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The Origins of TRIZ

During the late 1940s, Genrich Altshuller, the originator of TRIZ, was working in the patent department of the Soviet navy. His primary responsibility was to assist inventors in filing patents, but because he was himself a gifted inventor (he received his first patent at the age of 14), he was often asked for help in solving problems encountered during the innovation process.

Assuming that methods existed to help people solve creative problems, Altshuller went to the library and began researching. He found studies based upon the notion that, since innovation is a product of the human mind, the process can be improved using psychological techniques. Several methods (such as brainstorming) had been developed to overcome psychological inertia -- that is, to help people generate ideas "outside the box."

But Altshuller soon began to realize the difficulty of obtaining objective information on the innovation process through psychological means, as the results were neither measurable nor reliable. In contrast, he reasoned, technical information is objective in nature. While there are no tools that allow us inside the human mind to study the process of innovation, the results of this process can be easily observed by studying the inventions themselves, or the patent literature associated with them.

Realizing that an innovation represents a fundamental change to a technological system -- and is therefore subject to analysis -- Altshuller turned his attention to the patent fund, screening over 200,000 patents from all over the world.  He identified 40,000 patents that constituted "inventive" achievements, and began a rigorous analysis of these. The results of his efforts formed the theoretical basis of TRIZ and laid the groundwork for the problem-solving tools that would later be developed. As the TRIZ methodology grew over the next four decades, the patent research continued; by the mid-1980s over 2 million patents had been investigated.

The Evolution of TRIZ and I-TRIZ

The history of TRIZ can be divided in stages as described below.

1946 - 1980

  • Genrich Altshuller is virtually the only person developing TRIZ; others provide occasional assistance.
  • Fundamental discoveries have been made and the basic ideas and tools of classical TRIZ have been developed.
  • Occasionally, others contribute their ideas, however these ideas are usually weak and of secondary importance.
  • This stage ended in 1980 when the first TRIZ Specialist conference took place in Petrozavodsk, Russia.

1980 - 1986

  • TRIZ receives publicity in the former USSR. Many people become devotees of TRIZ and of Altshuller; the first TRIZ professionals and semi-professionals appear.
  • Altshuller is highly efficient in developing TRIZ due to the large number of seminars conducted, the various TRIZ schools established, and individual followers who join the ranks, allowing for the rapid testing of ideas and tools. TRIZ schools in St. Petersburg, Kishinev, Minsk, Novosibirsk, and others become very active under Altshuller's leadership.
  • The strong development of classical TRIZ results in the first serious attempts to move TRIZ beyond the strictly technological domain (the book Life Strategy for a Creative Individual, children's education, "subversion" analysis, Theory of Evolution of Organizations, etc.).
  • Although the free exchange of ideas and open publication exists, publication is extremely difficult to achieve.
  • TRIZ materials accumulate rapidly but vary widely in quality (from useless to real breakthroughs).

1986 - 1991 -- Contemporary TRIZ

In 1986, the situation changed dramatically. Altshuller's illness limited his ability to work on TRIZ and control its development, thus he discontinued his work on technological TRIZ. For the first time in the history of TRIZ, Russian perestroika allowed it to be applied commercially. In 1982, Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman founded a technical school in Kishinev, Moldova which specialized in teaching the TRIZ methodology and providing TRIZ analytical services for industrial companies.

The accomplishments of the Kishinev TRIZ School included:

  • over 6,000 students taught
  • over 4,000 technological problems solved or facilitated
  • development of a methodology for solving scientific problems
  • development of a methodology for identifying possible causes of failures as well as potential failures
  • identified numerous lines of evolution
  • published nine books on TRIZ (three together with Altshuller)
  • contributed monthly to popular magazines on the practical application of TRIZ
  • launched a monthly contribution to Russian newspapers on TRIZ for children
  • published numerous other articles on the TRIZ methodology
  • developed the basic patterns of evolution of organizations
  • developed recommendations for using students' unresolved real-life problems as a teaching process
  • developed educational programs for various audiences at a range of technical levels
  • provided analytical services for business organizations

By 1989, the extensive experience of the Kishinev TRIZ School in teaching and problem solving allowed Zlotin and Zusman to define the main weaknesses of the classical TRIZ methodology. These were:

  • Its non-rigorousness (i.e., many analytical skills that were required for the successful application of TRIZ tools had not been transformed into documented rules, algorithms and recommendations).
  • A limited amount of the TRIZ knowledge-base had been documented and was available for study and use.
  • Each tool had been developed separately and as a result the tools did not form an integrated system.
  • Problems of different types had to be treated differently, but there were no clear recommendations for which tool to use for a particular type of problem or situation.
  • The tools did not support all stages of the problem-solving process. For example: problems had to be pre-formulated in TRIZ terms before the tools could be applied.

As a result of the above limitations, TRIZ was characterized by the following:

  • Considerable education (from 100 to 250 hours) was required to effectively utilize TRIZ.

  • Extensive practice (from 1 to 5 years) was required to become self-sufficient in the methodology.

  • Making TRIZ available for mass utilization posed an insurmountable challenge.

In addition, these same drawbacks made the process of computerizing TRIZ -- which had already begun -- very difficult.

Given the above considerations, Zlotin and Zusman determined to advance the TRIZ methodology in the following directions:

  • Develop integrated tools so that all types of problems can be treated in the same manner.
  • Add the "missing" tools so that TRIZ supports all stages of the problem-solving: problem identification, formulation, and categorization; identifying and utilizing the appropriate tools; evaluating results; planning the implementation.
  • Restructure and extend the TRIZ knowledge base to take advantage of computerization.
  • Continue development of the lines of technological evolution.
  • Continue development of problem-solving tools.
  • Reveal patterns of evolution in non-technological areas.

This work resulted in the following accomplishments:

  • A new, comprehensive version of ARIZ, which is much more rigorous and suited to computerization.
  • A problem formulation process, first for mental use and then for computerization.
  • A System of Operators that incorporates the entire existing TRIZ knowledge base.
  • Substantial extension of the TRIZ knowledge base (twice as many operators, many additional examples, added technical applications of effects).
  • A complete problem-solving process (later called the Ideation Process).
  • A prototype of the Innovation Workbench software system, which incorporates the complete problem-solving process.
  • A software prototype for personnel management.

1991 and Beyond -- TRIZ in the USA

The rapid deterioration of the economic situation in the former USSR forced many capable TRIZ specialists, most of whom who had established their own businesses, to move TRIZ abroad. Many TRIZ specialists immigrated into the U.S. and Israel and started promoting TRIZ individually. Others found international partners and established TRIZ companies. Recognizing the U.S. as a key for the successful dissemination of technology, Zlotin and Zusman joined with American professionals to form Ideation International -- an American company incorporated in 1992. During the ensuing years, Ideation  accomplished the following:

  • Acquired the Kishinev TRIZ School, moving most of their principal scientists to the U.S.
  • Translated and repackaged an extensive amount of information on TRIZ
  • Became familiar with the U.S. marketplace
  • Learned the requirements of potential TRIZ users
  • Adapted TRIZ to the American engineering process
  • Delivered products and services to numerous industrial companies
  • Trained hundreds professionals in the methodology
  • Established educational programs to help an individual become self-sufficient in TRIZ and develop further mastery
  • Developed a family of software tools and installed thousands of copies
  • Continuously advanced the Ideation/TRIZ methodology (I-TRIZ)

The Evolution and Transformation of TRIZ

As I-TRIZ has evolved, other spin-offs of classical TRIZ appeared as well. The figure below illustrates the differences between I-TRIZ and other systems in terms of power and simplicity. 


This site last updated 01/13/12
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