TRIZ, Quantum Physics and Scuba Diving in Solving Personal and Professional Problems

G. L. Filkovsky,
Nomura Securities International,
New York, USA

Most of the papers written about so-called non-technical applications of TRIZ are based on "abstractions", which get achieved by ignoring some essential elements of TRIZ as well as of the non-technical applications, and by using double meaning of words or even substitution of words to draw artificial parallels and analogies. The latest example of such insinuation is TRIZ, Quantum Physics and Poetry in Solving Personal and Professional Problems, by Judith and Andre de Zanger [1]. Let's look into it just a little bit.

The authors use for their first example, the TRIZ Parameter Changes principle, #35. They start with re-formulating it like this: "moving from Solid State to a Field Phenomenon". Attention: this formula is NOT what the Parameter Changes principle is about.

Then, they claim that it "relates to the quantum physics idea that we are not solid, separate objects but that everything is interrelated and connected." Attention: this is NOT a quantum physics idea; the quantum physics has nothing to do with this idea, and vice versa. Plus, if "everything is interrelated", why even mention that this principle "relates" to this idea? It's trivial: everything "relates" to everything, anyway...

Then, they throw in a quote from Einstein, "the field is the only reality". Attention: this is NOT a quantum physics idea either; Einstein was rather seeking a way to REPLACE quantum physics. This also has NOTHING to do with the Parameter Changes principle, even in the de Zanger interpretation: Einstein didn't try to "move from Solid State", but rather to show that matter IS a state of field. Moreover, if matter really is a state of field, then de Zanger interpretation of the TRIZ principle means, "moving from a Field Phenomenon to a Field Phenomenon", which is ... how to say it ... meaningless.

Then, they proceed by substituting "energy" for "field". Attention: "energy" is a mechanical concept, applied to a matter long before the quantum physics was born, and long before the "field" concept was formulated.

Next, they talk about a "balance" between matter and energy, completely ignoring that the TRIZ principle does NOT call for a balance but to CONTRARY, for "moving from - to".

This supposes to be an example of "looking for the contradictions... and then search, not for the compromise, but for the ideal solution". "Balance" is OPPOSITE to this TRIZ idea. The authors themselves say it: "If there is too much either way, it or we are out of balance". Webster defines balance simply, "a state of equilibrium". In other words, balance is a COMPROMISE, i.e. "mutual concession", "golden mean", "middle ground", etc. (Webster). Attention: ideal solution of a contradiction in TRIZ should achieve as much as desired, BOTH ways - it is NOT a balance.

Then, Judith and Andre claim "long distance learning" to be "a Field Phenomenon". Attention: a long distance effect is a mechanical concept (i.e. Sun directly affects distant planets), which is NEGATED by the modern physics. On the other hand, the long distance learning certainly is an ideal solution for de Zanger: it allowed them to get their "long distance" Ph.D. with "no classroom or individual teacher" and without conducting any real scientific research, which seems to help THEM to solve some personal as well as professional problems.

The examples, which per Judith and Andre demonstrate similarities to TRIZ, are rather the COUNTER examples, or NO examples. What we POSITIVELY can learn from this duo is,
1) They don't know much of TRIZ, nor of physics.
2) They can't follow simple logical steps without making a mistake.
3) They disregard readers' intelligence.

And now, to better news. I've found a wonderful piece on problem solving in an area quite different from other TRIZ areas. I'll eliminate just a few words to hide for a while its actual subject matter, and you can see how TRIZ applies there:

"Problems can range from inconveniences to emergencies, but you can group them into two categories - routine and those you've never encountered [here are TRIZ levels - GF].
Routine problems are those, for which you already have a solution [level 1 - GF].
Those you've never encountered are called novel problems [inventive problems - GF].
Problem solving is a skill. You normally solve problems without thinking consciously about the process, much of which is intuitive. But, to improve, pay attention to the steps [algorithm - GF]. Improving each step increases problem-solving skill. With experience, you go through these steps quickly and automatically.
What are the general steps for handling a novel problem?
1. Identify the problem precisely [find a contradiction - GF].
2. Inventory your resources [did they copy this directly from TRIZ? - GF].
3. Create several possible solutions. Try to make these as different as possible [multiple instruments - GF].
4. Choose the best. Devote your energy to that solution [Ideal Final Result - GF].
5. Assess and revise. As you handle the problem, assess your progress and adjust the solution as you go, building on the ideas and experience you gain by applying the solution [this cyclical process seems to come straight from ARIZ too - GF]."

Here is the punch line: this piece comes from the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Instructor Manual for Divemaster Course, and it talks about "on-spot" solving problems that can appear on a dive site. The course goes into further details, examples and exercises, which make it, "D(iving)RIZ".

What does this mean? Does it mean that TRIZ can be applied in non-technical areas, or rather that these problem solving principles are widely known and they BECOME TRIZ when applied in technical areas? Does it mean that divemasters routinely learn and develop their problem-solving skills, while TRIZ still tries to convince engineers to do so? Does it mean that TRIZ "scientists" are so excited about TRIZ because they don't know much and consequently, believe in its, and their, uniqueness?

Whatever it means, it is clear that there are many more similarities between TRIZ and scuba diving than between TRIZ and quantum physics.

R E F E R E N C E:

  1. Judith de Zanger, Ph.D., and Andre de Zanger, "TRIZ, Quantum Physics and Poetry in Solving Personal and Professional Problems", The TRIZ-journal, May 2003.