Substance Field Analysis within Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

Advanced Cyber/IO, IO Sense-Making
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Author/Pioneer at LinkedIn: Professor Iouri Belski

PDF (11 Pages): Improve Your Thinking: Substance-Field Analysis

TRIZ4U: add another tool to your toolbox.

Over the years I participated in hundreds of workshops and seminars on improvement and innovation. Most of them offered magic outcomes quickly and sustainably. And, Iouri, the real outcome of the majority of these events, for me at least, was a waste of time. Only very few were worth it… Why TRIZ? Is it a new panacea?’ – responded a friend of mine to proposal to come to my TRIZ seminar in Sydney and to discover the Russian ‘silver bullet’.

Abacuses, adding machines and calculators all fulfil a similar function – help us with mathematic operations. Each of these apparatus represents a product that successfully fulfilled the function of its era but eventually was replaced by a superior technology. But why were these products successful? With research suggesting that up to 80 percent of products fail to deliver their intended benefit, it is a question that needs to be answered. One way to ensure a product’s success would be to predict a successful product and develop it sooner than your competitors. Sounds unrealistic? It is possible.

One thing is for sure – products do not evolve randomly. There are patterns and tendencies of product evolution that have been identified through the analyses of thousands of patents that commenced in Russia over 50 years ago. The tools of TRIZ are based on these analyses.

TRIZ is the Russian acronym for Cyrillic words which mean Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. TRIZ is a well-established system of tools for innovative problem solving and idea generation. Genrich Altshuller, the ‘father of TRIZ’ started development of the tools in late 1940-es. Some of these tools can be explained as follows:

Situation Analysis (SA) – a questionnaire encapsulating the situation of the development of a product. It helps to assure what resources are at hand.
Main outcomes of SA:
• better understanding of customer requirements
• time and money savings in preparation of project documentation
• minimising future confusions on project requirements/deliverables
• utilization of resources more effectively reducing project expenditure and making personnel more efficient

40 Innovative Principles – the recipes for innovation adopted by previously successful patents.

Contradiction Table (CT) – is a 39 by 39 table offering recommendations for using the most appropriate set of innovative principles in a particular situation. It considers more than 1000 technical contradictions and uses the recipes of 40 Principles.
Main outcomes of 40 Principles and CT:
• capability to generate more ideas quickly
• winning ideas for new products can be chosen more reliably
• capability to achieve better technical characteristics, often at patentable level

Substance – Field (Su-Field) Analysis – models a task by a set of interconnecting substances and fields. This converts the real task into a standard task, with already known directions to a standard solution. There are five main rules and also 77 standard solutions covering most of possible tasks.
Main outcomes:
• provides some insights of product’s evolution
• enables choosing concepts with longer market life
• helps in minimising time to market and maximising probability of product’s success

Method of Ideal Result (MIR) – offers guidelines for utilising all available resources.
Main outcomes:
• offers guidelines for directions to pursue
• helps to achieve results utilizing all available resources
• winning ideas for new products can be chosen more reliably

Failure Analysis (FA) – specifically devoted to generating scenarios of possible problems.
Main outcomes:
• helps to improve reliability of products developed
• minimizes time and financial losses related to unexpected problems

Patterns of Evolution – an efficient tool for product strategy. They offer insights into directions of technology/product/concept evolution and assist in designing products for the future.
Main outcomes:
• offer insights into directions of technology/product/concept evolution
• help in designing of tomorrow’s products today
• enable to reduce both time and costs of PD, maximising probability of product’s success

A few years ago at the TRIZ seminar at the de Bono Institute in Melbourne, we utilised 40 Principles and the Contradiction Table investigating the ways to improve a notebook computer. A number of product ideas were generated, some of which recently appeared on the market.

While TRIZ can be an useful tool in product development, it is not a panacea. It helped me to create a number of patents and can offer the same solutions to companies or individuals wanting to develop new products with that extra edge.

Welcome to TRIZ4U!