Today I want to introduce you to a concept called TRIZ – Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, and it’s the subject of one of my newest workshops.
Genrikh Altshuller was a successful Russian inventor, getting his first patent at the age of only nine years old. Now, he studied the concept of inventing and became frustrated that there were no books or really a lot of information on how to invent. He just didn’t believe that invention and innovation was based on just pure luck or magic.
So what he did with some of his colleagues is they looked at over two million patents, looking for common patterns, and they found out that out of those two million patents, there’s really only about 1500 problems that are out there. And what’s more surprising is they categorized the solutions and found that there’s really only forty solutions to any known problem that’s out there.
So Altshuller then took this amazing finding that he had and wrote a letter to Stalin telling him that basically he’d been wasting a lot of time and resources inventing in this country, that there’s a lot simpler and more straightforward approach to do it. Well, Stalin took a couple of years before he responded to the letter, but he finally did and invited him to come talk to him.
Well, he showed up for the meeting and Stalin promptly threw him in jail.
Altshuller continued to think about this concept that there’s only forty solutions to any problem that’s out there, and about a year after Stalin died, he was released from jail and released a number of papers on this concept that he called TRIZ – which translates in English roughly to the Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving.
There are a lot of powerful concepts within the TRIZ methodology, but there’s two culturally shocking underlying concepts. The first one is that somebody, someplace, has already solved your problem or one very similar. Creativity is in finding that solution and modifying it to fit your circumstances. The second one is don’t accept compromises. Remove the source of the problem.
In this model, I’ve borrowed from my colleague Ellen Domb out of her book Simplified TRIZ, which by the way is an excellent book for anyone getting started with the TRIZ principles.
Basically you start with a problem statement, and usually there’s some contradictions that aren’t allowing you to solve your problems, so TRIZ is geared around eliminating those contradictions and not living with them. What are all the available resources both apparent and ones that are invisible around you to help you reach your ideal final result?
And the ideal final result is the sum of everything good, divided by the sum of everything bad should approach infinity. So you want all these good things in your solution, and minimize the amount of bad things. It’s these forty principles that can allow us to look at the ideal final result and to come up with solutions to solve our problem.
There are also patterns of evolution that we could look at to help solve our problem as well, but that’s a little more advanced and we’re not going to cover it here in this simple newsletter.
The correct pronunciation for the acronym is “trees” but you’ll hear people say “trizz” or “trees” interchangeably. The way I like to look at these forty principles Altshuller came up with is as “lenses.” They’re individual lenses to allow you to view the world in a unique and innovative way.
Let’s look the at the very first principle Altshuller came up with, the very first lens, principle one, called Segmentation.
Segmentation is to look at your problem and basically segment it – fragment it. Transition it to the micro level to look for an answer. Divide an object maybe into independent parts.
Here’s some examples; Think about stone washed jeans. Now that was a way to differentiate jeans by segmentation, where your using small stones as you wash jeans to give them a unique feel and look.
How about a muffler on a car or lawnmower?
Looking at it from a segmented point of view, you might come up with a lot better design to have twenty or thirty small mufflers inside the muffler, which would make it actually perform better.
How about corporate subsidiaries? Or Skunk work teams?
Think about fighting fire with mist. Now one of the problems that we have with fighting fires is that, once you get the fire out, you’ve deluged it with so much water that there’s water damage, so the water has damaged usually the home and the furniture as well.
If you look at it from a segmented point of view, you can actually fight a fire better with small, little segmented droplets of water, so you don’t need as much water mass to put the fire out, but it’s more efficient by putting it out with mist.
And then think about JIT – Just In Time Processing.
Here’s some personal examples of mine where I tried to use the segmentation lens in my own business. My video newsletters, for example. I’m trying to take one concept and give you an example and explanation around it and trying to keep it brief. By segmenting it this way, hopefully it makes it easier for you, the listener, to learn the concept.
Another example is a book called The One-Page Proposal. It’s been a great reference book for me, and I’ve used the concepts in here many, many times. It teaches you how to persuasively put a proposal together on one-page, so it’s segmenting it where you’re targeting specifically a senior executive who doesn’t have time to read an entire business proposal, but does have time to read a three to four minute one-page proposal.
The last personal example of mine, around Segmentation, is a book called Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. She is a professor of Animal Science, but she also is autistic.
It’s a really interesting book in that her theory is that people that are autistic cannot see things in a mosaic or composite picture – that they experience the world in segmented pieces, much like animals do.
Her theory is that animals can’t see things in composite pictures like humans because that part of their brain isn’t developed the same way as a normal human’s are, that their brain is more similar to someone who is autistic. That analogy and reading this book has given me all kinds of insight into business and creative, innovative solutions. It makes you think about how to look at something from a segmented point of view instead of a composite picture.