TRIZ Theory for Intuitive Problem Solving

TRIZ, the Russian acronym for “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving”, is an international system of creativity that was developed in the U.S.S.R. by Genrich S. Altshuller (engineer) and his collaborators.

TRIZ believes that universal principles of creativity are the foundation of innovation. These principles are codified by TRIZ, which makes the creative process more predictable.

This means that whatever problem you are facing, someone has solved it or something very similar. Finding a solution to a problem creatively is key.

TRIZ is best used in product development, design engineering, and process management roles. TRIZ is often used in quality improvement processes such as Six Sigma.

The Key TRIZ Tools

Let’s take a look at two key concepts of TRIZ: generalizing and finding solutions and eliminating contradictions.

1. Generalizing Problems and Solutions

These are the main findings of TRIZ research:

  • Solutions and problems are common across all industries and sciences. You can create creative solutions by presenting a problem as a “contradiction” (we’ll explore this in the article).
  • Technological evolution patterns tend to be repeated across industries and disciplines.
  • Many creative innovations use scientific effects that are not related to the area where they were created.

The process of using TRIZ is to learn these repeated patterns of problem and solution, understand the contradictions, and develop new methods for applying scientific effects.

Then, you apply the TRIZ general patterns to the particular situation and find a generalized solution.

This is where you take your specific problem and apply it to one of the general TRIZ problems. You can then identify the TRIZ general problem you are facing and determine the solution that you require. Then, consider how it could be applied to your particular problem.

The TRIZ databases contain a variety of resources that users and enthusiasts of the system have compiled.

2. Eliminating Contradictions

A fundamental TRIZ principle states that most problems are caused by fundamental contradictions. These contradictions are often the best way to solve a problem.

TRIZ recognizes the following two types of contradictions:

  1. Technical contradictions. These are classic engineering “trade-offs”, where the system is unable to achieve the desired state. This means that when one thing is better, another automatically becomes worse. Take this example:
    • The product becomes stronger (good), but its weight is increasing (bad). The service is personalized to each customer (good), but it can be difficult to deliver the service (bad). Although training is thorough (good), it can keep employees from their assigned tasks (bad).
    The TRIZ Contradiction Map summarizes the key technical contradictions. It takes time to learn the Contradiction Matrix, as with all TRIZ resources.
  2. There are physical (or “inherent”) contradictory situations. These are situations where an object or system has to meet contradictory or opposing requirements. These are common examples:
    • Software should not be complicated (to include many features) but easy to use (to make it simple to learn).To be enjoyed, coffee should be hot but not too hot.
    An umbrella should be big enough to keep the
    • rain off, but small enough to be easily carried in a crowd.
    The TRIZ Separation Principles can be used to solve physical contradictions. These principles allow you to separate your needs according to the basic categories of Space, Time, and Scale.

Top TRIZ Concepts and Techniques

TRIZ offers a variety of ideas and techniques that go beyond the fundamental principles outlined above. Some of these ideas and techniques are conceptual and analytic, like:

  • The Law of Ideality. This law states that any system will become more reliable over its lifetime if it is constantly improved.
  • Functional modeling, analysis, and trimming. These methods are used by TRIZ to identify problems.
  • Identifying the Zones of Conflict. This is also known as “Root cause analysis” by Six Sigma problem-solvers.

Others are more directive. Take, for example:

  • Technology Forecasting and the Laws of Technical Evolution. These categories categorize technological evolution according to demand, function, and system.
  • The 76 Standard Solutions. These solutions are designed to solve common problems in innovation and design.

Depending on the nature of your problem, you can use any number of these tools to solve it.