Michael S. Slocum, Ph.D.
Principal and Chief Scientist
The Inventioneering Company*
(*Adjunct Assistant Professor
North Carolina State University)
This article is a continuation of a column that was begun in December 1998.1 This column is about my personal journey through the TRIZ education process.
The Invention Machine Corporation2 training was held in Los Angeles California in 1996 and was primarily focused on their TechOptimizerÔ software product. During the class I was introduced to the basic theory of contradiction matrix theory for the first time. The Principles module of the software allows the user to define a problem (using contradiction identification) by contrasting a parameter from the existing 39 parameters as defined by Altshuller that improves with a parameter (again, from the 39) that degrades3. This contrasting of parameters yields several principles, with examples, the user may use to stimulate concept generation. I found the examples to be extremely useful because the reduction of the principle to a concept can be difficult when the intent of the principle is not evident to the problem solver. The utilization of examples assists in the performance of the required analogous thinking required. The explanation of this tool and performing some exercises in the class were beneficial as an introduction to the foundational work of Altshullers contradiction matrix theory. The Prediction module was introduced as a method of introducing alternative substances into or around an existing system. It wasnt obvious to me at the time but it is now clear that the prediction module is based on the work of Altshuller in the area of the evolution of technical systems. Dr. Domb points out this strong correlation in her training materials that refer to the prediction tree and the evolution of technical systems. The Effects module is a collection of scientific phenomena that can be used as a fund to find alternative methods of performing a required technical function. This effect fund is analogous to the collection of effects found in Creativity as an Exact Science, Appendix 34. The Function Analysis module allows the user to create a model demonstrating the functions of components as well as their interactions. The basis for this module is strongly related to value engineering but it is a strong connection to the TRIZ tools employed by the software as it allows the user to eliminate components from their system (trimming) which allows the system to migrate towards the ideal state (ideal final result, IFR)5. This process invariably yields problems associated with this migration towards ideality and it keeps track of these complications. The software then allows the user to apply the modules toward reaching resolution of these complications. The software uses a value engineering based function module as an entry point for the application of the TRIZ tools that are present.
The interrelationship of these tools is vital for a thorough understanding of fundamental TRIZ theory and the IMC software and training class is adequate for this demonstration. It is this researchers opinion that an in depth understanding of the underlying principles of TRIZ is necessary for the optimum utilization of these software tools. It is with this in mind that I pursued the next step in my TRIZ education process. Before I go on, let us review the associated variables reflecting the intent and modis operandi of the training I have discussed. The materials (class notes, software manual, examples, lecture notes) were created by members of Invention Machine Corporation under the ultimate direction of Dr. Tsourikov who was trained in TRIZ by Dr. Altshuller. I think it is important to distinguish this fact as it supports the implications of strong TRIZ theoretical reliance for the problem solving modules discussed above. This supports my conjecture that a complete knowledge and understanding of TRIZ principles is crucial to their optimum application. The materials were created to support the use of the software and ultimately this is what the materials are best at. I would not use the materials as a stand-alone text for the learning of TRIZ principles but as a strong supporting text for the application of the tools embodied in the software. As a first exposure, for me, the software was perfect. It allowed me to explore the ramifications of all possible selections (principles, effects, prediction tree, function modeling) and their interdependent relationships. My desire for fundamental theoretical knowledge grew from the application of the software in the resolution of several problems6. For many students I believe an understanding of the theory should preclude the introduction to the software. Several conversations7 with experienced TRIZ practitioners helped to elucidate any points of application that were not clear to me at the time.
The 3rd Annual Total Product Development Symposium was the next event I attended that had significant TRIZ content. I was able to witness several TRIZ lectures from practitioners as well as evaluate the proceedings. Reviewing the application of various portions of the TRIZ methodology increased the depth of my understanding. Listening to presentations by Dr. Domb, V. Fey, Z. Royzen, and D. Verduyn was vital for the transition from introductory awareness to ability to apply the tools at the most complex levels (my prior work, although successful, did not apply all the available TRIZ tools). This scientific forum was conducive to the strengthening of the methodology and I would propose the continuation of this type of intellectual transfer as it will support the development of the TRIZ methodology as its acceptance propagates throughout the world. After these events I attended advanced training in Boston at Invention Machine under the direction of Dr. Ikovenko. The material presented during this class as well as my training under D. Clark, B. Zlotin, and A. Zusman will be discussed in the next article of this series.