Through I read this article in Business 2.0 on a method called TRIZ. This method, developed by the Russian Genrich Altshuller (1926-1998), provides a framework to focus innovation efforts in technological settings.
It seems to have been embraced by engineers because it treats creativity as a discipline to be mastered, not as right-brain hocus-pocus. With my own technological background I can imagine the type of engineer that would love this, a method to treat a generally fuzzy process like creativity as just another algorithm that can be controlled and steered. None of those scary things like brainstorming, open ended dialogues, and psychological approaches needed.
However the self-proclaimed followers and devotees of TRIZ (I use these words because that’s the feeling I get from the commercial websites on this topic), seem to miss the obvious here.
Basically, and apparently laudable so, Altshuller mined the archives of the Russian patent-office and came up with 39 engineering parameters, and 40 innovative principles, working from the premise that basic solutions to fundamental problems were probably already solved in some other branch or field, and that all innovation put together would show distinct patterns. He then made a matrix of the engineering parameters on both axis, with the innovative principles at their crossings as general pointers towards solving a conflict between two engineering parameters. (For a better explanation of its working and the resulting matrix look at the 1995 paper by Glenn Mazur.) So what he did was make a knowledgebase to focus your innovative efforts with. This to me does not make an algorithm out of creativity, it just helps focussing energy. I think you still need the right-brain hocus-pocus to create that energy. TRIZ provides a box to think in for those who shun out of the box thinking as that seems to be so uncontrolled. But within that box creative thinking is still needed. And the knowledge stored in TRIZ all has come about by that same messy process.
Now, Altshuller has made his TRIZ method for structuring technological innovation, and focussed on the results of past creative thinking, and not the process of creative thinking, to help you be creative yourself. What sources would we need to draw upon to make the same sort of tool for innovative services, in stead of pure technology? Is the McKinsey knowledgebase oriented in a way anything like this e.g.? Are there public resources geared in this fashion? Are there already tools out there, I just don’t know about?

Genrich Altshuller (1926-1998)

2 reactions on “TRIZ

  1. Systematic Innovation Or TRIZ Revisited

    Triz and meA few years back I came across a method to focus creative energy to generate useful ideas called TRIZ. I was a bit sceptical then as to its real creative and innovative potential. That scepsis hasn’t entirely gone…

Comments are closed.