A Personal View on Savranskys Book

This article is a supplement to:
Book Review: Engineering of Creativity: Introduction to TRIZ Methodology of Inventive Problem Solving

By: Ellen Domb

A Personal View on Savranskys Book

By Kalevi Rantanen
Brahenk. 9 E 18
phone/fax +358 2 251 1623
mobile +358 50 548 7834
E-mail: kalevi.rantanen@kolumbus.fi

Semyon D. Savranskys new book Engineering of Creativity (Boca Raton 2000. CRC Press) covers in its 19 chapters and nearly 400 pages many concepts and tools of TRIZ. Instead to write a comprehensive review I rather would like to concentrate attention to a few points that I consider most important.

Let´s make first three quotations from the book:

Third page of the preface: “It is impossible to use TRIZ effectively without firmly understanding its concepts; therefore, the reader should not jump directly to the final part of this book.”

Page 23: “The concepts of Contradiction, Evolution, Resources, and Ideal Solution are the main building blocks of TRIZ…”

P. 27: “It is impossible to solve high degree of difficulty problems with only the knowledge of TRIZ heuristics and instruments without learning the whole TRIZ methodology and sharpening solver skills with real and educational problems.”

I would like to write with bold capital letters the words:


The statement is more important than it may seem at first glance. We have accumulated in Finland much experience on the problem “concepts vs. heuristics and instruments”. In 1980s were conducted many workshops, usually of 5 days total in class-room, plus home-work. The main content of these workshops was ARIZ. Su-Field models were another important item. Concepts of contradiction, resources, ideal final result and patterns of evolution were considered shortly, as an introduction to main topics. Clearly the most important were “heuristics and instruments”, concepts followed in second order. One should add that at that time abbreviations TRIZ - a theory, and ARIZ - a step-by-step guide, were often used nearly as synonyms.

In winter 1999-2000 I interviewed participants of these courses I have conducted more than 10 years ago. I asked which things from the contents of the courses they have used. The answers were as follows:

Most useful and most often used were the models of contradiction, ideal solution and resources

Some participants named patterns of evolution as important and useful tools

No one used ARIZ

Su-Field drawings were rejected, they gave clearly negative feed-back

The result was rather surprising, compared with common views on training in industry. Engineers, practical people by heart, clearly preferred theoretical and scientific concepts to ready “heuristics and instruments”. The participants who had internalized some kind a scheme “contradiction - resources - ideal final result”, had got best results.

This surprise got a convincing explanation when we analyzed results using the achievements of Activity Theory (AT). AT is a disciple studying human activity. One of findings of this school is that people need compact models, visions, or orienting bases, to understand, use, evaluate, develop and apply any subject matter.

Experience on 1990s, for example attempts to “go to TRIZ” via TRIZ-based software or Altshullers matrix, only confirmed above mentioned results. Both customer feedback and theory implicated the same conclusions. It became necessary to turn the subject matter of TRIZ upside down so that a basic theoretical model took clearly the first place before different tools, step-by-step guides and job plans. A totally new TRIZ workshop was developed and successfully tested in the beginning of the year 2000. A new textbook, exercise book and teachers guide were written.

After this work I got Savranskys book. I saw that the book reflects the same trend: more emphasis on the basic concepts. Chapter 2 gives TRIZ Overview, and chapter 3 considers the technical system. Contradictions, Ideality, Substance-Field Resources, Evolution of Technique are studied in chapters 4-7. After that follows detailed information of different tools and heuristics.

The structure of the book may seem self-evident hindsight, but the comparison with earlier literature shows the rather long and sometimes painful change. In Altshullers most famous book - Creativity as an Exact Science - are chapters like “Principles of S-Field Analysis”, “Tactics of Invention”, “Talented thought”, “Forty Basic Methods”, and others. Contradictions and other basic concepts are considered in sub-chapters and numerous remarks all over the book. The last book of Altshuller on TRIZ, “To Find an Idea” (not published in English), contains chapters of evolution patterns and ideality, after the critics of other methodologies, the study of different system levels, nine-screen model and other items. His work in general contains much - historically inevitable - “carelessness of genius”. Central and most valuable things are often buried under numerous ideas, themes and lines of research.

That´s why Altshullers books don´t give a general initial model of TRIZ. Using the jargon of cognitive psychology, they, and literature on TRIZ generally, lack an orienting basis.

Savransky´s book helps to dig up the kernel of the theory from the vast amount of information.

These statements contain, inevitably, some simplification. The emphasis on the three or four basic concepts does not at all mean, that different heuristics and step-by-step guides are useless. It means only, that you should begin from basic concepts. For example, if the book is used as a practical guide, it may be best first to model contradictions, ideal final result, resources, and paths of evolution using only the recommendations in chapters 4-7. Then the solution can be enriched and improved using heuristics in the part 5 of the book. To begin from step-by-step guides, for example, from the contradiction matrix (chapter 13), is not the best practice.

For some seasoned TRIZ experts the transition of emphasis from immediate recommendations to theory may be not very interesting since they have always thought and worked this way. More and more people, however, will use TRIZ, and teach it, too. I am sure, that for many of them clear presentation of the core of TRIZ will be useful.

(back to top)