What Is TRIZ ?

Altshuller motivated the need in TRIZ as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

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.