What Is TRIZ ?
Altshuller motivated the need in TRIZ as follows:
- Inventors come to their inventions through trials and errors.
This process is inefficient because most trials are erroneous. This results in too many
trials required to solve a problem.
To make the process efficient erroneous trials have to be cut off.
This is the purpose of TRIZ.
- Erroneous trials of inventors are due to ignorance of some laws.
For example, one who is ignorant of the third law of Newton may try
to pull himself out of the swamp by his own hair. Erroneous trials of inventors are also attempts to
violate some inviolable laws.
- Since the times of inventors ignorant of the laws of physics and chemistry have passed, there are other laws
which contemporary inventors are trying to violate when attempting erroneous trials. These laws
are the laws of technical systems evolution 1.
To avoid erroneous trials inventors have to know the
laws of technical systems evolution.
And the purpose of TRIZ research is to discover these laws.
Then inventors will be avoiding erroneous trials and solving inventive problems in a cost-efficient manner.
Unfortunately, none of these assumptions stand the scrutiny.
Firstly, the TRIZ concept of trials and errors is very shallow. It mixes together very different types of trials:
- Trials related to testing specific materials due to the lack of knowledge of their properties and their
behaviour under specific circumstances.
It is not only in the times of Edison that one had to try many materials in order to find the one which was
the most suitable for the filament of an electrical bulb.
Nowadays properties of new materials for old functions and old materials for new functions are also largely unknown.
- Trials related to searching for a correct proportion (or a proper mix) of certain objects, signals or characteristics.
If no research paper or monograph sheds the light on how combination of some inputs affect the output
one has to conduct trials !
- Trials related to evaluation of advantages and disadvantages of alternative approaches. How can one reject an alternative without evaluating it ?
- Conceptual trials. These are the least in numbers.
The approaches to solution are usually themselves invented rather than known in advance or given.
Eliminating these trials would eliminate inventiveness itself. It is not an uncommon situation when
one sees not a single approach to a problem. And when eventually some approach is discovered,
it immediately turns out to be a solution.
Thus, erroneous trials nowadays are still largely to the gaps in the knowledge about relationships between certain
characteristics or physical/chemical
properties of materials (rather than ignorance of general laws of physics).
As for erroneous trials due to violation of laws of technical systems evolution, no one insists anymore that they are absolutely inviolable. Due to the enlightenment by Anti TRIZ-journal the TRIZ community agreed
that they may or may not hold at times.
Hence their knowledge can hardly prevent erroneous trials from happening.
Thus, Altshuller's dream of a magic tool capable of avoiding
erroneous trials remains completely unfulfilled. TRIZ is nothing more than a set of heuristics which guarantee nothing. Moreover, it is a big and complex set.
And, therefore, studying it may dampen creativity rather than bolster it.
F O O T N O T E S:
1This is why Altshuller was talking about laws rather than trends or patterns of technical systems evolution. The contemporary TRIZ sellers do not understand that.