The Altshuller’s Contradiction Matrix in the Knowledge Creation of Innovation

Case Study : The Honda City

Leoncio Jiménez Candia
Universidad Catolica del Maule - Chile
Département Génie des Systèmes Industriels
Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse - France


This article will give a brief overview of the intervention of Altshuller’s Contradiction Matrix in the externalization model of knowledge creation in the Japanese companies. The model is illustrated in the well-known book (see comments in the Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management) of Nonaka & Takeuchi called « The Knowledge-Creating Company. How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation ».




The extenalization model shows how an analogy or a metaphore can be used effectively in the innovation process. The authors have used the new product development phase in a car company to illustrate the conversion of tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge.

First, we describe the case study then we introduce the intervention of the Altshuller’s Contradiction Matrix1 in this brainstorming.


Case study : The Honda City2

« In 1978, top management at Honda inaugurated the development of a new-concept car with the slogan, “Let’s gamble”. The phrase expressed senior executive’s conviction that Honda’s Civic and Accord models were becoming too familiar. Managers also realized that along with a new post-war generation entering the car market, a new generation of young product designers was coming of age with unconventional ideas about what made a good car.

The business decision that followed from the “Let’s gamble” slogan was to form a new-product development team of young engineers and designers. Top management charged the team with two-and only two- instructions : first, to come up with a product concept fundamentally different from anything the company had ever done before ; and second, to make a car that was inexpensive but not cheap.

This mission might sound vague, but in fact it provided the team with an extremely clear sense of direction. For instance, in the early days of the project, some team members proposed designing a smaller and cheaper version of the Honda Civic- a safe and technologically feasible option. But the team quickly decided this approach contradicted the entire rationale of its mission. The only alternative was to invent something totaly new.

Project team leader Hiroo Watanabe coined another slogan to express his sense of team’s ambitious challenge : “Automobile Evolution”. The phrase described an ideal. In effect, it posed the question : If the automobile were an organism, how should it evolve ? As team members argued and discussed what Watanabe’s slogan might mean, they came up with an answer in the form of yet another slogan : “man-maximum, machine-minimum”. This captured the team’s belief that the ideal car should somehow transcend the traditional human-machine relationship. But that required challenging what Watanabe called “the reasoning of Detroit”, which had sacrificed comfort for appearance.

The “evolutionary” trend the team articulated eventually came to be embodied in the image of a sphere-a car simultaneously “short” (in length) and “tall” (in height). Such a car, they reasoned, would be lighter and cheaper, but also more comfortable and more solid than traditional cars. A sphere provided the most room for the passanger while taking up the least amount of space on the road. What’s more, the shape minimized the space taken up by the engine and other mechanical systems. This gave birth to a product concept the team called “Tall Boy”, which eventually led to the Honda City, the company’s distintive urban car. »


Seeking out contradictions

In the case study, we build a contradiction for each concept developed by the team. In order to apply the TRIZ tool we describe each of them separately.


First contradiction

The concept of “man-maximum, machine-minimum” is a technical contradiction. What we are trying to improve is the “area of moving object”, and the thing that gets worse as we try to improve the area is the “volume of moving object”.

For such technical contradiction : “area of moving object” & “volume of moving object”, the Altshuller’s Contradiction Matrix recommends four principles :

7 ‘Nested doll’.

14 Spheriodality.

17 Transition to another dimension.

4 Asymmetry.


Second contradiction

The concept of “short (in length) and tall (in height)” is not a contradiction. But, the reasoning of Detroit is in contradiction with this new car style concept. So, the shape is in contradiction with the lenght. The thing we are trying to improve is the “length of binding object”, and the thing that gets worse as we try to improve the length of the car is the “shape” of this one.

For such technical contradiction : “lenght of binding object” & “shape”, the Altshuller’s Contradiction Matrix recommends four principles :

13 Inversion.

14 Spheriodality.

15 Dynamicism.

7 ‘Nested doll’.


Third contradiction

The concept of “tall boy” is another technical contradiction, the thing we are trying to improve is the “length of binding object”, and the thing that gets worse as we try to improve the legth of the car is the “volume of binding object”.

For such technical contradiction : “leght of binding object” & “volume of binding object”, the Altshuller’s Contradiction Matrix recommends 4 principles :

35 Parameter changes.

8 Anti-weight.

2 Extraction.

14 Spheriodality.



In this engineering problem, the analogy found by the Honda City development team was an image of a sphere that contains the maximum volume within the minimun surface area. Probably, this brainstoming camp (tama dashi kai) must have taken hours or even weeks.

On the other hand, the Altshuller’s Contradiction Matrix uses not only the principle of Spheriodality, but also shows others innovation concepts.



  1. Jiménez L. “Contribution à la mise en application de la méthode TRIZ, pour l’aide au développement des décisions liées aux processus innovants”, Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse, mémoire DEA 2000, p.21-22.
  2. Nonaka I. & Takeuchi H., “The Knowledge-Creating Company”, Oxford University Press, 1995, p.11-12.