How Does TRIZ, the Russian Theory Work in Addressing Innovation?

How Does TRIZ, the Russian Theory Work in Addressing Innovation? | Strategy and Innovation | Emeritus

Problem-solving is one of the most critical aspects of software development projects. You solve one problem and immediately move on to tackling another. Amidst the chaos, project managers seldom have the time to address each problem at the root level. Ultimately, it curbs innovation and creativity within the organization. This is where the Theory of Problem-Solving (TRIZ) helps. It enables you to address the root cause of problems and boost innovation. Let’s understand what TRIZ is and how it enhances innovation and creativity. 

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What is TRIZ and How Does it Work?

TRIZ stands for “Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch in Russian, which translates to the “Theory of Problem-Solving”. It is a strategic problem-solving approach or methodology that relies on data and logical reasoning to solve problems instead of going with intuition or assumptions. TRIZ was developed in the erstwhile USSR in 1946 by scientist Generic Altshuller, an engineer and inventor. 

Altshuller and his colleagues examined over 200,000 patents and observed that over 95% of them were based on similar inventive techniques, and merely 5% comprised unique ideas or breakthrough solutions. He observed that if patents are categorized based on functionality over industry, they can be used across various industries because most patents use only a few inventive techniques (with minor improvements).

Hence, one of TRIZ’s core features is that it generalizes problems and solutions. This means that similar problems and solutions exist across diverse industries. These problems are considered contradictions that should be eliminated. 

TRIZ works by first defining an ideal solution in a very wide space. Any deviation from their ideal solution is considered a contradiction. There are two types of contradictions in TRIZ: 

Technical Contradictions

These refer to engineering defaults when improving one thing causes a negative impact on another. For instance, enhancing the strength of a product increases its weight, or increasing the speed of a machine can impact quality.

Physical Contradictions

These contradictions are inherent in nature. For example, software needs to be complicated to include all the features but should be easy to understand.

These contradictions can be resolved using any of the 40 inventive principles outlined in TRIZ. These principles include segmentation, combination, universality, prior action, cushion in advance, feedback, rejection and regenerating parts, and more. You have to create a contradiction matrix, which involves correlating different contradicting parameters and applying general principles.

Simply put, TRIZ is a strategic problem-solving approach that involves identifying your problem, looking for similar challenges in other industries and the solutions applied to overcome the challenges, and applying those universal principles to solve problems and boost creativity and innovation.

ALSO READ: What is Idea Generation? All You Need to Know for an Effective Strategy 

What are the Benefits of Using TRIZ in Problem-Solving?

Let’s understand TRIZ better with a fictional example. Imagine you are leading a software development project. The team is making slow progress and it seems difficult that the project will be completed within the deadline. There could be technical challenges, such as complex coding, or resource constraints, such as a lack of skilled developers or necessary tools. 

Now, the contradiction here is that you need to speed up development without compromising on the quality of deliverables. The parameters therefore need to balance both speed and quality. Here, you can use the parameter change principle, which means altering the project scope or readjusting priorities. 

Imagine, however, if you were to do things a bit differently—go with your intuition and hire two more developers to increase the pace of the project. However, this action backfires as the new developers take time to get familiar with the project, and the team spends a lot of time in collaboration instead of finishing the project. Using your intuition to solve problems may not be a wise plan after all.

With TRIZ, you break down problems into their basic components. You rely on data and logical reasoning to evaluate the reasons for a team’s slow progress. Moreover, you analyze various metrics such as time taken to complete each task, pending tasks, defect rates, etc. Finding the root cause makes problem-solving easier.

This is exactly what TRIZ is about—solving any problem through logical reasoning and data that fuels creativity and innovation. Here are some of the key benefits of TRIZ

  • It improves decision-making by providing a structured approach to problem-solving 
  • In comparison to traditional problem-solving methods that focus on improving existing processes, TRIZ focuses on new inventions 
  • TRIZ helps identify the root cause of the problem through a contradiction matrix 

ALSO READ: 5 Important Reasons Why Businesses Should Leverage Backward Integration

Can You Provide Examples of Successful TRIZ Implementations?

The two best examples of TRIZ are:

1. Samsung Galaxy Phone

Samsung was stuck between improving battery power and reducing device weight. However, it used TRIZ principles to innovate new methodologies and decrease device weight while improving battery life.

2. Boeing Aircraft

Boeing uses TRIZ principles in aerospace engineering to resolve the contradiction of reducing aircraft weight for fuel efficiency and ensuring optimum weight for passenger safety.

ALSO READ: Here’s How to Boost Your Marketing Campaigns With PESTEL Analysis

How is TRIZ Different From Other Problem-Solving Methodologies?

The Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving seems similar to other such methodologies, such as Brainstorming, Six Sigma, Lean, and Design Thinking. However, TRIZ follows a unique approach. Let’s understand how it adds value.

1. TRIZ vs. Brainstorming 

Brainstorming is a popular creative thinking technique that involves two or more people discussing creative ideas based on their experiences and knowledge in an informal or relaxed environment. This technique primarily involves discussing ideas that come to mind and does not usually follow a defined structure. Successful brainstorming also depends on people’s creativity and the group dynamics.

TRIZ, on the contrary, takes a more systematic approach to problem-solving. It follows established patterns of invention and innovation based on past studies. Teams also use a knowledge database of innovative solutions.

2. TRIZ vs. Six Sigma

TRIZ is a problem-solving framework that focuses on creativity and finding innovative solutions. However, Six Sigma is more of a quality framework for process and quality improvement. It aims at reducing the variability of the project from the established quality standards.

3. TRIZ vs. Lean

Lean is another popular problem-solving methodology that focuses on continuously optimizing processes and minimizing waste production. However, TRIZ focuses on creativity and innovation by resolving contradictions.

4. TRIZ vs. Design Thinking 

Design thinking is another technical problem-solving approach that focuses on customers’ needs. It emphasizes approaching problems in a creative manner as designers do through researching users’ needs and challenging assumptions. On the other hand, TRIZ relies on defined principles and patterns to find solutions. 

Is TRIZ Suitable for All Types of Businesses?

TRIZ methodology is suitable for a variety of industries. However, it is more suitable for scientific industries that focus on innovation and invention. Some industries that can greatly benefit from TRIZ are manufacturing and engineering, the automotive industry, and aerospace. 

TRIZ largely helps with solving problems and innovating in engineering and tech. Therefore, it might not be beneficial for industries such as retail, hospitality, and advertisement. Such industries are more process-oriented rather than project-oriented and do not require breakthrough innovation. 

Problem-solving and creativity are the highest-valued skills in the modern workplace, especially in tech and engineering. If you are planning to advance to leadership levels, learning strategy, and innovation is the key. Emeritus’ online strategy and innovation courses can help you learn popular innovation and strategy methodologies and implementation. Grow your career with Emeritus today!

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About the Author

Content Writer, Emeritus Blog
Sneha is a content marketing professional with over four years of experience in helping brands achieve their marketing goals. She crafts research-based, engaging content, making sure to showcase a bit of her creative side in every piece she writes. Sneha spends most of her time writing, reading, or drinking coffee. You will often find her practicing headstands or inversions to clear her mind.
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