Why IFR does not work but can be easily recognized in many inventions after the fact:
(a lesson from RIM)

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

The ideal final result (IFR) says that a system is ideal if it is no more but its function is performed. It might appear that it is a strong heuristic tool of a system improvement. And indeed IFR is easily recognizable in many groundbreaking innovations of our days. Still none of them was attained with its help and, moreover, could not be attained with its help. The purpose of this article is to explain why IFR played no role (and could play no role) in all groundbreaking innovations in which it was recognized after the fact.

A good (and relatively fresh) example to explain this is RIM's (Research in Motion) BlackBerry. For almost a decade it was the leader of the pack. But BlackBerry had such a nuisance as the scrolling wheel to scroll mail and other documents on the screen. Then iPhone appeared where scrolling was performed without a wheel but by a movement of a finger along the screen and quickly displaced Blackberry. From TRIZ standpoint it is IFR: a scrolling wheel (or any other scrolling device) is no more but scrolling is nevertheless performed. Yet it was not achieved with the help of IFR but with the help of a search for new applications of new types of touch screens that could distinguish between static pressure on it and moving pressure. Touch screens that could distinguish motionless touch from moving touch just appeared not long before the advent of iPhone. People naturally started searching for applications for such an unusual property. Scrolling naturally came to mind. This is how it happened. No IFR was ever thought of. But it materialized by itself, quite in line with its own spirit. In a result iPhone appeared, which was more ideal than BlackBerry, and took its place.

Besides scrolling other applications of this unusual property were also found (such as zooming in and out by expanding of two fingers), but they already had no analogues in old BlackBerries to compare with.

Generally, many groundbreaking innovations are accomplished by searching applications for new unusual materials. Usually such applications are not difficult to find. One needs to just be the first in possession of such a material or in recognizing its unusual properties to accomplish a great invention.

Such process of inventing by searching new applications to new properties is bottom up design. IFR is, conversely, a top-to-down design approach. It is not the way the thrilling inventions happen.

Attempts to move from IFR to a solution are often doomed, whereas attempts to find applications for new properties of new materials are always productive. In most cases these applications are just elimination of needs in some devices due to the new magic properties of new materials. Thus, IFR is attained without IFR. It is an ideal tool in this sense: it is not needed but it is fulfilled as a by-product of something else.

Thus, should somebody claim that had RIM's engineers known TRIZ, iPhone would have not overtaken BlackBerry, he/she would indulge in wishful thinking. Knowledge of TRIZ does not accelerate innovation and does not advance it at all. Moreover, it may stifle it.