Practice Guide to Solve Problems with TRIZ

Previously, we covered the TRIZ (Using the TRIZ Method for Creative Problem Solving) as one of the most effective methods to solve problems using innovative ideas. Unlike the other problem-solving methods, the TRIZ method depends on a previous experience in order to address future problems as the tool assumes that there is nothing new under the sun. All of the inventions and problems that face human beings can be manifested into 40 methods that should be used to address any future challenges. The tools were first introduced by the Russian inventor and author, Genrich Altshuller, and it is a shooter for the Russian acronym: “theory of the resolution of invention-related tasks.” TRIZ is based on two main principles:

the principal that somebody, sometime, somewhere has already solved your problem or one similar to it and creativity means finding that solution and adapting it to the current problem; and  the principal that you shouldn’t accept contradictions, you should resolve them

In order to get the most of this article, you will need to download our free TRIZ Problem Solving template (in Excel Spreadsheet format) that includes the principles and contradictions required to follow the steps highlighted later in the article.

TRIZ Elements

Before moving forward with the steps required to solve problems using TRIZ, we need to have a clear understanding of the different elements of the tools and the definition of each element. The basic terms used in the TRIZ are the following:

  • The 40 TRIZ principles are the methods that are used to solve problems. For example, the second principle “Taking out” refers to separating the part of the system that causes the contradiction from the rest of the system. The noisy air conditioner compressors are removed from the interior part of the building and added outside to reduce the noise inside.
  • Primary function is the main purpose of the invention. For example, the primary function of the car is transportation, and other functions are considered secondary functions, such as comfort and protection.
  • Ideality and harm. Ideality refers to the optimal or ideal state of the invention without any contradictions. This is usually an imaginary state that the problem-solving aims to fix. The harm refers to the contradictions or any hinderances that stand as a barrier to achieving the primary function.
  • TRIZ contradictions are 39 problems that need to be addressed through the TRIZ principles. In the inventive problems, what often occurs is that part of the solution achieves one function but also cause harm as it acts against the other parts. For example, the stronger air conditioner compressor cools (function) a larger space but also causes a louder noise (harm). The TRIZ contradiction is organized in a Contradiction Matrix which arranges the conflict or Undesirable Results in a horizontal row and the Features to Changes that can be applied to make a change in the vertical column. Matching both the Undesirable Results and the Feature to Change suggests the TRIZ method or group methods to use to solve the problem, as we will see in the example below.

TRIZ Problem-Solving Process

The workflow of the TRIZ method follows the figure below. The problem is defined based on the main function that needs to be achieved, the ideal state, and harm states that cause the problem. Once the problem is identified, the TRIZ expert tries to find the cases that meet this problem in the TRIZ Contradiction Matrix, which results in a number of suggested TRIZ principles that can be used to solve the problem. Once the suggested solution is chosen, it is customized based on the current situation and deployed accordingly.

TRIZ method
Figure 1. TRIZ method for solving problems.

TRIZ Problems-Solving Example

In this practical example, we will use the TRIZ template (in Excel Spreadsheet format) to solve the problem of noisy air conditioners. The primary function of the air conditioner is to cool the interior space, however, cooling the whole space requires a strong compressor which produces a high amount of noise, which is known as harm. TRIZ aims to reach the ideal state where the noise of the compressor is not heard inside the room. Accordingly, we will follow the steps below:

Step 1: Find the contradictions

Open the TRIZ template first sheet (Contradiction Matrix)Based on the TRIZ Contradiction Matrix, the noisy compressor meets with the Undesired Result number 31, Object-generated Harmful Factors. In the column of the Features to Change, we noticed that changing the Device Complexity, item number 36, is relative to the problem we need to address.

 

TRIZ contradiction
Figure 2. Finding the TRIZ contradiction in the TRIZ template

Step 2: Find the TRIZ method

Move to the intersected point between the selected Undesired Result row and Features to Change column. The result aims to TRIZ methods number 1 and 19 (as shown in figure 2 above) to try and provide a solution for the problem. Open the second sheet (40 Principles) in the TRIZ template. Those principles present the following (see Figure 3):

TRIZ principles
Figure3. Selecting the TRIZ principle.

(1) Segmentation

This principle refers to dividing an object into separate parts, such as replacing the large truck with a truck and trailer. Also, in the project management application, the project is divided into smaller modules that can be assigned to different members of the team in parallel to save the project time.

(19) Periodic Action

This principle refers to converting continuous action to a periodic number of actions. For example, the waiting yellow light in cars— the continuous alert light is replaced with flashing light to save energy and to attract other car services to see it.

Step 3: Select the TRIZ principle

Based on the above example, the Segmentation principle may fit to solve the noisy compressor problem. After finding an applicable principal, the TRIZ expert can make a suggestion to divide the compressor from the main air conditioner’s indoor parts and place it outside the building to eliminate the harm.

Below are recommended TRIZ books:

And here are further online resources:

The TRIZ provides a quick, reliable and efficient method to solve the problem and achieve innovation through finding innovative solutions for problems. This method can be used in different fields including engineering, project management, critical thinking, and education. While there are many resources that can guide you through how to use this tool, it requires practice and experience in order to use it efficiently. The proficient deployment of the TRIZ method can dramatically improve your product, service, or business.


Rafiq Elmansy

Rafiq Elmansy is the founder of Designorate.com, author, and design and innovation consultant. He is an affiliated faculty teaching design at the American University in Cairo. He holds a master degree in Design Management with Distinction from Staffordshire University, UK. He has more than 17 years experience in the field of UXD and interaction design, and his books are published by John Wiley, O’Reilly Media and Taylor and Francis. He is also a contributor at the Design Management Review. Rafiq is a jury board member for the A'Design Awards, Poster for Tomorrow, and Adobe Achievements Awards. His design artwork was exhibited in many locations including Croatia, South Africa, Brazil, and Spain.