Archive for the 'TRIZ' 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 “Tongs” 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 “Tongs” 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 “Most Desirable Result” (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 – 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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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:



An interview with myself

July 12th, 2008 | Category: Open Innovation,Opinions,TRIZ

I was recently asked to answer a few questions on the Innocentive Open Innovation blog Perspectives of Innovation. As someone who shamelessly enjoys talking about myself, I thought it would be a good use of resources if I published it on my own blog too, so here goes…

1) Tell us a little bit about your background.

Originally I trained and was educated as a Mechanical Engineer. I’ve worked in the innovation area all the way through my career starting on design and projects and gradually moving further up to the front end. For the last 21 years I’ve worked for Mars Inc. until in May this year when I left to set up my own Innovation Consultancy, CoCatalyst Limited, helping clients who need market breakthrough products to target and implement new technologies. I have recently started a blog on this topic ( and I intend to use this to promote the latest thinking in the area. In my last role at Mars my team was responsible for identifying and bringing in new technologies for the Mars Drinks business, covering a very broad scope including packaging, food science, functional ingredients, electronics and control as well as mechanical engineering. I continue to be very passionate about innovation and I have expertise in a number of key innovation tools, probably one of the most relevant to solving Innocentive challenges being TRIZ.

2) How did you come across InnoCentive?

I came across InnoCentive as a potential solution seeker at Mars. At that time the cost of entry was too high for me to pursue. From what I’ve learnt recently about InnoCentive the business model has since changed significantly. I came into closer contact with InnoCentive more recently when preparing to present to a UK Government body on Open Innovation marketplaces.

3) What kinds of Challenges are you most interested in?

I am most interested in challenges which require a significant breakthrough. I am attracted to problems which, from a TRIZ perspective, jump out at me as analogous to problems I have solved before (upwards of 150 and counting with 50+ patents to my name) or where I can clearly understand the limitation (contradiction) of the current state of the art. This helps me to get a feel for the sort of benefit I might be able to deliver if I can resolve the problem. The other factor I will consider almost immediately is do I know someone in this area who I could team up with. I have a big network with contacts in many industries. For this reason, I do not restrict myself to a specific technological field – I think the “Disciplines” menu gets in the way a bit for me although I appreciate others will find it helpful. Also, for the same reason, I would like to be able to see all the challenges in the regular weekly updates I get. Another thing that can put me off a challenge is when the seeker constrains the solution to a potentially non-optimal outcome (e.g. to specify that something new should be added to the problem rather than resolve the root problem). I’ve seen this happen a number of times on Innocentive and, in fairness, on Nine Sigma too – it bugs me when I come across this sort of solution limiting thinking.

4) You recently wrote on your blog, “I haven’t actually answered any Innocentive Challenges although I have recently seen one that I might have a go at.” Can you tell us about the Challenge you want to answer, and what piqued your interest?

I’ve had a look at a couple of the ideation challenges, one for more energy efficient air conditioning (INNOCENTIVE 6237014) because a breakthrough solution could have a big impact, another one around reducing the energy needed to fire ceramics (INNOCENTIVE 6446157) and one to do with increasing the cooling effect of clothing in hot conditions (INNOCENTIVE 6470343). This one appeals because I’m a cyclist! I guess a common theme here is they all are to do with heat transfer.

5) What do you think are the biggest opportunities for Solvers in this new era of Open Innovation?

For individual solvers I need to start my answer with a caveat: if solver’s rights can be protected through the Open Innovation processes then their biggest opportunities are in being able to bring their capabilities to the attention of big companies, in ways which can be properly mutually beneficial. For larger companies acting as solvers the opportunity is to grow the market for their technologies by making cross-industry connections.

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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.


Breakthrough products which came from TRIZ

I am often asked to cite examples of where TRIZ has helped to identify Market Breakthrough Products. Obviously, even when TRIZ is used, it often only plays a small but critical part in the total implementation of the product. So with that caveat, here are a few examples where I’ve heard that TRIZ played a critical part in identifying the final concept:

P&G White Strips

This is a revolutionary tooth whitening product. The non-dissolving strip format holds a whitening gel in close contact with the teeth throughout the recommended whitening time of 30 minutes. This one has been a major success for P&G


P&G Swiffer

This one is another big hit for P&G. This time it’s a floor cleaning product. The way it works is that as you sweep it across the floor, an electrostatic charge develops on the cloth, attracting dirt to the cloth. The cloth is designed to retain the dirt until it removed and disposed of at the end of the cleaning. The basic principle has now spawned a whole host of variants


Sanyo detergent-free washing machine

This washing machine makes use of an ultrasonic field to remove dirt on clothing and an electrolytic action to create a short lived antibacterial and antifungal effect. This product has been very successful in Japan but has yet to transition into the west. With the increasing emphasis on the environment, there are signs that this or something similar will make inroads into the western market too, Look out Tide!


One factor which unites these products, apart from the use of TRIZ, is the profound nature of their impact in their respective markets. True Market Breakthrough.


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