Creative Imagination Development

Gregory Frenklach

Editor’s notes appear in italics, at Gregory’s request.

Here is a short review of certain methods, techniques and games which are included into TRIZ courses of Creative Imagination Development (CID). The majority of them were developed and published in Russian about 15-20 years ago. I feel that English speaking audiences and even professionals are not acquainted with these methods (ref.3). In my opinion the first reason is that Invention Machine Corporation specialists brought technological TRIZ to USA and "forgot" to bring the rest. In the late 80’s there were quite a few TRIZ practioners, in addition to Invention Machine Corporation in the US, but they were all trying to figure out how to appeal to the American corporate customer with short classes.. The second reason is that in Russia more or less acceptable TRIZ courses begin from 140 hours and even there isn't enough time for CID. The fullest course of TRIZ takes more then 400 hours (4 h. two times every week during two years). In USA (like in Israel) as far as I know even 30-40 h. courses are considered as long enough.

I will not concentrate on methods like DTC-operator, System-operator and Small People Method, because these methods are part of "technological" TRIZ and therefore are more or less known to the English speaking audience (Refs. 1,2,4,5).

Register of Fantastic Ideas.

Many researchers asked themselves, "What is the source of human fantasy?" G. Altshuller says that he cannot answer this question, in spite of a lot of definitions of fantasy and creative imagination in literature (ref.7). However, during his work he found out that engineers who regularly read fantastic literature have more flexible imaginations than others who do not read it. The reason is, in Altshuller's opinion, that fantastic literature is a source of the high level ideas, which wake up the human imagination. That's why it is the usual practice in TRIZ courses to give as homework to read and then evaluate fantastic stories. But in order to do this effectively, one has to analyze the fantastic literature as the world patent fund was analyzed. This means to collect fantastic ideas, to classify them by levels, to choose and analyze the high level ideas in order to find principles and regularities and so on. As result of such a hard work was collected the register of fantastic ideas and were developed the following tools:

and other not so important but very nice tools, games and techniques were developed and/or improved like:

At the very beginning engineers considered to this work as to non-serious so the main part was done by high school students. By the way, to invent new fantastic idea or to write fantasy story using The Four Floors' scheme of Fantastic Ideas' Generation, Fantasy principles, Fantogramm or other tools as homework is usual practice on TRIZ courses. When students receive a fantastic story to read they have to evaluate it using the Fantasy Scale. Some low-level-idea stories the student are invited to improve. One of Altshuller's co-authors of this work Pesach Amnuel (Ph.D. in astronomy and fantasy writer) lives in Israel now. He works as a journal editor writes fantasy books and stories. During recent years Pesach Amnuel has been the author of TRIZ page in an Israeli newspaper.

The Fantasy Scale.

Working with the fantasy scale students have to give score from 1 to 4 according to the following points:

  1. Newness (novelty ) of the idea;

  2. Convincing presentation of the idea;

  3. The additional knowledge about human nature and human society ;

  4. Literature (arts) value;

  5. Personal evaluation (depends on how much a specific student liked or disliked this thing)

To make the evaluation easier every point is divided into sub-points. Multiplying the scores each other one receives the general evaluation score.

The Four Floors' scheme of Fantastic Ideas' Generation.

1 step (floor)
On the first floor we have ideas connected with usage of an only one fantastic object in order to gain some fantastic results.

2 step (floor)
On the second floor we have ideas connected with usage of many fantastic objects in order to receive another fantastic result (the system effect).

3 step (floor)
On the third floor we have fantastic ideas connected with gaining of the fantastic result(s) without object(s) at all

4 step (floor)
On the fourth floor we have fantastic ideas connected with no need in previous fantastic result(s)

The fantastic ideas on every "floor" can be of high or low level. The fourth floor isn't better than third or first. It is different and simply internal logic of the fantastic ideas' development is considered. The four floor building can be built for every fantastic topic.

Principles of the Fantastic Ideas Generation and Fantogramm

These principles were developed by G. Altshuller on the basis of analysis of fantasy and fantastic literature. I will give the main principles of object changing:

  1. To increase (to make bigger);
  2. To decrease (to make smaller);
  3. To join;
  4. To separate;
  5. To decompose;
  6. To substitute property by anti-property;
  7. To accelerate;
  8. To make slower;
  9. To move (in time) back or forward;
  10. To make a property changeable in time or vice versa to make it constant;
  11. To separate function from object;
  12. To change connection with environment (including changing of the environment);

But G. Altshuller went farther. He related to every object as to SYSTEM. Thus in order to receive really strong fantastic ideas, analyzing every object we can make changes on the next levels:

  1. Chemical consistency;
  2. Physical state;
  3. The object itself;
  4. Elements of micro-structure of the object;
  5. Super-system for the object;
  6. Direction of the object's development;
  7. Re-production, self re-creation, re-generation;
  8. Energy feeding;
  9. The method of movement;
  10. Aim (what this object intended for)the sense of existence;
  11. The field of distribution;
  12. Control;

If we make a table with principles of object changing as horizontal titles and with levels of object's changing as vertical titles - we create the Fantogramm, one of the best and strong tools for fantastic ideas' generation. each cell of this table is connected with new strong ideas generation and vice versa - nearly every fantastic idea from existing fantastic literature could be placed into the certain cell.

creative1.jpg (67902 bytes)

Editor’s example, to illustrate the matrix described above.

The usual exercise in TRIZ courses is to challenge the student to try to invent any fantastic animal or try to invent a new natural phenomenon like rain, snow and so on, using the Fantogramm .

"The Silver Clouded Planet" Game.

Your space ship comes near an unknown planet. The planet is closed by silver clouds. The automatic stations can go through the clouds but any connection (wire and wireless) is impossible. At the planet are the same conditions, laws and factors like at Earth and there is only one "x-factor" that is changed. Giving to the automatic stations specific programs of research the space ship team has to find this x-factor with minimum attempts. Teacher plays for the planet and students for the space ship team.

During this game student loses station after station trying to find out what is this factor. The x-factor for example can be that speed of light is 1 millimeter in hour on this planet...

When students send next station and it does not return they ask - Why? It is your business to find out why - answers teacher.

But teacher (after student failure have to be ready to play for space ship team when student will play for planet). G. Altshuller was able. For less talented teacher the optimal strategy is to send station step by step. For example:

The program for station to "dive" 5 (1, 2 ,3) meters under clouds, to take probes and to return to the ship, or return after 1 (2,3)second.

Nice exercise for breaking PI and for experiment planning training, Isn't it?

The Snow Ball Method.

This method is aimed for development of any fantastic idea. The fantastic idea always is connected with a system changing. This system is connected with other systems. Thus they also are changed and so on. The feedback also is taken into account and this increase the quantity of changes. This quantity grows up like the snow ball. That's why this methods is called The Snow Ball Methods. By the way, does not this method reminds you of the so-o- technical Extra Effect determination Method? (ref. 6, 8)

The Value's Changing Method.

This method is aimed for new fantastic ideas generation. In order to do this we assume that something which has high value (gold for example) has zero value and vice versa the thing which has nearly zero value has high value (sand, for example). Then the idea is developed with help of the Snow Ball Method.

To the same group belongs also The Nature Law Removal Method. According to this method we "remove" some nature phenomena or objects (Moon , for example). It is interesting to imagine how would be changed our life without Moon. The recent science fiction novel Destiny’s Road by Larry Niven used this idea, exploring the kind of civilization that would develop if potassium (necessary for proper function of the human metabolism) was not available in the soil or water of a planet, and everyone had to trade for it with a group of wanderers.

The Trend Extrapolation Method.

According to this method we are extrapolating (increasing) one or number of trends until this begins to create contradiction with other sides of the human life. Resolving this

contradiction we receive new high level fantastic idea or group of ideas, which is developed then with help of the Snow Ball Method. Does not this remind you well known step from ARIZ?

Good-Bad Game.

According to this game students try to find in every bad phenomenon good and vice versa.

For example, It is so bad - I got ill and cannot go to the work - It is good that I don't go to the work, because I can be home with my family- It is bad to be home with family,

because they will make me crazy with stories, which they will tell to me- It is good to get crazy, because I can kill this idiot from the flat above and not to get to the prison ....and so on.

Yes-No Game or Conversation With Computer.

The teacher gives some interesting situation and asks students to explain this, by asking minimum questions. The questions have to be asked in form that teacher could answer only "yes", "no" or "no information". The teacher has to be ready to explain situations brought by student in order to show the method of asking the "right" questions. The optimal way is to ask more general questions first, in order to cut of 'empty" fields and concrete questions at the end. This game reminds The Silver Clouded Planet Game. The stories one can find in the newspapers , journals, TV jokes etc.

For example, I get out of room. when I had returned my friend already died. Students have to find out that "friend" is fish. the jar with the fish was broken by window which was open by wind.

The sense of this game is deep, because we in our real engineers life have to plan experiments which cut-of "empty" probes as the answer to our questions to Nature. There is a giant fund of such yes-no problems in Russian.

The Golden Fish Method.

One of the main characteristics of creative thinking is the ability to see unusual inside of usual and vice versa. Every fantasy (or inventive) situation consist of two parts: real things and fantastic "grain". The aim of the "Golden Fish Method" is to extract this fantastic "grain". In order to do this a fantastic situation is divided step by step into two parts - real and fantastic until it could not be divided any more. This indivisible part is called "fantastic grain". G. Altshuler gives formula of resolving every fantasy situation:

  1. F0= R1 + F1; (R - real , F - fantastic)

  2. F1 = R2+ F2; and so on until Fi will be so small that we may not to consider it.

Let's see how does this method works on example of "Story about the golden fish".

"The old man had come to the sea and begin to call the golden fish. The fish got to him and ask by human voice..."

Let's analyze this situation:

Could old man to come to the sea? - Yes, he could. So it is real.

The fantastic part of the situation now will look:

"The old man begin to call the golden fish. The fish got to him and ask by human voice..."

Could old man to call the golden fish? - Yes, he could. So it is also real.

"The fish got to him and ask by human voice..."

Could some golden fish (we know that there are such a fishes ) to get close near old man?- Yes, it could. So this bit is also real.

"The fish asks by human voice..."

Could the old man to hear some voice from fish? Yes, he could! We know that some fishes make voices. So it is also real!

"human ..."

Could this voice be human ? No, this could not. That is it! The fantastic "grain" of the situation is that the voice of fish was human.

But if we will take even this fantastic thing of the golden fish story, we can not to consider it, because it has . real explanation:

Could seem to old man that which does not hear well because of age, that the golden fish voice is human voice, saying some phrase?

By the way, if the situation was technical we would come to the physical contradiction determining the "fantastic grain" of the situation.

For example, let's take the problem of making pressure by liquid and with help of centrifugal forces on cylinder which is placed on axis of the centrifugal rotation. The "fantastic grain" of the situation is that direction of the centrifugal force is opposite to direction of the needed pressure...

One can easy to formulate the physical contradiction now. We had not made full analysis, but believe me that it is too long way to analyze technological situations, but it is very good exercise for creative imagination development.

The best recommendation for people who want more on this subject is simply to translate the chapter "Colors for Fantasy: An Introduction to The Theory The Creative Imagination Development" written by G. Altshuller into English. The whole book which contains this Altshuller's part is called: "The chance for an adventure" under ( Ref.7.) This book contains also very serious chapter - book of U. Salamatov "The system of the technical laws development."

The psychological inertia is based on "hard" connection between concrete object(s) and its image in mind of a specific human. Therefore the presented above methods and games are aimed to destroy this harmful connection. They achieve this by the following ways:

  1. By changing the object and/or its functioning (DTC, System Operator, Fantogramm, Little People Method etc.) - object focused;

  2. By correcting of the human behavior in the process of the problem solving (Yes-No, Golden Fish Method, Silver Clouded Planet etc.) - solver focused;

The methods and games of the second group (less objective) have clear trend to transfer to the first one (more objective) with increasing of our understanding of the regularities these methods are based on.



  1. Altshuller. (Translated by Tony Williams) Creativity as an Exact Science.
  2. H. Altov (Altshuller pseudonym) And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared. translated by Lev Shulyak
  3. James Kowalick, editor Special issue of The TRIZ Journal, August, 1998
  4. Gregory Frenklach. Efficient Use of the DTC Operator. TRIZ Journal January, 1998
  5. Gregory Frenklach. Efficient Use of the System Operator. TRIZ Journal January, 1998
  6. Gregory Frenklach Usage of the direct and preliminary extra-effect determination methods for diagnostic problem solving. TRIZ Journal May, 1998
  7. A.Selutsky. Shans na prikluchenie. Petrozavodsk. Kareliya 1991. (Russian)
  8. S. Litvin. Course of Creative Imagination Development. 1981. (Russian)