Archive for the 'TRIZ tools' Category

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:



Oops! The importance of accidents in innovation

July 10th, 2008 | Category: Innovation tools,TRIZ tools

Just reading through the MIT sloan review I came across an article about how some of the most important innovations have come about as the result of an accident. The article goes on to say that there are good reasons for this as generally new things can be hard to create due to habits, routines and presumptions. Accidents can break us out of our previous thinking and move us to a new place. Whether it is a cure for small pox or the discovery of an interesting side effect of a potential heart medicine now known as Viagra, accidents have played an important part in bringing many new innovations to light.

To prepare for the article, the writers¬†talked to innovators in a number of fields‚ÄĒfrom design to manufacturing to fine art‚ÄĒwho make a point of seeking out “accidents” and incorporating them into their work.¬†They found that there are a number of practical strategies that can help managers leverage accidents into innovation such as:

Hire creative people and mix them up together

Give them unexpected assignments to keep their creative juices flowing. Expose members of your team to different industries or send them on conferences with experts from a different scientific area

Push the envelope. Explore the boundaries of your existing products of processes, what happens if you go over the edge?

make accidents cheaper. Find ways to increase learning at lower cost using tools such as rapid prototyping

Help them to squirrel away findings which don’t pan out immediately

Watch out for accidents of all sizes and avoid labelling unexpected outcomes as “failures”

Personally, I wouldn’t advocate doing the above without some idea of the most useful directions to explore and there are ways to scope¬†out and focus on¬†the areas of interest without unnecessarily constraining creativity. The tools of TRIZ in particular are excellent in shaping an ideal outcome (Ideal Final Result) which can really target deliberate accidents. I’ve learnt that, given guidance, a bit¬†of serendipity can be just the thing to boost innovation, even if it happens by accident.ÔŅĹ

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I’ve made the big time

July 07th, 2008 | Category: TRIZ,TRIZ tools

Just to let you know that a paper I’ve recently written, detailing how I used TRIZ some years ago to create a hassle-free cappuccino system, has just been published in the TRIZ Journal. In the paper, I outline the key stages of my analysis and show how I applied some of the key thinking tools of TRIZ. You know what you need to do – just go to the website, look¬†through the article and give it a score of 5 out of 5 at the bottom.


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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TRIZ Certification – why moving towards a standard training structure is a good thing

June 23rd, 2008 | Category: TRIZ tools,TRIZ Training

When I was at TRIZCON earlier this year one noticable trend was the emergence of MATRIZ certification as a standard for TRIZ training. MATRIZ (the International TRIZ Association) was founded by Genrich Altshuller (the originator of the TRIZ methodology) and he laid the foundations of the TRIZ Certification. At this point MATRIZ is the only organization that provides a comprehensive structure for certification all the way from novice to TRIZ master.
Many of the companies now rolling TRIZ out seriously (Intel, Samsung, LG, Hyundai, GE and P&G) are pushing for the MATRIZ certification approach to become an agreed training standard. For many years, TRIZ has been trained in different ways by different experts and, in my view, the adoption of this powerful technique in industry has been seriously hampered. I thinks some reasons are related to certification standards:

1. Because there¬†have been¬†no clear common guidelines indicating¬†the training time required to achieve specific levels of expertise, clients¬†have been¬†inclined to undervalue the training time and allocate¬†far less time than is really needed for the TRIZ penny to drop. The result of this can be¬†participants coming away from training saying something like¬†“it’s a good technique, it would be great for someone to come in and apply it for us, but I don’t feel anywhere near confident enough to use it myself”. There is a lot to learn in TRIZ and it takes time for the thinking shifts associated with the tools to become embedded and for users to become confident enought to use and apply the tools.

2. Without defined levels of TRIZ capability, it is hard for TRIZ trainees to know what capability level they have achieved and to have clear training targets. The MATRIZ certification requires certain assessment standards to be achieved at each training level. This really helps both participants and organisations assess progress against a standard framework.

3. Without defined levels of TRIZ capability, it is hard for organisations to search for and recruit TRIZ specialists. Whereas with 6-Sigma, if a potential recruit is a Black Belt, it is easier to assess their capabilities although even here there is some variability in standard.

So, what are the levels in MATRIZ certification?

Well, there are five levels of TRIZ certification, taking you all the way from TRIZ novice to TRIZ Master. Level 1-3 are educational levels that require knowledge and practical experience of using specific TRIZ tools. Level 4 is the first professional level. No new knowledge is necessary, but practical experience – projects, submission of 2 ARIZ projects to MATRIZ for review, publications, presentations at international conferences are needed to achieve this level. Level 5 – TRIZ Master requires development of a new TRIZ tool or application. It is granted by the Certification Board of TRIZ Masters.

Here is some more detail of the content of each level:

level 1: typically 1 week of training with an assessment test at the end. Level 1 requires knowledge and practical skills in the following topics:

– TRIZ paradigm
– TRIZ origin and approaches
– peoblem modeling and Engineering Contradictions.
– Altshuller’s Martix
– Inventive Principles
– modeling problems as Physical Contradictions
– Algorithm for Resolving Physical Contradictions (separation, Satisfaction, Bypass).
– introduction to S-F modeling and S-F Analysis
– introduction to Trends of Engineering System Evolution
– Function Analysis for Devices
– Rules of Trimming for devices

Level 2: Another week of training with a further assessment test at the end. Level 2 requires knowledge and practical experience in the following topics:

– S-F Analysis and the System of Standard Inventive Solutions (complete knowledge of all 5 classes)
– Alternative System Design: direct transfer, “mixtures”,feature transfer.
– ARIZ (average level)
– Pragmatic S-curve Analysis (indicators, recommendations for each stage)
– introduction to Function Analysis and Trimming for technological processes
– introduction to Development of Creative Imagination.

Level 3 is the final “educational” level of TRIZ training and completion of this level is rather like graduating from¬†university – lots of knowledge and some experience. Level 3 requires knowledge and practical experience in the following topics:

– ARIZ – full and comprehensive knowledge, ability to professionally use it
– Trends of Engineering System Evolution – all the details: subtrends, mechanism and analytical tools for each trend
– Failure Anticipation Analysis (a.k.a. Anticipatory Failure Determination)
– Long-Term Forecasting based on TRIZ
– Clone Problems
– SuperEffect

Level 4 (TRIZ Specialist) is the first professional level. It is given by the MATRIZ Board vote only. The candidates should have all the TRIZ knowledge (i.e. they must satisfy Level 3 requirements) and besides have an extensive experience in consulting/inventing. Here people need to show participation in conferences, have patents, projects (engineering solutions), etc. There is a special documentation package that needs to be filled and filed with the MATRIZ Board. This package should include letters of reference from 2 TRIZ Masters. Right now there are 69 TRIZ Masters.

And ultimately, there is Level 5 – TRIZ Master. The major requirements and criteria:

– Level 4
– Developments in TRIZ (a new TRIZ tool, algorithm, etc.) and dissertation on that
– there should be an academic advisor to this dissertation and two opponents (usually TRIZ Masters appointed by MATRIZ Certification Board).

There are a number of individuals appointed and accredited by MATRIZ who have the right to certify. More about how TRIZ programmes are being rolled out in leading companies in future posts.


UK Council bans brainstorming – for the wrong reason

June 22nd, 2008 | Category: Innovation tools,Opinions,Problem solving,TRIZ tools

I saw this article in the Times today. It appears that Tunbridge Wells borough council in Kent has banned the term “brainstorm” and replaced it with the term “thought shower” because of concerns that the term might be offensive to people with epilepsy. Amid all the controversy about political correctness etc. a bigger question occurred to me – why do brainstorming/thought showering at all any more? The whole process of randomly generating ideas in the hope that one of them will provide the ideal solution seems to me to be little more than guesswork or gambling. I don’t know if it’s just me but I used to get a real sinking feeling when faced with sheets of flipcharts full of ideas still needing to be teased through. These days there are far better ways of targeting the required solution and approaching the problem situation systematically. In this blog I’m aiming to¬†show you powerful¬†thinking tools and processes which can help you to ditch the guesswork and identify close to ideal solutions every time.

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