Backward Predictions

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

The July issue of TRIZ Journal has three case studies on technology forecast [1-3] and one on technology "retrocast" [4]. All of them follow the forecasting methodology presented in the ancient joke about a guy who charged for predicting a baby gender before it was born; his predictions were guaranteed: if he missed, he returned the money. One doesn't need to be a statistician to figure that the guy walked away with about a half of the amount charged.

The articles claim that they use TRIZ methodologies[1], TRIZ approach[4], TRIZ philosophy[3] and strategic TRIZ[2], and they all do - but backwards: they come up with ideas that authors believe might realize and then they describe these ideas in TRIZ terms. In other words, they do not use a TRIZ methodology, approach, philosophy or strategy to arrive to the "predictions", but rather use a TRIZ terminology, to ... here is the question for which I don't know answer: why did they need to surround their thoughts with TRIZ terms?

For example, in [1], the authors first made a list of important, in their opinion, functions and attributes of food packaging. This probably is a good step for a methodical research, but it is in no way specific to TRIZ. Then, they researched existing patents in regards to the relevant, in their opinion, functions and attributes. This is a generally useful step - not a TRIZ specific, again. Then, having analyzed the relevant patent findings, it was quickly realized that a significant number of innovative opportunities exist for smart food packaging developers. In other words, the patent research gave them a bunch of ideas. This is not unusual and is unrelated to TRIZ. And then, for no apparent reason, the authors put these ideas under arbitrary TRIZ-sounding headers, like Mono-Bi-Poly and Controllability (which also is not a TRIZ specific). The specific authors' food packaging ideas might work or not, succeed or fail, be fruitful or fruitless (I personally hated some of them) - in any case, they are NOT a result of applying TRIZ methodology. By the way, none of the ideas is even close to the TRIZ "favorite" level 3!

Similarly low-level ideas in [2] are justified by surrounding them with TRIZ terms. For example, using a virtual reality and computer calculations instead of a hard prototype is presented as "Ideal Final Result"; may be this was a high-level idea once, but that was so long ago... All other ideas are also at least not new and also are arbitrarily related by authors to patterns, which are the most appropriate in their opinion.

Although the article's Abstract claims that application of TRIZ instruments supports the strategic task such as Technology Foresight, the Conclusions admit the failure:...professional assessment is needed...needs the consideration of other indicators...very subjective...difficult connection between the multiple TRIZ tools... The authors try to close on an optimistic note: But still the most important feature of TRIZ is that it opens the way of thinking and provides an alternative vision-thinking. I would add: But then it is just a good old idea generation tool, which does not support a foresight in any way.

The article [3] would be a list of amazing predictions... if it were written 20 or 200 years ago. Today, it's just a list of some old or first level ideas and of some authors' opinions. For example, they claim that according to the Law of increasing ideality... the pen will write for a longer period... the refill will be turned into both the bigger ink container and the outer body. What a lack of imagination! This is what they call ideality!? How about a pen that writes forever? A pen without refill, which converts air (or an air pollution) into ink? In other "prediction" they claim that a pen will be combined with other technical systems - again referring to the Law of increasing ideality:...pen+a ruller, pen+a watch, pen+a calendar... These ideas today are even below level 1! Talking about ideality in combining, why not to seek a "universal combinability" - a pen that can be combined with anything? And so on...(computers without keyboards, mobile phones with manual input and other oldies). If this is a result of using TRIZ, then the forecasting method described by authors is about how not to use TRIZ!

The article [4] does not try to forecast anything, but rather to give a systematic frame for historical analysis of a technology. Still, this is not a reason to use TRIZ backwards, but that's what the authors do: first they select basic features, which represent the ways for the machines in hand to be one better than other; then, they arbitrarily choose relevant inventive principles and patterns of evolution, which represent parameters making the machines in hand one better than other; then they sum up combinations of the parameters per features; and then they come to the conclusion: a machine that has more better parameters for more important features is generally better than other way around. What a revelation! Anyway, using the words Separation, Dynamization, Controllability, etc. doesn't make this "method" an application of TRIZ in any way.

R E F E R E N C E S:

  1. Dr John Cooney, Barry Winkless, Utilising TRIZ Methodologies to Evolve and Develop Next Generation Food Packaging Concepts, The TRIZ-journal, July 2003.
  2. Jörg Stelzner, Carlos Palacios, Tobias Swaton, TRIZ on Rapid Prototyping -A Case Study for Technology Foresight, The TRIZ-journal, July 2003.
  3. Yury Danilovsky and Voluslav Mitrofanov, The Forecast of the Ballpoint Pen Evolution, The TRIZ-journal, July 2003.
  4. Gaetano Cascini, Romano Nanni, Davide Russo, TRIZ Patterns of Evolution as a Means for Supporting History of Technology: Analyzing the Brunelleschi's Dome Cranes, The TRIZ-journal, July 2003.