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Workshop Summary
By Adam Mannis, FDTL Tutoring Materials Project

Why are systematic creativity techniques important in the education community? What is the TRIZ tool, and how can it assist users (staff, students, and industry) to be creative, to solve problems, and to develop innovation opportunities?

To address these questions, the UK Centre for Materials Education organised a Workshop, entitled "Systematic Creativity for Innovation: TRIZ and other tools", on 16 October 2001, at Imperial College. The Workshop was targeted at researchers, educators and others involved in creative problem-solving or opportunity finding. It was delivered by Darrell Mann and Simon Dewulf of the CREAX Group, and involved a combination of informal lecturers and interactive group problem-solving exercises using the TRIZ tool.

The Workshop started with a session that provided an overview of TRIZ, noting that it literally meant 'Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving' when translated from its Russian origins. It was stated that TRIZ should not be seen as a 'magic bullet' solution, but instead a tool that defines and solves problems, and provides controlled creativity, often termed 'systematic innovation', that generates a database of creative ideas.

Delegate's attention was then drawn to the fact that TRIZ was different from other creativity tools in the market, since it was "built from engineering success, for engineers by engineers". This was based on an analysis of 2.5 million global patents, from which TRIZ had extracted the following information that had been used in the solution of all of these patents:

  • 39 Contradiction Matrix Elements (i.e. the Pattern of Constraints)
  • 40 Inventive Principles (i.e. the Pattern of Solutions)
  • 17 Generic Evolution Trends (i.e. the Evolutionary Pattern)

The Workshop audience then learnt that normally when brainstorming, you start with a problem and attempt to arrive at an effective solution. However, with the TRIZ approach, first you map a specific problem onto abstract/generic/world problems. Then the TRIZ tool provides abstract/generic/world solutions --- using the inbuilt 39 Contradiction Matrix Elements (to eliminate trade-offs and compromises when contradictions have been identified in the specific problem) and 40 Inventive Principles (to arrive at suggested principles that have solved similar contradictions before) --- from which you then must extract a specific solution. To show TRIZ in action, the CREAX Group next used a range of example problems for delegates to solve in groups.

The Workshop continued with an explanation of how TRIZ uses the Ideal Final Result (IFR) to help define a problem. You start with the IFR, and then work backwards in terms of finding a solution that is the best that can be achieved given current knowledge, practices and resources.

Delegates were next introduced to the importance of the evolution of trends in the TRIZ approach, and how this could be used to predict a more ideal product. If you are able to identify your specific design within one of the steps in the set of 17 Generic TRIZ Trends, the trends will then tell you what the next evolutionary steps will be.

Other components of TRIZ were briefly discussed during the final session of the Workshop, such as patent searches, filing knowledge by 'function' to break down barriers between disciplines, and system resources. The CREAX Group then referred the delegates to web-based sources of further information.

 

  

 

  • "TRIZ is different from other creativity tools in the marketplace, in that it is built from engineering success, for engineers by engineers"
    (Darrell Mann, University of Bath)

Some comments on the Systematic Creativity Workshop:

  • "From attending the Workshop, I will now try and implement TRIZ in teaching and research"
  • "I found the Workshop both excellent and very stimulating, especially the Trends module within TRIZ"
  • I will now arrange to bring TRIZ into the company on a trial basis for a small number of select R&D projects

See also »