Received May 13, 2010.

Thoughts on "Four Critical Issues in TRIZ" by S. Saleem Arshad

Pentti Söderlin
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From time to time there appear critical voices towards TRIZ. This is the case concerning the said article in the Anti-TRIZ Journal. Some obvious critiques have been said before as well as those now presented.

The proof of success of TRIZ is always  a difficult question. The same applies to any of creative techniques, e.g. those of listed over 300 ones. The innovation is not only depended on some single method but rather depends on the ability of man to use appropriate method. "Successful people tend to posses several methods of which they choose those who fit in the problem in question". So what is the idea of trying to prove and claiming that TRIZ is the only one?
Innovations include basic research and solving those many kinds of problems which occur during the research process. Normally years later it is not so simple to define or remember what exactly was the main cause or contributor of the innovation.

Creativeness or innovativeness is not easy define. People are using terms like innovation without a proper definition what they mean by that. Some people are even requesting " radical innovations" as if an innovation is not always radical?

It is true that some of Alshullers ideas are not valid any more. Think about the "Laws" of technical evolution. I would rather talk about "CurrentTrends" which apply only at the present. When time passes these "Trends" don't apply any more but new ones evolve. In strategic planning there was a trend for "Diversification", now it is "Back to basics" etc.

It is said that Altshuller abandoned the "Matrix" and had put more emphasis on "Physical Contradiction". Whether this is true or not the Matrix is easy to understand and  very helpful in reducing possible starting points for ideation. Some of us seem to forget the huge amount of ordinary engineers which are not at all so innovative. They need easy methods or procedures to gain competitive advantage in their products or an easier way to solve existing problems. What we need is an update of the matrix and new matrices for other disciplines like for example electronics or software development.  Why don't those who know most tell the rest of TRIZ society the whole truth and their own findings and views?

Altshuller presented also the "Levels of innovation" which is a very simple finding but has value because people tend to reach for only high degree of innovations and omit the every day life of an industrial engineer. The Matrix serves very well the second Level innovations which are quite a number and together with "Physical Contradiction" cover a huge amount of industrial patents or innovations. To improve current products or processes means but savings also an introduction to understand the current and future products better.

Critiques towards the retro-activity are the most usual. However in many many cases scientists  have presented theories which are based on observations they cannot prove to be "laws" nor find any formula. Since they usually in every day life are found to apply they are considered scientific. We might consider the 40 Principles to be one kind of findings similar to those mentioned. Many of the Principles are most likely outdated but not completely out of value. The question is can we develop them further? Are there different Principles for different disciplines?
During TRIZ seminars the students can very easy find their own examples of  everyday life either at home or in business where Principles apply. This is a very important thing to rise interest in the method.

Concerning the blame over steady use of outdated examples is true. But the examples for training purposes are subject to be easy to explain without previous knowledge of the branch or product in question. The exercise should give to the student an opportunity to feel success in solving problems and thus motivate them to further studies and to more sophisticated projects. The trainers might also be novice instead of being TRIZ masters. Probable they will learn more and gain their own examples later? To use old material is safe although not very innovative.

What comes to preference towards generalities I refer the paragraph above. Sometimes the said in detail cases are but yawning and have probably value only for those who have "scientific" interest. This applies for many a case presented. People are intelligent and fast in their thinking, so why bother in detailed cases which are outside their current interest and knowledge? The results are more interesting than the exact detailed tricks? I should prefer the explanation of the very moment of when something clicks in the process. What did lead to the enlightenment?

In Value Analysis / Value Engineering Lawrence D. Miles presented the six reasons for unnecessary costs. The first one was the lack of information and of knowledge. The second lack of ideas. These still apply. It concerns not only the product or problem under study but also the TRIZ teacher as well. What are his previous knowledge of technology or experiences in problem solving in general? As we know it's a free market and there is no authority to control the outcome of TRIZ seminars nor their content or the quality? There are also "improved" TRIZ packages with various trade names. I'll leave these without detailed comments but I am not always convinced the real value of these. Altshuller is said to require detailed tests for new heuristics before accepting these. Who has now veryfied the additions? I would prefer a "traditional" basic seminar plus addenda find by the TRIZ specialist or teacher.
Typical for these improved products is that there has been various additions in the amount of the material presented. Further for some reason people have tried to couple TRIZ with some other management technique like Six Sigma. I see no point there except the added value of marketing their services. Maybe they are not themselves convinced enough of TRIZ and they need additional selling points? Let these be separate and sell them separate too!
You should also remember that the ability of students to absorb new information is limited. Altshuller held seminars of several weeks (200 hours) and said that only an introduction or information to TRIZ requires at least 20 hours. Sorry to say but today it is more and more difficult to release people of their daily productive work to training how useful or beneficial it would ever be. This leads to the contradiction of the amount of content to the time available to train. Please apply Matrix and find solutions to this.

About the request to promote TRIZ to be "scientific" I am more than suspicious. I consider TRIZ as one of the best ever methods in creative and problem solving techniques. Question of academic journal and innovation sciences is merely lip service. True the TRIZ-Journal doesn't always have high quality  in the articles but why don't the masters, specialists, practitioners and academics  contribute more to the Journal? There is always question of money don't forget it. The ideal result might be "all by themselves", without any cost by contributing to TRIZ Journal!

To use some method is the means of a desperate man.