TRIZ represents a methodology focused on innovative process or product improvement. Use it when you need innovative thinking that extends beyond common process flow diagrams and requirements gathering. Look at further variations such as ARIZ, I-TRIZ, P-TRIZ, 40 Inventive Principles (with Applications in Service Operations Management), Reverse Fishbone, TRIZICS, USIT, SIT, and/or ASIT.

“TRIZ” is a Russian acronym for “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving” (Teoriya Resheniya Izobreatatelskikh Zadatch, pronounced trees). The inventor, Genrich Altshuller, patented an underwater diving apparatus and built a rocket propelled boat by the tenth grade. He was later arrested and sentenced to the gulag for 25 years. While Alex Osborn promoted his new ‘brainstorming‘ method, Altshuller performed hard labor in coal mines while refining an alternative hypothesis to innovation. Eventually, Altshuller studied over 200,000 patent files to identify patterns of technological innovation.

Altshuller discovered that the evolution of a process is not a coincidence. Rather it is governed by certain objective laws or “principles” suggesting that inventiveness and creativity can be learned. TRIZ is not based on psychology, but technology.

TRIZ provides a systematic and structured approach to thinking, supported by numerous tools. Based on patterns of invention and systems evolution, organizations using TRIZ obtain ability to focus their knowledge and talents on the problem-solving process. TRIZ inspired Boeing designs, Ford solutions, Hewlett Packard projections, and Dow Chemical improvements.

Compare TRIZ to other diverse business process methodologies with symbolic notation and syntax, including, Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERD), ANSI standard flowcharts, data flow diagrams, Unified Modeling Language (UML), CRUD (create, read, update, delete) matrices, PAOC (plan, acquire, operate, and control), and many others. Unlike other more commonly used models, the TRIZ Matrix does not solve problems, it gives hints about where to look.

TRIZ – Fun Examples

TRIZ, Genrich Altshuller

TRIZ Founder Genrich Altshuller

This article seeks to inform you about TRIZ rather than providing a primer about TRIZ. There are numerous variations of TRIZ, as there are with Agile, SDLC, etc.  The following examples demonstrate how TRIZ intends to go beyond the obvious by truly starting with the end in mind.

Note, for example, that the jack in your automobile makes it easier to access a tire, not simply to raise the vehicle. If your vehicle was on soft dirt in a rural area, it might be quicker to dig a whole. TRIZ might help the manufacturer develop a jack handle or bar shaped like a shovel at one end.

Another TRIZ example. . .

Currently, helicopter pilots are unable to escape the helicopter in case of technical problems. A good solution would be to eject the pilot upward before he parachutes down. However, then you expose the pilot to the danger of being hit by the rotor. (Solution: Remove the rotor before ejecting the pilot)

The men’s restrooms were not so clean at Schiphol airport in Holland:

“Many men weren’t aiming very well and were missing the target…”

They solved the problem by drawing a small fly on the walls of the urinals to attract the attention of the men using the restrooms. It turns out that when a man concentrates on a certain spot, he naturally also aims in that direction. (During the European Soccer Championships that took place in Holland and Belgium, they replaced the flies at Schiphol airport with miniature orange plastic soccer goals!)

And our favorite TRIZ example . . .

A wise Chinese Emperor decided to divide his legacy between his two sons in an unusual way. He called his two sons, both excellent horse riders, and told them:

“One of you will inherit the largest portion of my legacy. You will both take part in a riding contest to determine who this will be. The winner will inherit the most. Oh… I forgot to tell you one of the conditions. The winner of this contest is the one whose horse comes last in the race.  If a winner is not announced by the end of the day tomorrow, neither of you will get the inheritance.”

Both of his sons were utterly confused. “What kind of contest is that?” they thought. It was obvious to both that each would try to ride as slowly as possible, and this way the race would never end. They went to consult a wise old Chinese sage. (The old sage told the two sons to switch horses. By doing this, each of them would try to ride as fast as possible to make their own horse come last.)

For more information on TRIZ, visit The TRIZ Journal at: https://triz-journal.com/

Some TRIZ research . . .

Genrich Altshuller started analyzing thousands of patents worldwide in search for trends, patterns and evolution of technical systems. Research told him that know-how originates from knowledge-based tools, because they support a systematic approach towards innovation when applied to technological or business challenges..

Technical systems include “everything that performs a function”, eg, cars, pens, books and knifes. Lev Shuljak proceeds in explaining TRIZ:

“These laws [which govern the development of technical systems] reveal that, during the evolution of a technical system, improvement of any part of that system having already reached its pinnacle of functional performance will lead to conflict with another part. This conflict will lead to the eventual improvement of the less evolved part. This continuing, self sustaining process pushes the system ever closer to its ideal state. Understanding this evolutionary process allows us to forecast future trends in the development of a technical system.”

TRIZ has evolved as well. After the “Classical TRIZ Era” (1946-1985), new advancements pushed forward in the Kishnev Era (1985-1992). New concepts like Anticipatory Failure Determination (AFD), the Innovative Situation Questionnaire (ISQ), enhancement of ARIZ (Algorithm for Inventive Problem Solving) and others were introduced. From 1992-present, TRIZ westernized and adapted to the U.S. market: marking the Era of Ideation-TRIZ (I-TRIZ). I-TRIZ brought not only further enhancements for IPS (Inventive Problem Solving) and AFD, but also new concepts like Directed Evolution (DE). More details about the different Eras can be found at Ideation International.

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Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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