IF TRIZ IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA WHY IS NOT EVERYONE USING IT ?

Y. B. Karasik

Thought Guiding Systems Inc.
Ottawa, Canada
e-mail: karasik@sympatico.ca

The above question was raised by Brian Campbell in the April 2002 issue of the TRIZ-journal. From the way the question is put, it has a simple answer: TRIZ is not used by everyone because not everyone needs it. But probably Brian Campbell meant the following: if TRIZ is such a good idea why is it not getting accepted by both academy and industry despite the tremendous effort by numerous propagandists, consultants, and merely TRIZ fanatics ? The answer to this question might appear heretical to the TRIZ community but the bitter truth is that TRIZ is not getting accepted because it is neither a science nor an universal engineering paradigm.

Any science starts with establishing what it studies and how. If TRIZ is a science, then what does it study ? The laws of machines evolution ? The patterns of inventions ? Or what else ? Suppose, it studies the laws of machines (technological systems) evolution. Then what are the methods of study ? One can imagine that a method of study is to identify and analyze ALL changes that a machine/system passed through in the course of time. Of course, ALL changes should be taken into account because otherwise how can one claim that trends discovered on partial samplings are universal ? However, nobody in the TRIZ community (including Altshuller) ever identified and analysed ALL changes of at least a single machine. Because it is practically impossible task: there are tons and tons of the patented improvements of even very simple mechanisms scattered in time and patent literature space. Thus, how one can claim that the "laws" were scientifically proven ?

The only way to prove that the results obtained on the partial (and very limited) samplings are universal is to show that there are no counter-examples. Unfortunately, TRIZ does not stand this test: one can easily find counter-examples (or missing chains) for any of the TRIZ "laws" of evolution.

Besides there is another scientific sin of TRIZ. When Charles Darwin published his concept of evolution, he made public in his book those numerous facts based on which he drew his conclusions. These facts constituted the bulk of his book and were the pedestal of his concepts. The Altshuller's books, on the contrary, lack any substantial factual material. Yes, there are examples, sometimes many examples, but they are merely examples intended to illuminate the concepts rather than to serve their foundation. Altshuller just claimed that he analyzed 100,000 (or whatever the number is) patents but how can one verify this ? He does not present/describe the patents themselves. He even does not give the list of these 100,000 patents. The claim is pretty hollow.

Thus, no publicly available factual pedestal (comparable to the Darwin's work), no effective method of investigation (on the one hand, you cannot identify ALL changes of a machine, on the other hand, the partial samplings are turned out to be susceptible to counter-examples). No wonder, therefore, that the scientific community as a whole cannot accept TRIZ as a science (despite some professors may become very TRIZ partisan).

In my opinion, TRIZ is a science in the making. Unfortunately, the explosive proliferation of the so called TRIZ practitioners and businessmen, has ground this "making" to a halt.

But if TRIZ is not a science as yet, then may be it is a good engineering/heuristic paradigm ? Unfortunately, for the publicly available TRIZ, it is also not the case. Although there are people that testify to the contrary, I found that Altshuller's TRIZ was completely inapplicable to my work in optical engineering. The very way of thinking in optics is quite different from the Altshuller's paradigm. I suspect that the same is true for many other fields of engineering. That is probably why TRIZ made so little headway amongst the real problem solvers.

But if TRIZ is neither a science nor an effective/universal engineering paradigm, then why the ever growing number of people around the globe become TRIZ obsessed ? This question is the subject of our next article.