An Integrated Operational
Knowledge Base (System of Operators) and
the Innovation Workbench™
Boris Zlotin and
September 22, 1992
Operator – a transformation as denoted by
a TRIZ principle, method, standard solution, or utilization of an
effect (physical, chemical, geometrical, even psychological, etc.).
An attempt was made to create an integrated
TRIZ knowledge base that combined all existing TRIZ knowledge-base tools.
This constituted a logical step in the evolution of TRIZ, and was
primarily a response to the following:
- A need to adapt TRIZ tools for mass
utilization, in accordance with
the transition of TRIZ from the
"childhood" to "growth" stage on its evolutionary
- The re-development of TRIZ tools for the
purpose of supporting computerization of TRIZ, given the introduction
of the first TRIZ-based software by IMLab (project Invention Machine
(IM), Minsk, Belorussia).
The IM software family was created on the
basis of TRIZ as it was developed for manual use. This was the
right direction to begin with, however, eventually a machine should work
like a machine rather than simply mimicking human methods. To promote
this change in approach it was necessary to reconsider the theoretical
base of TRIZ.
The first step in this direction was the
development of ARIZ-SMVA, with the understanding that this version of
ARIZ is a process of developing multiple models for a given problem
rather than a single model (as with ARIZ-85). The following models were
- A model in the form of a pair of
Technical Contradictions (TC-1 and TC-2)
- Graphical model of a conflict
- Substance-Field (SF) model
- Ideal Ultimate Result (IUR)
- Macro- and micro Physical Contradiction
- Smart Little People (SLP) model
Each of the above models is associated with
a tool or set of tools. For example, the Innovation Principles work with
Technical Contradictions; the Separation Principles with Physical
Contradictions; the Standard Solutions with Substance-Field models, etc.
It is obvious, however, that it would be much more convenient if there
were an integrated tool that could serve all of the above-mentioned
Historically, various TRIZ knowledge-base
tools such as the Innovation Principles, the Separation Principles,
Effects, and others were developed as independent tools. Later, the
expectation existed that these tools would eventually be replaced or
absorbed by a more advanced and effective tool such as a complete System
of Standard Solutions. This expectation was based on the assumption that a
problem solver will always prefer to obtain a single, high-level solution
rather than a set of solutions that includes those at lower levels (it was
known that the Principles provided solutions of lower level than the
Standard Solutions). As a result, over the next 5 to 6 years TRIZ schools
practically stopped teaching – as well as using – the Innovation
Principles altogether, and instead provided only brief information about
Later, it became apparent that excluding
the Innovation Principles from a practitioner’s "toolbox" had
a negative impact on his practical problem-solving abilities. This was
primarily due to the fact that the Principles had capabilities that the
Standard Solutions didn’t have and hadn’t gained, despite expectations
to the contrary. For example:
- The Innovation Principles allowed one to
search for a solution during an early stage of problem analysis –
after the formulation of Technical Contradictions. This stage occurs
before a Substance-Field model has been built and for this reason the
Standard Solutions can not be applied. Or, in some cases the model
cannot be built at all due to the complexity of the innovation
situation and an unclear understanding about interacting objects and
their roles (tool and article)
necessary to develop the model –
in this case as well the Standard Solutions cannot be applied.
- Several very effective recommendations
from among the Principles were not included in the System of Standard
Solutions, and thus went unutilized (for example, "enforcement of
a harmful action," and "transformation of a harm into a
In addition, the local ideality approach
made a set of potential solutions preferable, as it allows one to choose
the solution concept that has the highest local ideality. Given this, it
is senseless to abandon ideas that can be obtained via numerous tools. On
the other hand, reinstating all the Principles resulted in duplication,
because in many cases similar recommendations were included in different
for a System of Operators
All of the problems mentioned above can be
resolved through the development of an integrated operational
knowledge-base tool (a System of Operators) that includes all
recommendations contained in the Principles, Standard Solutions,
Utilization of Resources, etc. This System should work with any problem
model known in TRIZ: Technical Contradictions, Physical Contradictions,
Substance-Field models, etc.
Working with the Contradiction Table, it
was found that selecting Principles based on a pair of contradictory
characteristics limits the tool’s capabilities. In fact, with TC
modeling, two characteristics (parameters) are "connected" via a
specific means of eliminating a drawback. For example, one way to improve
productivity might cause an increase in weight, while another way might
result in decreased reliability – that is, lead to a different TC. Given
this, we can assume that besides the traditional methods of eliminating a
TC there might be others as well. For example, if our TC contains the pair
"productivity – reliability," the following might also be
- Another way to improve productivity that
does not impact reliability
- A way to avoid or compensate for the
decrease in reliability that does not impact productivity
In order for these methods of withdrawing a
TC to be utilized, the option must be provided for selecting Principles
(Operators) separately for each applicable characteristic (in addition to
the "usual" way; i.e., through the Contradiction table).
It is also interesting to note that the
original Principles were much more specific than the Principles used
today. Many of the Principles were adapted to the specific characteristics
they were intended to deal with. For example, the Principle
"Segmentation" for the purpose of weight reduction differed from
the "Segmentation" used to reduce dimension. Later,
Altshuller withdrew such specifics
from the Principles, apparently for the
sake of the universality and convenience of the Contradiction Table.
However, this "detailization" can now be reconsidered in light
of the possibility of utilizing PC.
Besides "picking up" (selecting
for use) an Operator based on a particular characteristic, it would be
useful to do this based on the type of drawback involved or on a desired
function. Providing such "entrances" to the System of Operators
requires that the Operators be classified according to their application.
Keeping in mind the utilization of
computers as a goal, a complete redesign of all existing Operators
(Principles, Standard Solutions, etc.), making them much more detailed and
specific, can be achieved. This work has already been started by Lev
Pevzner and may prove to be extremely powerful. Such "detailization"
can be accomplished in two ways: through segmentation of the existing
Operators (from the top down); and through the generalization of
illustrations associated with each Operator (from the bottom up).
In conclusion, the following main
requirements for a new TRIZ knowledge-base tool can be formulated:
- Develop a unified, integrated
Operational knowledge-base tool from the Principles, Standard
Solutions, and various Effects.
- Develop a software engine that provides
"entrances" into this tool depending on the problem model
type (TC, PhC, SF, characteristic, function, drawback type), through
the specification of Operators according to their applicability.
- Segmentation of the Operators
for Illustrations (Examples)
An Operator’s recommendation should be
illustrated via descriptions of practical applications. Since most TRIZ
recommendations are fairly general, these illustrations might be far
removed from the specific area in which the user’s problem lies – this
can result in a negative impression about TRIZ in general and about IM’s
software. Making the Operators more specific affords the opportunity of
supplementing each Operator with appropriate illustrations.
In the IM software family, the
illustrations are installed in a specific product. In our opinion, it
would be much better to allow for the same illustration to be used for
various Operators (when appropriate). On the other hand, the situation
wherein the user arrives at the same illustration several times develops
the negative impression of a limited knowledge base. We have a
contradiction: An illustration should serve multiple Operators to increase
its problem-solving power, and should serve one Operator only to avoid the
impression of limited capabilities. One way to resolve this contradiction
is to avoid similar illustrations appearing during demonstration of the
software product. For example, the same illustration shouldn’t be the
first one listed for more than one Operator.
Illustrations should be simple, easy to
understand, and convincing. For these reasons they should be free from
unimportant details that can negatively influence "analogic
of the System of Operators
Characteristics of Operators
The work began in September of 1991 as a
logical continuation (following ARIZ-SMVA) of the computerization of TRIZ.
A general list that included all Operators derived from the existing
Principles, Standard Solutions, Lines of Evolution, etc. was developed.
After excluding instances of duplication, a preliminary classification of
the Operators was done. This resulted in the understanding that the
"database" of Operators should be divided into three groups,
based on the level of universality, as follows:
- Universal, that is, applicable to any
problem. Examples are inversion and partial/excessive action.
- Semi-universal, or General (i.e.,
applicable to many situations). Examples are Operators useful for
eliminating a class of harmful actions.
- Specific (i.e., specialized). Examples
are Operators that constitute methods of dispensing a substance.
Operators are used in blocks
(i.e., sets), which are created by selecting the appropriate
"higher-level" Operator from a more general list.
Accordingly, some Operators may be
included in various blocks. The following types of blocks have been
- Applying substances, fields, effects
Universal Operators contain recommendations
for system transformation irrelevant to the type of drawback or
contradiction to be resolved. The effectiveness of an Operator depends on
how clearly the user comprehends the way to implement the recommendation.
If this is not clear, it is necessary to specify the problem in more
detail and apply specialized Operators. The following Universal Operator
Blocks have been identified:
- Partial/excessive action
Specialized blocks address specific types
of problems related to a particular function to be performed or drawback
to be eliminated. For convenience, all characteristics are divided into
two groups: useful (such as accuracy or convenience) and harmful (weight,
complexity, etc.). The following Specialized Blocks have been identified:
Auxiliary blocks are intended to help
improve a solution in terms of ideality and feasibility, and include the
- Introducing a substance
- Introducing an additive
- Substance modification
- Substance utilization
- Introducing a field
- Readily-available resources
- Derived resources
- Utilization of models
Block-lines help the user to further
develop a solution that has been found. These include:
- Building bi- and poly-systems
- Developing bi- and poly-systems
- Developing a substance’s structure
- Increasing controllability
substances, fields, effects
These blocks should include information
related to the selection of fields, substances, and physical and other
General blocks help identify the
"type" of the specific problem being addressed and offer
recommendations for finding solutions. The following general blocks have
- System synthesis
- Increasing effectiveness
- Eliminating harmful effects
Altogether, the System of Operators is
structured in the form of a list/block: i.e., all Operators are placed in
a single list, and various blocks are built for various purposes.
Similar to the Operators, the illustrations
form their own list. Each potential illustration gets its specification
including indications of Operators it can relate to (appropriate software
addresses are posted). As usual, one illustration can serve two-three
System of Operators as part of the knowledge base incorporated into the
(IWB) System software prototype
The structure of the System of Operators
became fairly complex due to the numerous relationships (links) existing
between the Operators. For example, if a user is working to improve
dispensing accuracy, one of the Operators from this block recommends the
addition of an easily-dispensed substance; then, to further develop the
solution, a block for eliminating a substance is presented; one of these
Operators recommends removing the introduced substance immediately after
it has fulfilled its function; and so on. As a result, the Operator
blocks form a net having a complex, reticular structure that is
practically impossible to draw on a piece of paper (and would be unusable
in any case). This type of structure was implemented with the help of
hypertext, in the form of a branched system of menus consisting of
menus of two types: a choice menu from which the user
selects an appropriate Operator or Operator block (this constitutes part
of the process of problem clarification), and an exploration menu
whereby the user works with the recommended Operators one-by-one to
develop a solution(s).
The choice menu allows for
the selection of:
The purpose of the work
- Whether to work with a technical system
or its model
- The type of initial drawback
- Existence of known ways to solve a
- The type of secondary problem
- A characteristic (parameter) to be
- An initial SF model
Numbers related to the IWB software
prototype (as of April 1992):
in the IWB 2.2, 1999)
Advantages of the IWB prototype
The menu system allows the user to clarify
the problem without building a TRIZ model. This simplifies the work for
those user’s who do not have special (TRIZ) training.
Unlike the usual practice of applying 2 to
4 single recommendations while working with the Principles or Standard
Solutions, the System of Operators offers "chains" of
recommendations that can include up to 20 Operators in one chain,
substantially increasing the tools problem-solving power.
The IWB prototype was demonstrated in
April-September 1992 in Moscow, to around 30 TRIZ specialists from Moscow
and St. Petersburg (Russia), Panevegis (Lithania), Minsk (Belorussia) and
Petrozavodsk (Russia), twice. During these demonstrations, as well as
during the seminar for TRIZ specialists conducted by the authors in
September, more than 100 people from 27 former Soviet Union cities became
familiar with the system.
The overall reaction was positive,
especially for the theoretical advances. With regard to the software
implementation, constructive criticism was received. Today, our work with
the prototype continues. When it is finished, we intend to offer it to
selected TRIZ schools and specialists for testing, and to be included as a
supporting tool for TRIZ consultants.
We are grateful to our colleagues Igor
Vikentiev, Simon Litvin, Alexander Lubomirskiy, Lev Pevzner, Michael
Rubin, Igor Kholkin, Nikolai Khomenko, and Alexander Chistov, as well as
organizations ImLab and LenNilim for useful discussions and suggestions.
We would appreciate any comments related to this paper.
- This paper was originally prepared in
1992 for publication in the Journal of TRIZ, in an issue
devoted to the Kishinev School. It was pulled from publication due to
the proprietary nature of the material and because a patent was
pending related to the Innovation WorkBench System™.
- Later, for the purpose of simplifying
the structure of the TRIZ knowledge base, the "effects" were
excluded from the System of Operators. [Translator’s note.]
- It is an interesting and well-known fact
that the first attempts to automate a process usually involve
imitating the human way, and that these attempts are never successful.
(An example is the first sewing machine, which had artificial
"arms.") Real success was usually associated with the
development of a new technology – one suitable for automation.
- Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman, "Problems
of ARIZ Enhancement" (in
Russian), Journal of TRIZ 3, no. 1 (1992). [Translator’s
note: See the English translation on the Ideation International web
- G. Altshuller et al., The Search for
New Ideas: From Insight to Methodology (Kishinev: Kartya
Moldovenyaska Publishing House, 1989).
- Zlotin and Zusman, "Problems of
- G. Altshuller, Basics of the Method
of Inventing (Voroneg: Central Chernosem Publishing House, 1964).
- Lev Pevzner, "A Concept for
Development of Micro-Standards for Solving Problems with the Help of a
Computer" (in Russian), Journal of TRIZ 1, no. 2 (1990):
- Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman,
"Basic Problems Related to the Development of TRIZ-Based
Software" (in Russian), Journal of TRIZ 4, no. 1 (1994).
- Later renamed as "General."
- Later placed in the Innovation Guide.
- These references form so-called
"associative chains," which model the way experienced TRIZ
Specialists solve problems.
- Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman,
"Basic Problems Related to the Development of TRIZ-Based
Software" (in Russian), Journal of TRIZ 4, no. 1 (1994).
- A secondary problem (drawback) results
from applying a known way to eliminate the initial drawback.
- Later, Substance-Field models were
replaced by a verbal problem description.
- Pure text information (text file).