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Using TRIZ for Creative Problem Solving: An Illustration

Posted on February 7, 2011 in Articles

1.    Introduction
To succeed and sustain a competitive advantage in a world where business gets tougher, organisations need to increase the rate of innovation. The theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) is an approach that can increase a person’s ability to generate creative solutions and help almost every organisation to develop innovative capabilities. This article shows how TRIZ Is applied to help generate creative solutions to tackle a sample problem.

2.    A Brief Overview of TRIZ
TRIZ consists of a set of guiding principles and a comprehensive collection of techniques which are the results of continuing researches on millions of worldwide patents and the evolution of technologies. The 5 guiding principles for creativity in TRIZ are:

2.1    Contradiction
A technical contradiction occurs when 2 different parameters are in conflict with each other. TRIZ researchers have learned that many innovative solutions were the result of resolving contradictions as against the conventional solutions of finding a ‘trade-off’. More importantly, they have developed a systematic method that problem solvers can use to identify contradictions and find ways to resolve them. The techniques that one can use for this purpose are Contradiction Matrix & Inventive Principles, Function Modeling & Analysis, and Substance-Field Model & Inventive Standards.

2.3 Functionality
Every system exists to perform useful function. System also generates harmful functions and any system component which does not contribute towards the useful function is ultimately harmful. Contradiction happens when; in order to deliver a useful function, a harmful function is also created. The idea of Functionality provides problem solvers an effective means to analyse a system and generate ideas to improve a system. The techniques that are related to the idea of Functionality are Substance-Field Model & Inventive Standards, Function Modeling & Analysis and Knowledge/Effects.

2.2 Ideality
TRIZ researchers found out that systems always evolve towards the trend of increasing ideality with certain characteristics. The Ideality of a system is defined as its sum of useful functions over its sum of harmful functions. The concept of Ideality shows problem solvers the principle direction for improving a system and also encourages them to break out from within the box when thinking for solutions, and start instead from what is described as ideal results. The related techniques are Ideal Final Result, Function Modeling and Analysis, and Trends of System Evolution.

2.4 Resources
The Resources principle relates to the importance placed on the identification and utilisation of anything that is available in and around the system to deliver a function, to counter a harmful function or to resolve a contradiction. With this way of thinking problem solvers become more creative when identifying improvement ideas. Knowledge/Effects is a useful resource in TRIZ that can help problem solvers to generate creative ideas.

2.5 Space, Time and Interface
TRIZ researchers emphasize the importance of thinking about a problem and finding the solutions from all angles. The related techniques are System Operator, Smart Little People Modelling and Separation Principles.

The collection of TRIZ techniques can be broadly classified into 2 categories namely techniques used for analysing a problem and techniques used for generating solution ideas. When applying TRIZ, a problem solver needs to understand the nature of the problem and select the appropriate the techniques to apply.

3.    Applications of TRIZ to a Sample Problem
This article illustrates the applications of a selection of TRIZ techniques to analyse a system and to generate creative solutions to improve a system. A problem in a conventional vacuum cleaner is used as the example.

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