40 Inventive (Business) Principles With Examples

Darrell MANN
Industrial Fellow, Department Of Mechanical Engineering
University Of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
+44 (1225) 826465 FAX +44 (1225) 826928

Ellen DOMB
The PQR Group, 190 N. Mountain Ave., Upland, CA 91786 USA
+1(909)949-0857 FAX +1(909)949-2968


Interest in the possible applicability of TRIZ tools and techniques to the world of management and organisational innovation issues continues to grow. The aim of this article is to place the 40 Inventive Principles of TRIZ in the context of this business environment. The format of the article is based closely on an earlier text (1) in which examples of technical deployment of the Principles were given.

The 40 Inventive Principles provide innovators with systematic and potent means of breaking out of current paradigms into often exciting and beneficial new ones (2). The article will attempt to demonstrate that the same psychological inertia busting benefits may also accrue when the Principles are applied in a business rather than a purely engineering context.

Set in a business context, the 40 Inventive Principles exhibit a number of similarities and differences relative to their use in technical problem solving applications. Probably the biggest difference is that, as yet at least, there is no ‘business’ version of the Contradiction Matrix to help filter the number of Principles which may be applicable in a given specific circumstance. The biggest similarity is that ‘serious’ TRIZ is hard work and this version of the 40 Principles, therefore, exists merely to stimulate creative thinking about business situations and is not meant to eliminate the need for detailed, in-depth analysis of a particular inventive situation.

To use these 40 Inventive Principles, formulate your problem using the same methods used for TRIZ for technical problems. It will be particularly helpful to formulate the ideal final result and the reasons that the ideal cannot be achieved. This will usually lead to contradictions. For example, in a customer service situation, the ideal final result is "The customer gets exactly what she needs exactly when she needs it." The analysis might follow this path:

"But, I can't give it to her because my employees don't have all the knowledge."
"Why not?"
"Because employee turnover is so fast that un-trained employees are used."

This analysis reveals several potential problems and families of solutions:
The customer gets what she needs without (direct) help of employees.
The employees have the knowledge without training
The trained employees don't leave the job.

Now use the 40 principles to look for solutions to each of these categories of problems, then select the one (or more) that has the highest probability of working in this situation. When applying the 40 inventive principles keep in mind the TRIZ concepts of removing the reason for the contradiction, and using the available resources.

It is a good idea to use the principles in random order (don't read the list from 1 to 40 each time!) to keep your thinking independent.

Text in green denotes changes made to the wording of the original Inventive Principle text in order to better suit business and organizational terminologies.

Principle 1. Segmentation

A. Divide an object into independent parts.

B. Make an object easy to disassemble.

C. Increase the degree of fragmentation or segmentation.

Principle 2. Taking out

Separate an interfering part or property from an object, or single out the only necessary part (or property) of an object.

Principle 3. Local quality

A. Change an object's structure from uniform to non-uniform, change an external environment (or external influence) from uniform to non-uniform.

B. Make each part of an object function in conditions most suitable for its operation.

C. Make each part of an object fulfill a different and useful function.

Principle 4. Asymmetry

A. Change the shape of an object from symmetrical to asymmetrical.

B. If an object is asymmetrical, change its degree of asymmetry.

Principle 5. Merging

A. Bring closer together (or merge) identical or similar objects, assemble identical or similar parts to perform parallel operations.

B. Make operations contiguous or parallel; bring them together in time.

Principle 6. Universality

A. Make an object or structure perform multiple functions; eliminate the need for other parts.

Principle 7. "Nested Doll"

A. Place one object inside another; place each object, in turn, inside the other.

B. Make one part pass through a cavity in the other.

Principle 8. Anti-Weight

A. To compensate for the weight (downward tendency) of an object, merge it with other objects that provide lift.

B. To compensate for the weight (downward tendency) of an object, make it interact with the environment (e.g. use global lift forces).

Principle 9. Preliminary Anti-Action

A. If it will be necessary to do an action with both harmful and useful effects, this action should be replaced with anti-actions to control harmful effects.

B. Create beforehand stresses in an object that will oppose known undesirable working stresses later on.

Principle 10. Preliminary Action

A. Perform, before it is needed, the required change of an object (either fully or partially).

B. Pre-arrange objects such that they can come into action from the most convenient place and without losing time for their delivery.

Principle 11. Beforehand Cushioning

A. Prepare emergency means beforehand to compensate for the relatively low reliability of an object.

Principle 12. Equipotentiality

A. In a potential field, limit position changes (e.g. change operating conditions to eliminate the need to raise or lower objects in a gravity field).

Principle 13. 'The Other Way Round'

A. Invert the action(s) used to solve the problem (e.g. instead of cooling an object, heat it).

B. Make movable parts (or the external environment) fixed, and fixed parts movable).

C. Turn the object (or process) 'upside down'.

Principle 14. Spheroidality - Curvature

A. Instead of using rectilinear parts, surfaces, or forms, use curvilinear ones; move from flat surfaces to spherical ones; from parts shaped as a cube (parallelepiped) to ball-shaped structures.

B. Use rollers, balls, spirals, domes.

C. Go from linear to rotary motion, use centrifugal forces.

Principle 15. Dynamics

A. Allow (or design) the characteristics of an object, external environment, or process to change to be optimal or to find an optimal operating condition.

B. Divide an object into parts capable of movement relative to each other.

C. If an object (or process) is rigid or inflexible, make it movable or adaptive.

Principle 16. Partial or Excessive Actions

A. If 100 percent of an objective is hard to achieve using a given solution method then, by using 'slightly less' or 'slightly more' of the same method, the problem may be considerably easier to solve.

Principle 17. Another Dimension

A. To move an object in two- or three-dimensional space.

B. Use a multi-story arrangement of objects instead of a single-story arrangement.

C. Tilt or re-orient the object, lay it on its side.

D. Use 'another side' of a given area.

Principle 18. Mechanical vibration

A. Cause an object to oscillate or vibrate.

B. Increase its frequency (even up to the ultrasonic).

C. Use an object's resonant frequency.

D. Use piezoelectric vibrators instead of mechanical ones, E. Use combined ultrasonic and electromagnetic field oscillations. (Use external elements to create oscillation/vibration)

Principle 19. Periodic Action

A. Instead of continuous action, use periodic or pulsating actions.

B. If an action is already periodic, change the periodic magnitude or frequency.

C. Use pauses between impulses to perform a different action.

Principle 20. Continuity of Useful Action

A. Carry on work continuously; make all parts of an object work at full load, all the time.

B. Eliminate all idle or intermittent actions or work.


Principle 21. Skipping

A. Conduct a process , or certain stages (e.g. destructive, harmful or hazardous operations) at high speed.

Principle 22. "Blessing in Disguise" or "Turn Lemons into Lemonade"

A. Use harmful factors (particularly, harmful effects of the environment or surroundings) to achieve a positive effect.

B. Eliminate the primary harmful action by adding it to another harmful action to resolve the problem.

C. Amplify a harmful factor to such a degree that it is no longer harmful.

Principle 23. Feedback

A. Introduce feedback (referring back, cross-checking) to improve a process or action.

B. If feedback is already used, change its magnitude or influence.

Principle 24. 'Intermediary'

A. Use an intermediary carrier article or intermediary process.

B. Merge one object temporarily with another (which can be easily removed).

Principle 25. Self-service

A. Make an object serve itself by performing auxiliary helpful functions

B. Use waste (or lost) resources, energy, or substances.

Principle 26. Copying

A. Instead of an unavailable, expensive, fragile object, use simpler and inexpensive copies.

. Replace an object, or process with optical copies.

C If optical copies are used, move to IR or UV (Use an appropriate out of the ordinary illumination and viewing situation).

Principle 27. Cheap Short-Living Objects

A. Replace an expensive object with a multiple of inexpensive objects, compromising certain qualities (such as service life, for instance).

Principle 28 Mechanics Substitution

A. Replace a mechanical means with a sensory (optical, acoustic, taste or smell) means.

B. Use electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields to interact with the object.

C. Change from static to movable fields, from unstructured fields to those having structure.

D. Use fields in conjunction with field-activated (e.g. ferromagnetic) particles.

Principle 29. Pneumatics and Hydraulics

A. Use gas and liquid parts of an object instead of solid parts (e.g. inflatable, filled with liquids, air cushion, hydrostatic, hydro-reactive).

Principle 30. Flexible Shells and Thin Films

A. Use flexible shells and thin films instead of three-dimensional structures

B. Isolate the object from the external environment using flexible shells and thin films.

Principle 31. Porous Materials

A. Make an object porous or add porous elements (inserts, coatings, etc.).

B. If an object is already porous, use the pores to introduce a useful substance or function.

Principle 32. Color Changes

A. Change the color of an object or its external environment.

B. Change the transparency of an object or its external environment.

Principle 33. Homogeneity

A. Make objects interact with a given object of the same material (or material with identical properties).

Principle 34. Discarding and Recovering

A. Make portions of an object that have fulfilled their functions go away (discard by dissolving, evaporating, etc.) or modify them directly during operation.

B. Conversely, restore consumable parts of an object directly in operation.

Principle 35. Parameter Changes

A. Change an object's physical state (e.g. to a gas, liquid, or solid).

B. Change the concentration or consistency.

C. Change the degree of flexibility.

D. Change the temperature.

Principle 36. Phase Transitions

A. Use phenomena occurring during phase transitions. (Awareness of macro-scale business phenomena)

Principle 37. Thermal Expansion

A. Use thermal expansion (or contraction) of materials.

B. If thermal expansion is being used, use multiple materials with different coefficients of thermal expansion.

Principle 38. Strong Oxidants (‘Boosted Interactions’)

A. Replace common air with oxygen-enriched air (enriched atmosphere)

B. Replace enriched air with pure oxygen (highly enriched atmosphere).

Expose air or oxygen to ionizing radiation, D. Use ionized oxygen, E. Replace ozonized (or ionized) oxygen with ozone (atmosphere enriched by ‘unstable’ elements) .

Principle 39. Inert Atmosphere

A. Replace a normal environment with an inert one.

B. Add neutral parts, or inert additives to an object.

Principle 40. Composite Structures

A. Change from uniform to composite (multiple) structures. (Awareness and utilisation of combinations of different skills and capabilities.)

A Final Thought

Although not claiming the search of management texts for this article was in any way comprehensive, it was, nevertheless, very broad-ranging. It is worth noting that in all the texts we examined, we did not discover any ideas or innovations which caused us to believe there might be a 41st Inventive (Business) Principle.



  1. Domb, E., Tate, K., ’40 Inventive Principles With Examples’, TRIZ Journal, www.triz-journal.com, July 1997.
  2. Mann, D.L., ‘Digging Your Way Out Of The Psychological Inertia Hole’, TRIZ Journal, August 1998.
  3. Deschamps, J-P., Nayak, P.R, ‘Product Juggernauts’, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1995.
  4. Basadur, M., ‘The Power Of Innovation’, Pitman Publishing, London, 1995.
  5. Deming, W.E., ‘Out Of The Crisis,’ Cambridge University Press, 1986.
  6. Fisher, R., Ury, W., ‘Getting To Yes; Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In’, Hutchinson, London, 1981.
  7. Womack, J.P., Jones, D.T., ‘Lean Thinking’, Touchstone, 1998.
  8. Augustine, N.R., ‘Augustine’s Laws’, Viking, New York, 1983.
  9. Peter, L.J., ‘The Peter Pyramid,’ Allen & Unwin, London, 1986.
  10. Joiner, B.L., ‘Fourth Generation Management: The New Business Consciousness’, McGraw Hill Inc, New York, 1994.
  11. Goldratt, E.M. ‘Theory of Constraints’, North River Press, 1990.
  12. Leigh, A., Maynard, M., ‘ACE Teams - Creating Star Performance In Business’, Butterworth- Heinnemann Ltd, Oxford, 1993.
  13. Semler, R., ‘Maverick!’, Arrow Books Ltd, London, 1994
  14. Putnam, H.D., ‘The Winds Of Turbulence’, Harper Business, 1991.
  15. Peter, L.J., Hull, R., ‘The Peter Principle,’ Souvenir Books Ltd, 1969.
  16. O’Keeffe, J., ‘Business Beyond The Box’, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, 1998.
  17. ‘Noteworthy Quotes’, Strategy & Business, 15, 1998.
  18. Peters, T., ‘The Circle Of Innovation’, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1997.
  19. Pascale, R., Industry Week, January 7 1991.
  20. Stephenson, D., ‘Buckyball Management’, article in Network World, Collaboration, March/April 1995.
  21. DeBono, E., ‘The Mechanism of Mind’, Penguin Books, 1969.
  22. Stephenson, D., ‘The Zero Waste Economy’, Waste Expo '97, Atlanta Georgia, May 20, 1997.
  23. Petersen, D., ‘Teamwork: New Management Ideas for the 90s’, Victor Gallancz Ltd, London, 1991.
  24. De Bono, E. ‘Sur/Petition; Creating Value Monopolies When Everyone Else Is Merely Competing’, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, London, 1992.
  25. Roberts, W., ‘Leadership Secrets of Attila The Hun’, Transworld, London, 1989.
  26. http://www.stephensonstrategies.com/tips/product_marketing_tips/coevolutionary_marketing.html
  27. Luecke, R., ‘Scuttle Your Battleships Before Advancing’, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994.
  28. De Bono, E., ‘Po: Beyond Yes And No’, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1972.
  29. Moore, J., ‘The Death Of Competition’, John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
  30. Buzan, A, Buzan, B., ‘The Mind-Map Book’, BBC Books, 1995.
  31. DeBono, E., ‘Water Logic’, Penguin Books, 1994.
  32. Kakabadse, A., ‘The Wealth Creators - Top People, Top Teams & Executive Best Practice’, Kogan Page, London, 1991.
  33. De Bono, E., ‘Six Thinking Hats’, Penguin Books,
  34. Martin, D., ‘TeamThink’, Dutton (Penguin) 1993.
  35. De Bono, E. ‘Six Action Shoes’, Penguin Books,
  36. Kohn, A., ‘Punished By Rewards’, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1993.
  37. Kohn, A., ‘No Contest. The Case Against Competition’, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1992 (revised edition).
  38. Rawlinson, G., ‘TRIZ and People’, TRIZCON99, Novi, MI, March 1999.
  39. Claxton, G., ‘Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind’, Fourth Estate, London, 1997.
  40. Drucker, P.F., ‘Post-Capitalist Society’, Butterworth Heinemann, 1993.
  41. Schumacher, E.F., ‘Small Is Beautiful; A Study Of Economics As If People Mattered’, Blond & Briggs Ltd, London, 1973.