Pointers to Effects for Non-technical Problem Solving

Related Tools & Articles
  • Discussion Forum
    "Educational technique for advanced level is "learning by doing" and as a result people learn just how to apply known tools of classical TRIZ, but not how to use TRIZ to create new appropriate instruments for solving non technical problems."

    Contribute to this Discussion

    By Hongyul Yoon


    Most Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) tools help solve non-technical problems. The efficiency and effectiveness, however, of TRIZ for solving non-technical problems appears to be much lower than what is used for technical problem solving. The absence of pointers to effects for non-technical problem solving should be one of the main causes. Non-technical problem solving requires some effects that are different from those based on physical science and engineering technology. In order to develop some pointers to effects for non-technical problem solving the structures and meaning of function model and effect were discussed. Based on this some pointers to effects were proposed for non-technical problem solving.


    TRIZ, pointers to effects, non-technical problem, General Theory of Powerful Thinking (OTSM), function model, element – name of feature – value of feature (ENV)


    Technical problem solving and non-technical problem solving have been successfully achieved with the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ). (In this paper, non-technical problem solving means some problems which cannot be solved through application of physical, chemical, geometrical and biological knowledge or technological knowledge based on physical science.) The author has run onsite training courses to generate new market ideas or new technology ideas through TRIZ tools based on the General Theory of Powerful Thinking (OTSM).1 The training participants said that the thinking ways of TRIZ and OTSM helped to systematize an individual's thinking processes beyond expectations. That favorable response seemed to come mainly from the use of abstract problem models and solution idea models of TRIZ and the OTSM. The General Theory of Powerful Thinking leads individuals to effectively transform a complex and non-typical problem situation into a set of simple and typical problem models. Almost all of the abstract models for thinking offered by TRIZ and OTSM guides individuals to effectively solve non-technical problems as they would for technical problem solving.

    The author, however, found that the efficiency and effectiveness of TRIZ tools are much lower in non-technical problem solving than in technical problem solving. Some people showed difficulty in coming up with ideas after having a clear understanding of the solution models offered by TRIZ. Others took more time to get effective ideas compared to those who tried to solve technical problems.

    The causes of those points require deeper examination. One of the causes was checked through the following discussion: Based on the OTSM viewpoint, the process of inventive problem solving could boil down to two main stages:2

    1. Problem model transformation from a complex and non-typical situation into a set of simple and typical problem models.
    2. Application of typical abstract solution models of the human being including those of TRIZ.

    With technical problem solving, in order to get solution ideas from typical solution models of TRIZ, individuals need knowledge of materials, several types of energy and influences of energy transmission. Even if an individual gets the simple and typical problem and solution models in the OTSM viewpoint, he cannot get a solution idea without scientific knowledge related to the model. It could be a good reason for examining the application of inventive standards to an idea generation for technical problem solving.

     Figure 1: A Simple and Typical Model Case

    In Figure 1, the solution model recommends an introduction of a new substance into the tool or the object. Imagine what will happen if a certain additive is introduced according to scientific knowledge. If someone has no knowledge – even a bit – on the physical nature of the world, a person would be hardly able to propose a solution idea with some confidence. As the methodology helps with problem solving, TRIZ offers the way to overcome the shortage of scientific and engineering knowledge. The scientific knowledge itself does not belong to the realm of TRIZ, but TRIZ gives an efficient way to adopt the scientific knowledge – pointers to effects.3 An effect is a TRIZ-version equivalent of a certain scientific law, principle or engineering knowledge.

    The pointers to effects help solvers in technical problem fields. Even though the solver has little scientific knowledge, the pointers to effects of TRIZ give individuals helpful clues and directions on the required knowledge. The pointers to effects of TRIZ activate the abstract solution models like inventive standards in a solver's mind. Main ideas of pointers to effects often lead solvers to a more comprehensive understanding of familiar scientific knowledge. For instance, suppose that a new way to move a solid and light body is needed. Pointers to effects in order to move a substance could lead to vibration. Sometimes even mechanical engineers can barely come up with the idea to adopt vibration in order to move something even though they are accustomed to it.

    Likewise, those who try to apply TRIZ to non-technical problem solving need some kind of pointers to effects. They might not have enough knowledge required to activate the abstract solution models provided by TRIZ. Sometimes they depend on wrong subjective thoughts against objective knowledge to result in some irritating ideas against an individual's wishes. For those reasons, many TRIZ learners for non-technical problem solving have required pointers to effects.

    Pragmatic Requirements of Pointers to Effects in Non-technical Problem Solving

    The pointers to effects in classical TRIZ are formulated by matching a certain technical function and some physical, chemical and geometrical effect. This delivers the function of an effect that can be translated into "input action" and "output action" (or the resultant change) of an object (a resource) as shown in Figure 2.4,5

     Figure 2: General Structure of Pointers to Effects

    A similar structure could be kept for the pointers to effects for non-technical problem solving. But before developing those kinds of pointers for non-technical fields a question results: What are the requirements for the pointers to effects to provide efficient use? The question may seem too big. The author, however, will discuss it in two quick aspects.

    1. By examining how to formulate function model for the efficient use of the pointers to effects.
    2. By discussing what kinds of effects are needed for non-technical problem solving.

    Function Model as a Problem Model

    The pointers to effects are not always helpful for problem solving. Actually, a function as a problem model must be formulated correctly in order to use the pointers to effects efficiently. The usefulness of the pointers to effects is from the matching of a function and some effects, but this depends on the correct formulation of the problem.

    Generally, a problem could be defined as a situation where the current state of the target object is different from its state of what is wanted. In this case, a solution is defined as how to eliminate the difference between two states of the target object or to change the current state of the target object to the desired state.

    The descriptions can be translated into ENV (element – name of feature – value of feature) modeling of the OTSM such as:

    After identifying the problem situation according to the above descriptions individuals can search the knowledge required to change the target object. For example, if one uses the pointers to effects offered by classical TRIZ, the function model is adopted as a guide to search the proper knowledge.

    Where function is defined as action plus the object in which the action must change the state of the object.5 The OTSM defined it more precisely as change (increase, decrease) plus value of a property of an object. 

    According to the above discussion, one can draw two descriptions of function modeling;

    1. Function is formulated as action plus object.
    2. Function' is formulated as change (increase, decrease) plus value of a property of an object.

    Where object corresponds to the target object in the general definition of a problem and a solution. If one hopes to avoid any confusion with the meanings of words, the second formulation could be better for obtaining the clarified meaning.

    Figure 3 presents the discussion schematically. Through abstraction of a real problem situation, an individual gets a function model as a general problem model. The pointers to effects lead one to map the function model to some effects as a solution model.

     Figure 3: Relationships Among
     Function Model, Pointers to Effects
     and Effects in a TRIZ Thinking Way

    In order to use the pointers to effects efficiently, therefore, the property of the target object in the function model must be one of physical, chemical or scientific parameters.

    The author's experiences have shown that a few TRIZ beginners formulate functions as one including performance parameters. Performance parameters like productivity, efficiency, device complexity, etc. are not suitable for the property described in a function model for use of pointers to effects. The performance parameters are not determined directly by scientific laws, but by how a certain technical system operates with scientific laws. For example, if one wants to increase the productivity of a chemical process, or the function model, in order to increase productivity it is not matched with certain scientific effects as solution models. Before checking the pointers to effects, one must examine how the required functions are performed and what kinds of losses are happening in the specific process. The working way of a certain technical system belongs to a certain case. The productivity of a certain process depends on the way that a certain process (as a particular case) performs with physical, chemical effects. If one wants to improve performance parameters of an object, one should analyze the object first and then formulate function models to map them to physical, chemical, geometrical parameters through the pointers to effects. Suppose that the goal is to increase productivity of the system. First, analyze the current situation and find that the productivity of the system depends mainly on cooling speedy of the molten polymer. At this stage, apply some effects like conduction, convection, etc. according to the pointers to effects, to cool a substance.

    When beginners treat non-technical problems with TRIZ, they often make the same mistakes as in technical problem solving. They formulate a problem as a function, which has performance parameters to reduce total cost to increase revenue, to increase productivity, etc. Those performance parameters are caused by a specific situation. Before searching abstract and general solution models, above all, it must be dealt with using analytic tools like multi-screen thinking, function analysis and root conflict analysis. As an example, suppose that one wants to reduce the cost of a consulting company. Through root conflict analysis an individual finds that the biggest part of the cost is caused by inviting external famous lecturers as a promotion.

    There is a need to find other ways for promotion without inviting distinguished lecturers. Formulate the function model of how to motivate people instead to the initial one of how to reduce cost. 

    Only if a solver formulates function models according to these steps, will the pointers to effects serve as helpful. From this process, the author derived necessary conditions of function modeling for effective use of the pointers to effects for non-technical problem solving.

    1. The function model should be formulated as change (increase, decrease) plus value of a certain property of an object. Or action plus object in which the action must change the state of the object.
    2. The property mentioned in the function model of pointers to effects should not be a kind of performance parameter, which mainly depends on a specific condition and then needs deeper analysis of the condition.

    Effect as a Solution Model

    The definition of effect in classical TRIZ terminology is a relationship of input action (input influence) and output action (the resultant change) of an object (a resource), which is governed by a certain principle of physical, chemical or geometrical viewpoint.

    An effect as a tool of classical TRIZ shows the change of an object when it is influenced upon. What it says about the change of a certain object is governed by an objective principle, such as scientific. In order to extend the concept of an effect in classical TRIZ to non-technical problem solving, the governing principles in it must be replaced by principles in non-technical solution fields.

    A more general definition of effect could be as follows: An effect is a relationship of input influence and resultant change of an object, which is governed by a certain objective principle. When examining the principles in non-technical fields the author has used the following points as criteria for the selection of effects for TRIZ application.

    1. The principle must be as objective as possible. For example, the principles as advice given by "gurus" in economics and management were excluded. Some people say, "The smarter the employees, the more effectively a company is run." Is that proven through objective experiments and analysis? If not, then that must not be included in the pointers to effects for non-technical problem solving.
    2. The principle must say something about the input influence and resultant change of a certain object.

    In non-technical problems, assuming objective principles about animals and plants are considered to belong to biological knowledge, the author has yet to find any other kind of non-technical principles except where the target object is a person. If one examines the non-technical principles precisely, she can realize what is said about the change of a certain feature of a person through non-technical influence. For instance, the law of demand as an economic principle could be discussed. That states that quantity demanded is inversely proportional to price – such as the higher the price of the product, the less the customers will demand. That is not about the change of a single object caused by an input influence on it. Figure 4 shows more detailed steps of this as a process. There are at least three objects mentioned in that principle.

    1. The seller changes the price of goods.
    2. Any kind of signs like price tags are renewed to inform a buyer.
    3. Buyers are changed with awareness of a negative incentive, a higher price.

    There are lower demands for the goods. According to this analysis, the law of demand could be a non-technical effect to solve the problem of how to decrease the value of the demand of people. That means it is for human-targeted problem solving.

     Figure 4: A Deep Analysis
     Case in a Non-technical Field

    As far as this study is concerned, non-technical principles belong to human-targeted effects if biological principles are excluded. The pointers to effects introduced here, therefore, will be composed of human-targeted effects.

    Pointers to Effects for Solving Human-targeted Problems

    Some information on psychology, economics and marketing were examined in order to pick up the non-technical principles.6,7,8,9,10,11 Remember, for those with no relationship of input the influence and resultant change were abandoned. After being collected, the principles as effects were classified according to one's property, which was changed by an individual. It must be mentioned that the list of pointers to effects introduced in this paper is just the first, which must be renewed if new non-technical principles develop.

    The table below shows some of these parameters. The "what I want" column shows only the changed properties – without comments that the properties belong to a person. The use of the table is the same as for the table of the pointers to effects in technical problem solving.

    1. Formulate the problem as a function model after the ENV model formulation.
    2. Find the functions corresponding to the function model from the table.
    3. Examine the effects matched to the functions.
    4. Generate solution ideas according to the matched effects.

    These pointers could help application of inventive standards to non-technical problem solving. Instead of using mathematics and chemistry, these effects could be used for non-technical problem solving.

    A simple example of how to use the table follows:

    In country A, a supermarket intends to sell some fruit imported from country B, which people of country A dislike. People do not like goods from country B. The manager of the supermarket, however, wants to sell as much fruit as possible because of the high profit. What should the manager do?

    Try to formulate some function models. If the manager decides to sell the imported fruit, the problem can be formulated as:

    Problem model 1: An individual wants to decrease the value of the negative attitude of people to the fruit imported from the disliked country. An individual can find the similar function model from the pointers to effects, to weaken the negative attitude where the corresponding effects are as follows:

    Problem model 2: An individual wants to increase the value of the positive attitude of people to the fruit. In this case the manager should pick up a different piece of fruit, to intensify positive attitudes. The manager can try to get ideas with more than 10 effects. This problem could be tackled with inventive standards. The pointers to effects would serve ideas on field.

     Some Pointers to Effects for Non-technical Problem Solving


    Based on a precise look into the pointers to effects of classical TRIZ, guiding the development of pointers to effects for non-technical problem solving was proposed. The function model as part of pointers to effects should be formulated as change (increase, decrease) plus value of a certain property of an object, or action plus object where the action must change the state of the object. The property mentioned in the function model of pointers to effects should not be a kind of performance parameter, which mainly depends on a specific condition and then needs deeper analysis of the condition.

    The generalized definition of effect was suggested as a relationship of the input influence and resultant change of an object, which is governed by a certain objective principle. The author suggested that the target object in most non-technical problems be a human being. Some pointers to effects related to human-targeted principles are classified and proposed to help the idea generation for non-technical problem solving. These pointers to effects must be updated as new non-technical principles are offered.


    The author would like to give his sincere gratitude to Nikolai Khomenko and Valeri Souchkov for their valuable advice while the author thought about the theme of this paper. All potential errors in this paper, however, belong to the author.


    1. N. Khomenko, OTSM Training Handout Set, LG Electronics, 2000.
    2. H. Yoon, TRIZ Advanced Course, POSCO, 2004.
    3. Y. Salamatov, TRIZ: The Right Solution at the Right Time, Insytec B.V., 1999.
    4. V. Souchkov, Annotated List of Key TRIZ Components, ICG Training & Consulting, January 1998.
    5. E. Arel, M. Verbitsky, I. Devoino, S. Ikovenko, TechOptimizer Fundamentals, Invention Machine Corporation, 2002.
    6. N. Mankiw, Principles of Economics, Dryden Press, 1997.
    7. R. Cialdini, Influence, Allyn & Bacon, 2001.
    8. P. Kotler, G. Armstrong, Principles of Marketing, 8th ed., Pearson Education Inc., 2006.
    9. P. Zimbardo, A. Weber, R. Johnson R., Psychology, Allyn & Bacon, 2000.
    10. J. Park, "유쾌한 심리학", 파피에, 2006.
    11. R. Thaler, S. Mullainathan, Behavioral Economics

    This paper was originally presented at the European TRIZ Association's TRIZ Future 2008 meeting in Enschede, NL.

    About the Author:

    Hongyul Yoon is a TRIZ specialist certified by MATRIZ and OTSM professional certified by Nikolai Khomenko. He first encountered TRIZ as an engineer of LG Electronics in 1996. Since 1998, he has run numerous trainings and problem solving projects for companies including LG, Samsung, POSCO, Hyundai Motors, etc. He is the chief executive officer of the TRIZ Center in South Korea and keeps developing new practical applications of TRIZ and OTSM in technical and non-technical fields, such as new market idea generation. Contact Hongyul Yoon at hongyul333 (at) empal.com or visit http://www.trizcenter.co.kr/eng.

    Copyright © 2006-2011 – RealInnovation.com, CTQ Media. All Rights Reserved
    Reproduction Without Permission Is Strictly Prohibited – Request Permission

    Publish an Article: Do you have a innovation tip, learning or case study?
    Share it with the largest community of Innovation professionals, and be recognized by your peers.
    It's a great way to promote your expertise and/or build your resume. Read more about submitting an article.