TRIZ Forum: Comments from the Readers

Comments on “Extension of USIT in Japan: A New Paradigm for Creative Problem Solving” Toru Nakagawa

Ed Sickafus (Ntelleck, LLC, USA),
Aug. 23, 2008

[Posted on Sept. 17, 2008 ] 

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Editor's Note (Toru Nakagawa, Sept. 17, 2008)

This page comes from the communications with Dr. Ed Sickafus, the Developer of USIT, concerning to my paper recently presented at the 4th TRIZ Symposium in Japan 2008, held on Sept. 10-12, 2008.  On my request, Dr. Sickafus wrote ellaborate comments on my paper and allowed me to post them in this Web site in English and in Japanese translation.  I am very grateful for his clarfication in these communications and for his warm guidance, encouragement, and friendship for these 10 years.  I will show the email messages first:

From Toru Nakagawa to Ed Sickafus on Aug. 21, 2008

Dear Ed,  Thank you for your recent News Letter announcement.
In our coming TRIZ Symposium in Japan, I am going to give a contributed paper as follows:
    "Extension of USIT in Japan" by Toru Nakagawa
I attached here the files of my paper and my slides as preprint. I should appreciate very much if you would give me any comments or suggestions.
With best wishes,   Toru Nakagawa

Reply from Ed Sickafus to Toru Nakagawa on Aug. 24, 2008

Dear Toru,  I read your manuscript and have attached my comments. I hope you find them useful. They are not meant to be critical. They are intended to broaden the perspective of USIT.
All the best, Ed

Saturday, August 23, 2008
Toru: As you requested, I’ll try to make some comments on your manuscript. Since, as you know, I have never attempted to be an expert in TRIZ I cannot comment on your interpretations and use of the methodology. Instead, I should like to attempt some clarifications of what seem to me to be incomplete understanding of USIT. Perhaps these comments will serve to bring some useful perspectives to your writings.

     ----  Comments  -----    See below.

Toru, I hope you find these comments some how useful. I apologize for not being able to comment on your specific developments of USIT => TRIZ, but as I have explained, I have too little working knowledge of TRIZ. I understand that you have a very special situation in Japan and have found a need and goal that you can address. I am impressed with your dedication and wish you the best in your endeavors.
As always, I enjoy keeping up with your work.
Your friend, Ed

From Toru Nakagawa to Ed Sickafus on Aug. 25, 2008

Dear Ed, Thank you very much for your comments on my preprint. Your thought is always very useful for me.  I read your comments twice, and am going to read my own once more.
Just after TRIZ Symposium in Japan, I am going to post my paper in my Web site.  Could you please allow me to post your present Comments in my Web site in Japanese translation as well as in English?  (Translation work is a way of my studying, and serves Japanese people to understand your thoughts.)
Thanking you again for your guidance and warm friendship,
Best wishes,  Toru Nakagawa

Comments by Ed Sickafus are shown below. 

Since I feel some notes on the references to Sickafus' works are helpful for the readers, I have inserted reference numbers [x] in Sickafus' Comments and added the notes at the bottom of this page.  With these notes I hope you can understand Sickafus' comments more clearly.

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Comments on “Extension of USIT in Japan: A New Paradigm for Creative Problem Solving” Toru Nakagawa (Osaka Gakuin University, Japan)

Ed Sickafus (Ntelleck, LLC, USA) on Aug. 23, 2008


The history of USIT [1] that I know is that Altshuller first developed TRIZ without any use of searchable databases. They came later as his followers introduced them. A PhD Russian mathematician named Filkovsky brought the method to Israel where he taught it at the Open University of Israel. He quickly began to develop ideas of how to simplify TRIZ for ease of learning and application. He engaged the cooperation of two graduate students to assist him; they were engineers named Horowitz and Goldenberg. As their efforts began to produce useful materials for teaching they began to offer evening classes for industrial engineers under titles that changed from the original informal ‘Israeli Method’ to the more formal ‘Systematic Inventive Thinking’. Eventually it was introduced as a university course with no textbook. I’ve forgotten the title of this course. At all times during this development TRIZ was simply set aside as being no longer useful. SIT had supplanted TRIZ.

SIT continued to be developed and eventually a train-the-trainer course was offered to a small group of industrial engineers who were wanting to teach SIT within their own companies in Israel.

At about that time I was asked by Ford management to evaluate TRIZ and SIT for possible adaptation within Ford. As you know, that led eventually to my going to Israel to take their train-the-trainer course and then to modifying their version of SIT for use in a large industrial company (namely the Ford Motor Company)

In Ford, SIT was referred as Structured Inventive Thinking and I continued to simplify it. Out of that effort came three books [2] and a continuing series of mini lectures in a free newsletter that I publish for propagating USIT. [3]

Simplification of TRIZ to SIT to USIT.

In the transition from TRIZ to SIT to USIT, and still continuing, the goal has always been to simplify, which has had several targets [4]:

All of this work is based on the universal problem representation of Objects, Attributes, and Functions [5];

This representation is independent of technical or non-technical field so long as O, A, and F are defined in accordance with self-consistent, generic definitions. This is the focus of the USIT book on Heuristics. Key to this universal representation is an understanding of what a function is and how it connects objects and attributes in our left brain and right brain thinking.

Evaluation of USIT

The evaluation of USIT for adaptation in industry, and any other problem-solving methodology, is a major issue with corporate management. Management recognizes the promise offered by in-house training of their technologists in, for example, a structured problem-solving methodology. They recognize also the steep and lengthy learning curve involved to train their technologists and allow them to become effective practitioners of the methodology. This type of training program comes with no guarantee of successful learning, successful application, or improvement in efficiency. It is a big gamble for corporate management to make the investment in money and man-hours of training.

Unfortunately, case studies are useful for training but useless to management’s evaluation of a problem-solving methodology. They do not convincingly address the corporate bottom line in a definitive manner. This was done as an experiment at Ford with a four-man team of USIT specialists. I published a paper describing the details and success of this experiment. [6]

I mention the issue of evaluation because I wonder how Japanese companies deal with this problem? It seems to me that this issue would be a nice addition to your paper. If it has been addressed in Japan those results would benefit the managerial types in your audience.

Regression of USIT to TRIZ

“One of particular features in the TRIZ community in Japan in comparison to the World is its emphasis on easier and more unified way of studying and applying TRIZ.”

It is clear in your paper that in Japan TRIZ is the preferred problem-solving methodology. USIT is being regressed toward TRIZ in order to make TRIZ easier to learn. However, no effort is being made to supplant USIT. This must be due in part to insufficient understanding of USIT. It may also be due to TRIZ being more interesting and useful in the eyes of Japanese technologists. Whatever the reason it is immaterial. What matters is that this is the environment you find yourself in and you are addressing its special needs as you see them.

Purpose of the Particles Method

‘For making an image of an ideal system, USIT has developed the Particles Method, where the Particles are imaginary almighty agency as in Altshuller's Smart Little Peoples' Modeling Method.’

It is true that the particles were inspired by Altshuller’s smart little people. The purpose of the method, however, is to free the right-brain for innovative suggestions by working backwards from the solution to the problem (using generic OAF components) – a counter intuitive concept.


‘Sickafus put less emphasis on inventions than on multiple practically-useful solutions.’

Promising a problem-solving methodology as “learning to invent” is more sales hype than realism. When once you realize that the ‘inventive’ solution differs from any other solution only by testing with post-creation filters, and not on any element of the problem-solving process, you realize that ‘invention’ has nothing to do with the process of problem solving. Hence, it is embroiled in semantics and not in fundamental understanding. Consequently, I make an effort in teaching to deemphasize invention as a reason for learning USIT. Some solution concepts will be judged to be inventive others will not. Those after-the-fact decisions are immaterial to the learning and problem-solving processes. USIT motivates problem solvers to find a wealth of solution concepts quickly.

A more pragmatic reason for deemphasizing invention is that typical industrial technologists more often deal with routine problems not requiring invention than they do with demands for invention. [7]

A Nugget of Gold

If USIT has a golden nugget, a reduction of USIT to a valuable essence, it is the OAF diagram represented in its two extremes – the extreme left-brain and right-brain views. In the former the OAF components are rendered in real-world technical terms. In the latter the OAF components are rendered in poetic or generic terms. Of course, in the process of building these representations unimagined hybrids between these extremes always come to mind. [8]

And this observation brings to mind one of the more severe objections to the use of data bases for what should be discovery of new and unrecognized ideas. When an OAF diagram has been transferred from the technical to the poetic world new ways of thinking about attributes comes to mind that cannot be found in data bases. Herein one discovers what might be rather than what has already been recognized as possible and recorded in data bases.

An OAF diagram of ultimate simplicity has only one object. The thinking path to this goal can be very thought provoking.

Editor's Note (Toru Nakagawa, Sept. 18, 2007)

[1]  History of USIT:

[1a] Ed Sickafus: "A Rationale for Adopting SIT into a Corporate Training Program", TRIZCON99: First Symposium on TRIZ Methodology and Application, Held by Altshuller Institute for TRIZ Studies, at Novi, Michigan, on March 7-9, 1999; TRIZ HP Japan, May 1999

[1b] Ed Sickafus and Toru Nakagawa: "USIT Development and Its Evolution", TRIZ HP Japan, Mar. 2001 .    Note:  The Web page is composed of an excerpt of Sickafus' USIT Textbook, additional explanation by Nakagawa on later evolution, and Sickafus' comments.

[2] Sickafus' three books on USIT:

[2a] Ed Sickafus: "Unified Structured Inventive Thinking: How to Invent", Ntelleck, LLC., Grosse Isle, MI, USA, 1997, pp. 488.  Available through USIT Web ste [3a].  Note: This textbook is not translated into Japanese, unfortunately.

[2b] Ed Sickafus: "eBook: USIT Overview", posted in USIT Web site, Feb. 2003; Japanese translation by Keishi Kawamo, Shigeomi Koshimizu, and Toru Nakagawa, TRIZ HP Japan, Oct. 2004.

[2c] Ed Sickafus: "Heuristic Innovation", Mar. 2007.   Note:  Intention of this book is described in Sickafus' USIT News Letter No. 69, Mar. 2007 .  The News Letter is translated into Japanese by Hideaki Kosha, Keishi Kawamo, and Toru Nakagawa, and posted in "TRIZ Home Page in Japan" in Mar. 2008.

[3] Sickafus' Web site and USIT News Letter:

[3a] USIT Web site: URL:

[3b] USIT News Letter:  Distributed by Ed Sickafus, free of charge, irregularly.  Latest is No. 77.

[4] The motive of simplification can be understood in Sickafus' recent work:

[4a] Ed Sickafus: "A Simple Theory Underlying Structured, Problem-Solving Methodologies – ASIT, TRIZ, USIT and Others", Presented at The Second TRIZ Symposium in Japan, Held by Japan TRIZ CB, on Aug. 31 - Sept. 2, 2006, at Suita, Osaka, Japan; Posted in TRIZ HP Japan, Jun. 2007; Japanese translation by Keishi Kawamo and Toru Nakagawa, TRIZ HP Japan, Jun. 2007.

[5] OAF diagram:  See [4a] and [2c]

[6]  Ed Sickfus: "Injecting Creative Thinking into Product Flow", 4th Annual International TPD Symposium - TRIZ Conference, Held at Industry Hills, California, USA, on Nov. 17-19, 1998.  See in the USIT Web site [3a];  Japanese translation by Toru Nakagawa, TRIZ HP Japan, Jan. 1999.

[7]  See [6].

[8]  See [4a].


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