develop their TRIZ skills. The word ‚ÄúTongs‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúMost Desirable Result‚ÄĚ (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 ‚Äď 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, I’ve found the Tongs model 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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The power of targeted thinking and effective use of resources

I’ve recently been exposed to some new tools in the area of TRIZ analysis. One specific topic which I will discuss further in future posts concerns the TONGS (or Reality-Goal) model for problem definition. This really is a deceptively strong way of approaching a problem situation and getting to the core of the real conflict. The other topic I’ve been working with recently is new ways to expand problem solving¬†insights around use of system resources. Based on previous work done by a number of TRIZ masters, I’ve developed my own tool for systematically examining system resources and identifying particularly powerful resources, which already exist within a problem situation¬†to solve the problem. ¬†Using this tool on a few problem situations, I’ve been struck by the way the resources “light up” as their hidden functional, energy field, form, parameter and time resources become clear. Just one quick example of the power of resources to solve a problem without compromise: several years ago a robotic systems manufacturer was struggling to lubricate a carriage which was sliding on a boom in a clean room environment. The problem was that no oil could be used in a clean room situation, so how to lubricate the carriage? The answer, derived after many months of research, was to cool the boom locally so that just enough atmospheric water vapour condensed onto the boom in the best places to lubricate the carriage. This solution gives a small insight into the sort of resources which are often hidden in our problem situations and which can be used advantageously to solve problems.

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Artificial retina follows TRIZ line of evolution

August 07th, 2008 | Category: Technology trend,TRIZ,TRIZ concepts,TRIZ tools

Further to my previous posting on the BMW GINA concept car, I’ve just been reading an article in New Scientist about an example of increasing flexibility of form in vision systems. Going back many years, the first light sensitive¬†devices were composed of a single photo-transistor (1 point detection). Later, charge coupled devices (CCDs) were developed, initially in single row, line form (1 dimension or line). Later still CCDs were developed in a two dimensional flat array. Over time this basic format has been developed so that the number of devices has greatly increased, leading to far better image resolution. Until now, however, the CCD has remained two dimensional,¬†bringing increased complexity in the lens and focusing system and restricting field of view (compared to the human eye). According to the article, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign have created a hemispherical CCD. They have done this by slicing off the detection portion of a normal CCD and cutting fine holes in it to form an ultra-thin mesh. This mesh is then formed over a special elastic hemispherical former and then placed in a hemispherical support to create an artificial retina. A very neat example of theTRIZ law of increasing flexibility applied to shape and surface.

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How to target profitable innovation areas with TRIZ

July 28th, 2008 | Category: Technology trend,Trends,TRIZ concepts,TRIZ tools

One of the most basic and frequently observed TRIZ laws is the law of non-uniform evolution of technical system components. This law states that within any technological system, the various system components evolve along their own S-curves at non-uniform rates. This non-uniform evolution causes the development of System Conflicts. Put another way, this law predicts that systems will have areas of perfomance which are not good enough. If you follow the Clayton Cristensen line of reasoning, as outlined in the Innovator’s Solution, the companies who work on these areas and consistently advance these areas will be able to make bigger profits. So, the law of non-uniform evolution can really help you target the most profitable product areas for your business in future. Here are a couple of examples of technological systems where this law is being or has been played out. First an historical one, the evolution of the bicycle:


In this picture from the¬†1890s¬†you can see three different formats of bicycle being used at the same time. On the left is a safety bicycle with chain drive, but solid tyres, in the centre is a lever drive bike, allowing the rider to sit further back and lower. On the right is an “Ordinary” bicycle with pedals directly driving the front wheel. Although this bicycle is the most primitive format, it has the most modern tyres – pneumatic. To get to the final format of bicycle which we recognise today, many system conflicts were overcome. A key system conflict in the “Ordinary” format was the need for increased speed against rider safety, which resulted in a very large front wheel with severe risk of injury in the event of a fall.


Now lets look at a current example which is getting a lot of press right now because of the rising cost of fuel and fears about global warming. The electic/hybrid vehicle: A key system conflict being played out right now in this area relates to the performance of the battery system. Right now the latest battery technology is too expensive and the infrastructure is not in place to support long journeys.¬†As a result,¬†many manufacturers are targeting plug-in hybrid vehicles, which require more complexity and still generate emissions and use up fuel. I’ve just read in the Sunday Times that GM is planning to bring the development of battery technology in-house which backs up the Cristensen model. Clearly, whoever manages to take battery technology forward sufficiently to break through the current system conflict will be able to generate very healthy margins.


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BMW GINA concept demonstrates TRIZ law of increasing flexibility

July 25th, 2008 | Category: Interesting stuff,TRIZ,TRIZ concepts,TRIZ tools


I’ve just come across the BMW GINA concept car, see this¬†video¬†and it made me wonder if it could be the next step on the line of increasing flexibility for the automobile body. According to the TRIZ laws of technological system evolution, you can predict potential next steps¬†for¬†technological system evolution. The line of increasing flexibility¬†for any technical¬†system¬†starts with a “stiff” system, then moves onto a one joint system, a multi-joint system, an elastomeric system, a fluid based system and finally to a system based on a field¬†interaction.¬†If you refer back to my example of¬†aircraft control surfaces, you can see many of these at play. In the case of the car body, originally the car had a rigid one-piece body. Very quickly this evolved into a segmented body with an opening to access the engine. Later further hinged sections were introduced for doors, truck, roof, windows and lights. The GINA appears to emply an elastomeric outer shell on a rigid skeletal structure. The full line of evolution can be show as follows:



The new age of innovation?

I’ve just watched C.K. Prahalad being interviewed on Business Week, talking about his new book “The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks” Prahalad talks about the new needs of innovation being driven by four big changes in the competitive landscape:

1. Global connectivity, where up to 4 billion people will be on-line

2. Digital technologies becoming more available through increased convenience and lower cost

3. Convergence of industry boundaries and technologies, e.g. a cell phone is also a computer a watch and a camera

4. Evolution of social networks

In Prahalad’s view this is driving big shifts in innovation away from industrial revolution thinking, where the key considerations of innovation were the form and product as the source of value, to a situation where one consumer has a very personalised experience provided from a concentration of a¬†very broad range of resources. An example of this is the iPod, where a user builds¬†his or her¬†own very personalised experience while Apple (who don’t¬†manufacture the¬†device or prepare the content) facilitates this by bringing together a wide range of resources from aroung the world. This Prahalad, rather snappily, describes as “N=1, R=G”. He goes on to contrast this new model with the previous view of the world, highlighting three key differences:

1. While the product may be a small part of the experience, the key thing for the consumer is the experience.

2. This experience is co-created by the consumer. For example, Apple can’t tell you which¬†content to play on your iPod. All they can do is provide a platform for you to chose the content. You become an integral part of the value creation.

3. The experience cannot be created without the collaboration of a wide range of different institutions, creating a whole eco-system of contributors to your personalised experience.

These three points contribute to the shift away from the old innovation approach of form being the unit of analysis and product being the source of value, the old innovation approach being epitomised by the Model T Ford. Prahalad argues that this new model doesn’t just apply to systems like iPod and iTunes but will also apply to other, less glamorous¬†products such as tyres or shoes.

Prahalad sees two fundamental challenges for management:

1. To change the way we look at the world, to see our consumers as an active parts of the experience creation process. In this new world, there are two joint problem solvers the company and the consumer. What impact might this have on future business strategy?

2. how to change information management systems to match these shifts. He see this area as a major source of competitive value.

So, to summarise, if you’ve gone with this argument so far, our job as innovators becomes one of¬†building new platforms on which our consumers can create their own experiences. This all seems to align well with the TRIZ evolution of the technological customisation system. The next step after this from a TRIZ viewpoint is that the system itself customises the consumer’s experience with no intervention required from the consumer.¬†ÔŅĹ


How do the tools of TRIZ work together?

July 01st, 2008 | Category: TRIZ concepts,TRIZ tools

I’ve recently pulled together a diagram showing how the tools of TRIZ relate to each other and I thought it was worth sharing for feedback.


Key elements of the diagram are:

The problem to be analysed. Shown in the centre of the diagram

Ideality. Shown surrounding the problem but not directly able to be applied to the problem. Ideality is this case is defined by the ratio of useful functions over harmful functions and costs. With time, the useful functions should, in general, increase and the harmful functions and costs should decrease.

Laws of evolution of technical systems. Once again these are shown surrounding the problem rather than directly acting upon the problem. These are related to how systems develop with time and generally link to the overarching Ideality trend. The law of technological system evolution are:

  • Law of Increasing Degree of Ideality;
  • Law of Non-Uniform Evolution of Sub-Systems;
  • Law of Transition to a Higher-Level System;
  • Law of Increasing Flexibility of Systems;
  • Law of Transition from Macro- to Micro-Level;
  • Law of Shortening of Energy Flow Path;
  • Law of Harmonization;
  • Law of Completeness;
  • Law of Increasing Controllability

More about these in future posts.

Now onto some tools which can be applied directly to the problem:

The first one is Techniques to overcome Contradictions. In TRIZ terms, a contradiction is a situation where one aspect of a system gets better and causes another aspect to get worse. Think about fuel consumption vs acceleration for an automobile as an example. Usually there is an unhappy compromise – known to engineers the world round as a “trade-off”. There are a number of techniques to address contradictions. More on this another time.

The second one is Standard Methods. In TRIZ there are 76 standards – a standard is a TRIZ world problem with a recommended TRIZ world solution. If you can identify which TRIZ world problem your rea world problem relates to, you can identify a TRIZ world solution. The only remaining tricky bit is translating that back into the real world. More on these in a later post.

The third one is Knowledge base of effects. In TRIZ something like 2,500 physical, chemical and geometric effects have been catalogued and can be searched. Invention Machine software is especially good for this, although boy is it pricey. I was quoted ¬£28K for one seat! No way Jose! What a rip-off. IWINT a new software package is likely to be almost as good and a lot cheaper. It certainly looked good at TRIZCON where I saw a demo. Don’t get me started on Invention Machine pricing policy…

Oh yes, I got a bit distracted there. The forth and last one is ARIZ. This is basically a step by step algorithm which helps you to deploy all the tools of TRIZ in concert. ARIZ enable you to view the problem from a number of different perspectives, each of which can give you a fresh insight into the true nature of your problem situation. There are a number of competing algorithms. My personal favorite is Victor Fey’s algorithm in his book Innovation on Demand. It really works! If you get stuck with it just leave a comment on this post and I’d be happy to help out.

I’ve attached an animated powerpoint of the diagram for download tools-of-triz


Ideal Technological System, some practical examples

The previous post got me thinking a bit about the TRIZ concept of an “Ideal Machine” or “Ideal Technological System”. This is a very powerful and deep rooted TRIZ concept, which stated simply can be summed up by the sentence:

“An ideal technological system is a system which does not itself exist as a physical entity but¬†the function that it delivers is still fully performed”

Sounds a bit strange doesn’t it? If the system itself doesn’t exist then how on earth does it deliver any function at all? Well, lets see if we can think of some examples of ideal technological systems, that is, things which delivers¬†functions but which don’t themselves exist.

1. The office printer, scanner, fax¬†and photocopier used to be¬†four discrete devices, each with their own costly consumables and space requirements. Now you can get all the same functions from one device. So you could say that, for example,¬†the fax function is delivered without any system. Here’s a shiny example from Canon to prove¬†it, just look at all the stuff it does!


2. As I showed in my post about evolution of technical systems, the system to move aircraft control surfaces¬†has become¬†quite complex due to the need to control and move control surfaces on large and fast aircraft. The¬†active aero-elastic wing (AAW) prototype demonstrates a new way to move control surfaces by using shape memory alloys to flex the entire wing surface. This format eliminates many of the subsystems needed in a conventional wing such as flaps and hinge systems. Incidentally I’ve found some film of the AAW is action which is rather cool.


3. OK, I’m going to shift industry area completely now. Here is a final example of ideality. In this case, a recent innovation in dishwashing tablets – Finish Quantum. The key innovation here is that the tablet is encased in a hot water soluble barrier. I know it’s not perfect, I’ve stopped using them myself after a brief flirtation, but you get my point – no wrapper!


I hope you can see that such a thing as an “Ideal Technological System” can actually exist in reality and isn’t just a high-flown abstract TRIZ concept. From the TRIZ viewpoint the reason this concept is so important is that all technological systems, even if they are far from ideal right now, tend to evolve towards the “Ideal Technological System” over time, just look at computers, mobile phones and audio media for example (compare MP3 with an LP to get an idea here).¬†¬†

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