TRIZ: Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TIPS)

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What is TRIZ? Meaning.

TRIZ (pronounced TREEZ) is the Russian acronym for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TIPS). It is an algorithmic approach to solving technical and technological problems which are "inventive" (problem in which the solution causes another problem to appear, such as increasing the strength of a metal plate causing its weight to get heavier).


TRIZ began in 1946, when the Russian engineer and scientist Genrich Altshuller served in the Soviet Navy as a patent expert and studied thousands of patents and noticed certain patterns. From these patterns he discovered that the evolution of a technical system is not a random process, but is governed by certain objective laws. These laws can be used to consciously develop a system along its path of technical evolution - by determining and implementing innovations.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he categorized the solutions into five levels:

  1. Level one. Routine design problems solved by methods well known within the specialty. No invention needed. About 32% of the solutions fell into this level.

  2. Level two. Minor improvements to an existing system, by methods known within the industry. Usually with some compromise. About 45% of the solutions fell into this level.

  3. Level three. Fundamental improvement to an existing system, by methods known outside the industry. Contradictions resolved. About 18% of the solutions fell into this category.

  4. Level four. A new generation that uses a new principle to perform the primary functions of the system. Solution found more in science than in technology. About 4% of the solutions fell into this category.

  5. Level five. A rare scientific discovery or pioneering invention of essentially a new system. About 1% of the solutions fell into this category.

With each succeeding level, the source of the solution required broader knowledge and more solutions to consider before an ideal one could be found.

Steps in the Triz process

  1. Identify the problem. Identify the engineering system being studied, its operating environment, resource requirements, primary useful function, harmful effects, and ideal result.

  2. Formulate the problem. Restate the problem in terms of physical contradictions. Identify problems that could occur. Could improving one technical characteristic to solve a problem cause other technical characteristics to worsen, resulting in secondary problems arising? Are there technical conflicts that might force a trade-off?

  3. Search for previously well-solved problem. Altshuller extracted from over 1,500,000 world-wide patents 39 standard technical characteristics that cause conflict. These are called the 39 Engineering Parameters (1. Weight of moving object, 2. Weight of nonmoving object, 3. Length of moving object, 4. Length of nonmoving object, 5. Area of moving object, 6. Area of nonmoving object, 7. Volume of moving object, 8. Volume of nonmoving object, 9. Speed, 10. Force, 11. Tension, pressure, 12. Shape, 13. Stability of object, 14. Strength, 15. Durability of moving object, 16. Durability of nonmoving object, 17. Temperature, 18. Brightness, 19. Energy spent by moving object, 20. Energy spent by nonmoving object, 21. Power, 22. Waste of energy, 23. Waste of substance, 24. Loss of information, 25. Waste of time, 26. Amount of substance, 27. Reliability, 28. Accuracy of measurement, 29. Accuracy of manufacturing, 30. Harmful factors acting on object, 31. Harmful side effects, 32. Manufacturability, 33. Convenience of use, 34. Repairability, 35. Adaptability, 36. Complexity of device, 37. Complexity of control, 38. Level of automation, 39. Productivity.) Find the contradicting engineering principles. First find the principle that needs to be changed. Then find the principle that is an undesirable secondary effect. State the standard technical conflict.

  4. Look for analogous solutions and adapt to the solution. This is particularly useful for problems of Level two as mentioned above and can be done by using an impressive list of 40 inventive principles that Altshuller also extracted from the patents:

    1. Segmentation

      • Divide an object into independent parts.

      • Make an object sectional.

      • Increase the degree of an object's segmentation.

    2. Extraction

      • Extract (remove or separate) a "disturbing" part or property from an object.

      • Extract only the necessary part or property.

    3. Local Quality

      • Transition from a homogeneous structure of an object or outside environment/action to a heterogeneous structure.

      • Have different parts of the object carry out different functions.

      • Place each part of the object under conditions most favorable for its operation.

    4. Asymmetry

      • Replace a symmetrical form with an asymmetrical form.

      • If an object is already asymmetrical, increase the degree of asymmetry.

    5. Combining

      • Combine in space homogeneous objects or objects destined for contiguous operations.

      • Combine in time homogeneous or contiguous operations.

    6. Universality. Have the object perform multiple functions, thereby eliminating the need for some other object(s).

    7. Nesting

      • Contain the object inside another which, in turn, is placed inside a third object.

      • Pass an object through a cavity of another object.

    8. Counterweight

      • Compensate for the object's weight by joining with another object that has a lifting force.

      • Compensate for the weight of an object by interaction with an environment providing aerodynamic or hydrodynamic forces.

    9. Prior counter-action

      • Perform a counter-action in advance.

      • If the object is (or will be) under tension, provide anti-tension in advance.

    10. Prior action

      • Carry out all or part of the required action in advance.

      • Arrange objects so they can go into action in a timely matter and from a convenient position.

    11. Cushion in advance. Compensate for the relatively low reliability of an object by countermeasures taken in advance.

    12. Equipotentiality. Change the working conditions so that an object need not be raised or lowered.

    13. Inversion

      • Instead of an action dictated by the specifications of the problem, implement an opposite action.

      • Make a moving part of the object or the outside environment immovable and the non-moving part movable.

      • Turn the object upside-down.

    14. Spheroidality

      • Replace linear parts or flat surfaces with curved ones; replace cubical shapes with spherical shapes.

      • Use rollers, balls spirals.

      • Replace a linear motion with rotating movement; utilize a centrifugal force.

    15. Dynamicity

      • Make an object or its environment automatically adjust for optimal performance at each stage of operation.

      • Divide an object into elements which can change position relative to each other.

      • If an object is immovable, make it movable or interchangeable.

    16. Partial or overdone action. If it is difficult to obtain 100% of a desired effect, achieve somewhat more or less to greatly simplify the problem.

    17. Moving to a new dimension

      • Remove problems with moving an object in a line by two-dimensional movement (i.e. along a plane).

      • Use a multi-layered assembly of objects instead of a single layer.

      • Incline the object or turn it on its side.

    18. Mechanical vibration

      • Set an object into oscillation.

      • If oscillation exists, increase its frequency, even as far as ultrasonic.

      • Use the resonant frequency.

      • Instead of mechanical vibrations, use piezovibrators.

      • Use ultrasonic vibrations in conjunction with an electromagnetic field.

    19. Periodic action

      • Replace a continuous action with a periodic (pulsed) one.

      • If an action is already periodic, change its frequency.

      • Use pulsed between impulses to provide additional action.

    20. Continuity of a useful action

      • Carry out an action continuously (i.e. without pauses), where all parts of an object operate at full capacity.

      • Remove idle and intermediate motions.

    21. Rushing through. Perform harmful or hazardous operations at very high speed.

    22. Convert harm into benefit

      • Utilize harmful factors or environmental effects to obtain a positive effect.

      • Remove a harmful factor by combining it with another harmful factor.

      • Increase the amount of harmful action until it ceases to be harmful.

    23. Feedback

      • Introduce feedback.

      • If feedback already exists, reverse it.

    24. Mediator

      • Use an intermediary object to transfer or carry out an action.

      • Temporarily connect an object to another one that is easy to remove.

    25. Self-service

      • Make the object service itself and carry out supplementary and repair operations.

      • Make use of wasted material and energy.

    26. Copying

      • Use a simple and inexpensive copy instead of an object which is complex, expensive, fragile or inconvenient to operate.

      • Replace an object by its optical copy or image. A scale can be used to reduce or enlarge the image.

      • If visible optical copies are used, replace them with infrared or ultraviolet copies.

    27. Inexpensive, short-lived object for expensive, durable one. Replace an expensive object by a collection of inexpensive ones, forgoing properties (e.g. longevity.

    28. Replacement of a mechanical system

      • Replace a mechanical system by an optical, acoustical or olfactory (odor) system.

      • Use an electrical, magnetic or electromagnetic field for interaction with the object.

      • Replace fields

        • Stationary fields with moving fields.

        • Fixed fields with those which change in time.

        • Random fields with structured fields.

        • Use a field in conjunction with ferromagnetic particles.

    29. Pneumatic or hydraulic construction. Replace solid parts of an object by gas or liquid. These parts can use air or water for inflation, or use air or hydrostatic cushions.

    30. Flexible membranes or thin film

      • Replace traditional constructions with those made from flexible membranes or thin film.

      • Isolate an object from its environment using flexible membranes or thin film.

    31. Use of porous material

      • Make an object porous or add porous elements (inserts, covers, etc.).

      • If an object is already porous, fill the pores in advance with some substance.

    32. Changing the color

      • Change the color of an object or its surroundings.

      • Change the degree of translucency of an object or processes which are difficult to see.

      • Use colored additives to observe objects or processes which are difficult to see.

      • If such additives are already used, employ luminescent traces or tracer elements.

    33. Homogeneity. Make those objects which interact with a primary object out of the same material or material that is close to it in behavior.

    34. Rejecting and regenerating parts

      • After it has completed its function or become useless, reject or modify (e.g. discard, dissolve, evaporate) an element of an object.

      • Immediately restore any part of an object which is exhausted or depleted.

    35. Transformation of the physical and chemical states of an object. Change an object's aggregate state, density distribution, degree of flexibility, temperature.

    36. Phase transformation. Implement an effect developed during the phase transition of a substance. For instance, during the change of volume, liberation or absorption of heat.

    37. Thermal expansion

      • Use a material which expands or contracts with heat.

      • Use various materials with different coefficients of heat expansion.

    38. Use strong oxidizers

      • Replace normal air with enriched air.

      • Replace enriched air with oxygen.

      • Treat an object in air or in oxygen with ionizing radiation.

      • Use ionized oxygen.

    39. Inert environment

      • Replace the normal environment with an inert one.

      • Carry out the process in a vacuum.

    40. Composite materials. Replace a homogeneous material with a composite one.

The 40 Inventive Principles have been updated, reviewed, and extended to application to non-technical fields (management, social) beyond the original applications in engineering and technology.

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Compare with: Lateral Thinking  |  Brainstorming  |  Technological Forecasting  |  Synectics  |  Gestalt Theory  |  Thinker's Keys  |  Mind Mapping  |  Six Thinking Hats  |  Metaplan  |  Bounded Rationality  |  Causal Ambiguity  |  Stage-Gate  |  Scenario Planning  |  Game Theory  |  Root Cause Analysis  |  Dialectical Inquiry  |  Analogical Strategic Reasoning  |  Theory of Constraints  |  Force Field Analysis  |  Catalytic Mechanisms  |  Johari Window  |  Delphi Method  |  Chief Technology Officer

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