Principal Innovation Consultant
Next Step Associates
Whilst it is really fascinating to get the stories of how TRIZ has been used on this and that technical design or business issue it is not so easy, I think, to translate these stories into parallel one’s for our own, unique situations. So I do like to try to be playful from time to time with TRIZ and everyday kinds of problems. And I can add these examples to my TRIZ courses, inviting people to do the same on the everyday problems we tend to tackle in the same old ways even when they bother us a lot!
If this approach is of interest maybe we could generate a collection of everyday TRIZ stories which we can all use when offering TRIZ training?
When I started decorating recently I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to test TRIZ while doing some real live work around my home. There were the usual jobs to do, strip the old wallpaper off the walls, clean the walls, smooth the wood and then start the paining and papering. Some new tools were bought for the job and some proved more useful than others.
Stripping the walls was interesting in that after a bit of thinking (and a bit of wasted effort testing the wallpaper strength) we realised (my son and I) that we had a contradiction. We wanted the paper to be weak (so it came off the wall) but strong (so it would hold onto itself and we could pull it off in long strips. This physical contradiction can be solved using separation in time and or space. We could try to wet the paper so it was not stuck so hard and then let it dry in the hope that it would not restick as the glue dried again. We thought that it might so we went for separation in space - weaken some of the wallpaper and leave the rest strong. So we weakened it at the bottom, pulled it away a little from the wall carefully, let it dry again and then pulled at it to remove it in long strips, often from bottom to top!
This saved a lot of time.
After a while we had the bright idea to Reverse it! And indeed if we started at the top the pulling was much neater and easier! In some places we went for Asymmetry as the paper was weaker from knocks of furniture and so on, so we pulled at an angle and at times from several angles.
Although this is all very simple and maybe expert decorators do this automatically, it certainly saved us, as amateurs. Lots of time and energy. We did note that as we got tired we stopped strategy switching when one did not work so well, and the work got more difficult until we realised we had to shift again depending on circumstances. So this was a good real time TRIZ learning experience, not everything can be planned in advance and you need to keep options open at all times for maximum efficiency!
Of course we all know that TRIZ is best when we consider surfaces and edges as the most common interacting and problem causing areas. This is certainly true of painting. Not too difficult with large surface areas but horrendously slow when dealing with edges either between two flat surfaces or surfaces at 90 degrees. And those corners! Wow!
We thought we would do a TRIZ Functionality and Resources and Parameters breakdown on the painting task and I will note a few of the points we covered. The list is very long so you can just try it yourself if you want to!
We don’t think we have really solved it - it needs some more thinking having started work and realising we need to do some piloting of potential solutions.
Brush: This has the function of transporting paint and then spreading it. The brush has various shape characteristics and we can consider also things like the length and texture of the bristles and their flexibility. Our conclusion was that as the brush is designed for two different functions it is really quite a compromised device so we decided to separate the transport issue from the spreading issue. The brush also changes its properties in time as paint changes the flexibility of the bristles and the adhesion and cohesion of the paint to the bristles.
Bristles: The Bristles may be considered separately as they have the function of shape change to deliver paint to different locations and in different volumes. We certainly questioned the design of the brush in that paint is on both sides yet we only use one side at a time. On the other side there is evaporation of the molecules that maintain the viscosity of the paint to the design specificity it should have.
Walls: The function of the walls is to pull on the molecules of paint in the paint brush so they release from the paintbrush and stay on the walls. The walls have shape, texture, colour and adhesion parameters. Texture was a big problem parameter. Where the wall was a rougher texture there was insufficient contact with the paint molecules in the brush and several efforts were needed to apply paint to some spots. At surfaces at right angles to each other one surface should receive paint and not the other. This was an interesting problem to analyse as it always seemed that the surface not to receive paint took lots at the slightest contact whereas the surface to receive paint seemed to need a lot of persuasion to do so! We realised that this was probably due to the relative contact angles between the wall surfaces (or wall and ceiling) with the vertical wall having to pull extra molecules of paint along the intended direction of the paint line whereas the ceiling, for example, once some molecules had attached the others simply moved alongside them and each would help the other to arrive.
If you are not sure of this play some wetting games on glass and see how different situations lead to different actions and speeds.
Having done our problem analysis we decided that we should try to deliver paint in controlled volumes through another device. An adapted washing up bottle was tried but was awkward when you could not hold the bottle higher than the surface to be delivered to. An oil can worked quite well (the one’s with a pump action) but the nozzle needed some experimentation for control of reasonable flow (try shape and angle of cut). The can worked well for edges fortunately but was not so good at large surfaces as the need to keep refilling was tedious.
We then considered our spreading devices. We tried combs, bread knives, short bristle brushes, sponges and combinations of these. Our conclusion was that it depends on the surface you are covering. This makes sense. Some surfaces have complex textures and need a lot of flexibility locally to reach small areas, other surfaces have high adhesion coefficients with the paint and just need some general spreading and they will do the rest by themselves.
One tedious task is cutting the wall paper for covering small areas. We decided that even the professional cutters are not good at the job as they do not even allow you to cut straight as the scissors themselves tend to push sideways as you cut into the paper. So we have analysed the cutting task and ….
We are working on designs and may go for a patent on a better solution! Watch this space!
We hope this little analysis will encourage people to see that they can flexibly apply TRZI to all kinds of situations and indeed it is a good idea to use it this way as you really have to use it with your hands dirty on the job! (Sometimes literally). This is what real skill development is about - being able to use tools even when there are other things distracting you!
We are not saying that you should not do TRIZ in a systematic and formal fashion, when you have a solid “must solve” kind of issue or opportunity. But TRIZ learned by applying it to ordinary everyday jobs gives you lots of practise on different kinds of problems and you won’t lose your job if you get it wrong and you may well save lots of time and do a better job by getting things right. And it can be a lot of fun!
So, have fun with Everyday TRIZ and please post here at the TRIZ journal if you want to add to an Everyday TRIZ collection of Stories or post to me at Graham@dagr.demon.co.uk
PS - my collection now includes:
TRIZ and food hygiene, washing up, gardening, planning a holiday, cleaning the house, waste removal and disposal, and shopping.