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Tuesday, February 3, 2009


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TRIZ: Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

  • It was thought all along that inventions and discoveries are done by some rare, special and gifted people through some sudden enlightenment and intuitions and other times by lots of sweat of trial and error.
  • Genrich Altshuller, Russian engineer proved it wrong.
  • He searched for a general, systematic and scientific way of inventing things which he called TRIZ.

You may also like to refer: (Problem Solving) and (Critical Thinking skills)

Full Form of TRIZ

  • TRIZ is acronym of Russian phrase "Teorija Rezbenija Izobretatelskib Zadach". It's meaning is: Theory of inventive problem solving.


  • During his tenure in the patent department of Russian navy Altshuller went through thousands of patents and came to the conclusion that invention was not by chance.
  • Having found a method in madness, he theorized his conclusions and wrote his first book "How to invent?" in 1961.
  • In 1969, Altshuller wrote another book titled "Algorithm for inventing" where wrote about his famous 40 principles.
  • Over next 30 years TRIZ was taught in Russia's academic institutions, R&D organizations, military etc.
  • After the political and social changes that took place in 1990, TRIZ was known by the western world and became significant success in USA, UK, France, Japan, Korea and Israel.


  • When one tries to improve one factor in a system, some other factor gets affected. For example: if one has to improve the performance of a car for it's mileage per litre of fuel, the car body weight needs to be reduced. One may use thinner gauges of metal sheets for this but thin gauged sheets are susceptible to dents by even minor hits. Then the effort are focused on improving this weakness and some new solution is invented.
  • How contradictions are removed, reduced or compromised is the core of TRIZ. Altshuller's 40 principles deal with various possibilities of tackling the contradictions. When you minimize the contradictions of a system, you are nearer to ideal final solution.

The 40 Principles of Innovation (40 Principles of TRIZ)

Based on the examination of 2 to 2.5 million patents by Altshuller and his colleagues, following 40 principles of problem solving were formulated:

  1. Segmentation
  2. Extraction
  3. Local quality
  4. Asymmetry
  5. Consolidation
  6. Universality
  7. Nesting
  8. Counter weight
  9. Prior counteraction
  10. Prior action
  11. Cushion or preparation in advance
  12. Equipotentiality
  13. Do it in reverse
  14. Spheroidality
  15. Dynamicity
  16. Partial or excessive action
  17. Transition into a new dimension
  18. Mechanical vibration
  19. Periodic action
  20. Continuity of useful action
  21. Rushing through
  22. Convert harm into benefit
  23. Feedback
  24. Mediator
  25. Self service
  26. Copying
  27. Dispose
  28. Replacement of mechanical system
  29. Pneumatic or hydraulic constructions
  30. Flexible membranes or thin films
  31. Porous material
  32. Changing the color
  33. Homogeneity
  34. Rejecting and regenerating parts
  35. Transformation of properties
  36. Phase transition
  37. Thermal expansion
  38. Accelerated oxidation
  39. Inert environment
  40. Composite materials

Few Examples Using These Principles

Use of "segmentation" principle: To put out a big fire lots of water is needed which also damages the area. to solve these problems segmentation principle suggests used of water particles or mist.

Use of "cushion or preparation in advance" principle: In malls, the price tags on the goods being sold uses magnetic code which gets demagnetized at the time of billing. In case of shop lifting, a magnetic sensor near the exit of the mall detects the non-magnetized price tag and alarms the security guards.

Selecting the Principle(s) for Problem Solving

One should go through all the 40 principles while solving a problem. Then identify the one that is most appropriate and suits the problem the most. Many a time more than one principle may be suitable. In that case, one can use all the suitable principles to solve the problem.

Characteristics People Want to Improve

Altshuller identified 39 characteristics that people normally wish to improve. They are:

  1. Weight of a mobile object
  2. Weight of a stationary object
  3. Length of a mobile object
  4. Length of a stationary object
  5. Area of a mobile object
  6. Area of a stationary object
  7. Volume of a mobile object
  8. Volume of a stationary object
  9. Speed
  10. Force
  11. Tension/Pressure
  12. Shape
  13. Stability of composition
  14. Strength
  15. Time of action of a moving object
  16. Time of action of a stationary object
  17. Temperature
  18. Brightness
  19. Energy spent by a moving object
  20. Energy spent by a stationary object
  21. Power
  22. Loss of energy
  23. Loss of substance
  24. Loss of information
  25. Loss of time
  26. Amount of substance
  27. Reliability
  28. Accuracy of measurement
  29. Accuracy of manufacturing
  30. Harmful factors acting on an object from outside
  31. Harmful factors developed by an object
  32. Manufaturability
  33. Convenience of use
  34. Repairability
  35. Adaptability
  36. Complexity of a device
  37. Complexity of control
  38. Level of automation
  39. Capacity/Productivity

Contradiction Matrix

As mentioned earlier, when one tries to improve one of the above mentioned 39 characteristics, some other characteristics get adversely affected. We call it a technical contradiction.

Altshuller made a 39 rows by 39 columns matrix (from these 39 characteristics), where rows represent the characteristics that need to be improved and columns represent the characteristics that get affected by the change (improvement). The cell at the intersection of the row and the column has numbers of the principles (out of the 40 principles of innovation listed earlier) that were historically used by many persons most frequently to solve that particular trade off.

It requires lots of judgment and experience to use this matrix. Therefore, new users of TRIZ may initially use the principles directly rather than going through the matrix.

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