|TRIZ Forum: Essay, History||
My Experiences with My Teacher
Genrikh Saulovich Altshuller
Phan Dung (CSTC, Vietnam National
University - HoChiMinh City, Vietnam)
TRIZCON2001: The Third Annual Altshuller Institute for TRIZ Studies Conference, March 25-27, 200, at Woodland Hills, California.
Supplement document of Keynote Speech
|Posted here with courtesy of the Author and the Altshuller Institute on May 8, 2001.|
Editor's Note (Toru Nakagawa, May 8, 2001)
This article was distributed at the TRIZCON2001 conference as a supplement document of Dr. Phan Dung's Keynote Speech.
We are very grateful to the Author and the Altshuller Institute for TRIZ Studies for their courtesy to permit us to post it here in English and also in Japanese translation.
Author: Dr. Phan Dung e-mail: PHAN
The Altshuller Institute for TRIZ Studies http://www.aitriz.org/
The author, who was sent to study physics at Baku, met Mr. G.S. Altshuller in 1971 and studied TRIZ directly from him at PIIC. This article has unveiled somewhat misterious history of emergence of TRIZ and its Founder to us TRIZ learners. Personal communications between the teacher and his students are described here vividly. It is really happy for us to learn that Mr. Altshuller's enthusiathm, devotion, and love to mankind have founded TRIZ.
For the sake of readability, Nakagawa highlighted some keywords in the bold face and inserted several additional blank lines for segmenting sections.
author's activities of teaching TRIZ in Vietnam were reported in this
Web site in July 1999. Please also visit Nakagawa's
Report of Trip to Russia in August 1999 concerning to the life of Mr.
Altshuller and several TRIZ schools today.
|Top of this page||Encoutering at Baku||Curriculum at PIIC||Writing thesis||At Leningrad||Revisit and his last letter|
|Life of Mr. Altshuller||Significance of his work||TRIZ activities in Vietnam (Phan, Jul. 1999)||TRIZCON2001
(Nakagawa, Aug. 1999)
WITH MY TEACHER
GENRIKH SAULOVICH ALTSHULLER
Throughout my life, I have never stopped thinking that I am very lucky to know TRIZ (the Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and to have learned it directly and happily by chance from the teacher: Genrikh Saulovich Altshuller, the father of TRIZ. I am sure that if I had not discovered TRIZ in 1971, I would certainly have known it later and would have followed it for the rest of my life.
In my childhood, whenever I did something wrong (in spite of good aim or so I thought) I was often scolded “ It’s foolish! You should think carefully before doing anything”. Saying nothing, I thought to myself “Not until I make mistakes and am criticized, does anyone teach me how to think!” and I tried to learn the way of thinking.
In high-school, like my friends, I did admire scientists, inventors, writers and poets. I also wished that I could do something new to contribute to my country and mankind as well. I asked myself “ How can they think up such wonderful things?”. In correcting exercises, some of my friends volunteered to solve the problems for the whole class on the spot. At that time I wondered “How can they think so quickly?”
Such questions arose in my mind many times a day. Although I discussed them with my friends and asked my elders, I felt dissatisfied. Sometimes, new questions arose from the answers.
When learning laws in physics, chemistry, and biology, I thought “Are there any laws in thinking? Why haven’t they been taught in high-school? Why don’t I find my own way of thinking?”
In learning, I first chose mathematics to observe
my thinking process when solving problems. After coming to a solution,
I recalled my way of thinking many times, then tried to explain it logically,
even the problems which were solved by chance. Not all solving processes
could be explained logically, but I felt very excited whenever successful.
By self-evaluating, I saw my thinking was better.After that, I became more
self-confident and liked doing exercises more, not only in the mathematical
In 1967, I was sent to the Soviet Union (now CIS) to study experimental solid state physics. After a pre-university year learning Russian, I went into the State University of Azerbaigian in Baku city. It was the Russian language, bookstores and libraries that helped me find the answers to some of the questions that had haunted me for such a long time. Whenever I had free time, I went to the bookstores, or the libraries to search for documents related to creative thinking. My understanding improved considerably. I applied my reading to my thinking and achieved some interesting results. However, I wanted to understand more concretely and more practically.
I think it is inevitable that my habit of reading about creative thinking, sooner or later, would have lead me to TRIZ. And in this inevitability there happened a lucky event.
One day, in 1971, when I was a senior, my lecturer of “solid state theory” was late, so I chatted to some Soviet students beside me. Fifteen minutes passed but the lecturer had not arrived yet. I asked them my questions associated with creative thinking. Andrei told me that the All-Union Association of Soviet Inventors and Rationalizators had just founded the Public Institute of Inventive Creativity which taught the creative thinking methods. He, himself, had been studying here and was finding it interesting. Like a thirsty man who sees the water, I asked Andrei to guide me to enter the Institute after class.
We arrived early, met the teacher Mr. Altshuller, and after some of Andrei’s introductory sentences, I said immediately what I had prepared because I had some reasons to worry: the class had begun quite some time before I arrived, it might already be full. I worried whether foreigners would be accepted to the Institute… In general, I worried that I would not be permitted to enter the Institute. The teacher Mr. Altshuller listened attentively to me, did not interrupt, and then briefly gave his agreement which dispersed my prepared arguments in the case of his having questions. He said: “If you love creative thinking, you can enter the class. I think whatever you study in this Institute will be useful to you and your heroic country. I will help you if you have any difficulties”. I was as happy as if I were floating on air. And from that moment, I had a new life.
This was the first time I saw the teacher Mr. Genrikh Saulovich Altshuller. I thought that the teacher who taught creativity would be older (in order to have creative experience to share with others), so I was surprised. He looked like a young sportsman, maybe because of his well-proportioned body, his lively gait, and his simple clothing (I have hardly ever seen him wearing a neck-tie, even when I see his pictures in newspapers, books or magazines) and his easy-going and modest manner. He had a kind-hearted face, intelligent, warm eyes and thick, curly, brownish hair. He was quite handsome according to the traditional model. As I came to know later, at that time, he was 45 and he had his first patent when he was only 14.
Coming to study with me later in my first
class (1971 – 1973), were also Mr. Nguyen Van Chan, Mr. Nguyen Van Thong;
and in the second one (1973 –1975) Mr. Duong Xuan Bao, Mr. Thai Ba Can
and Mr. Nguyen Quang Tho, all of whom were also Vietnamese students at
The Public Institute of Inventive Creativity (PIIC or its Russian acronym is AzOIIT) was founded by the teacher Mr. Altshuller’s initiative, and he was also the designer of curricula and syllabus. Its objective was to prepare the professional inventors, the researchers and lecturers of the creativity methodologies and the organizers of the creative and inventive activities. This Institute was also a place where the new research results of TRIZ were tested and where the feedback received from the teaching and application by learners was used in order to perfect TRIZ. The progam lasted 2 years. The main subjects were:
1. Creativity Methodologies (TRIZ was the principal course but the methods of other schools in the field, including Western ones were also studied)As Philosophy had already been studied in the university program, it was not taught at the PIIC.
2. Development of Creative Imagination
3. Psychology of Creativity
4. Systems Theory
5. Information Theory
7. Decision Making Theory
9. Forecasting Methods
10. History of the Development of Science and Technology.
Some subjects had to be finished by passing a test, the others required a marked examination. In the end, learners had to write and defend a thesis before the Institute Scientific Council. There were two kinds of thesis theme.
1. Solving a practical problem at a successful enough level to have a patent (including application documents of invention written by the author himself)The teacher Mr. Altshuller mainly taught two subjects (No 1&2) which took the largest amount of time for classroom activities and homework. The more I study, the more I understand the teacher Mr. Altshuller’s advice: “For a long time, solving problems will be more important than studying the theory” and "studying the creative thinking is the same as learning to play sport. So you have to focus much on practising in order to achieve the skills and manners needed for your work and life".
2. Research work to continually develop a certain part of the creativity methodologies.
As I said above, it was an irreplaceable opportunity to learn directly from the teacher Mr. Altshuller. As time went by, the more I knew him, the more I appreciated this opportunity.
First and foremost, it was the chance to learn the work (TRIZ) from the author himself. Therefore, the learners were not afraid of misunderstanding after some misrepresentation of TRIZ's methodology. Nowadays, when exploring the Internet, and watching the activities about TRIZ over the world, I find that the problem of incorrect understanding and teaching of TRIZ is not in very small number. When learning from the author himself, learners could ask about anything involved with the work and they could have reliable answers to their questions, even concerning the experiences with which his work was written. If you learn only from those who have read or learned before you, you will not have this chance.
However, it is unascertainable whether the author is always able to deliver effectively his knowledge to learners. Knowledge is information. There are various factors such as: the accuracy and the form of generating, processing and encoding information from the transmitter, the environment, and the cognitive level of the receiver that can influence the effectiveness of communicating this information. In this aspect, I had another chance too: the teacher Mr. Altshuller was an excellent pedagogue. As a learner, I found that his language was clear and accurate, neither complicated nor wordy. So listeners could understand exactly what he meant. Always using pictures, and illustrations, he made his lectures well-arranged and highly convincible with valuable details. Let’s make a comparison - you are invited to taste a special dish by two people; the first one says “It is very delicious, go ahead!”, the second does not use the words “delicious” or “go ahead” but goes into details so strongly desirous that you serve yourself before his speeches have finished. Evidently, you are persuaded more easily by the second one, who motivates you to do the act.
The teacher Mr. Altshuller applied a flexible approach in giving lectures and answering questions, depending on the kind and/or the level of listeners. He mastered a rich source of expressions, examples and stories from various domains, so he easily made a good connection with learners. Furthermore, he had a lot of funny, humorous tales and anecdotes related to creativity, which set a relaxed atmosphere in his classroom. Listening to him, I felt that he did not present TRIZ as the theory only but that I had listened to the story of his research and theory building process. Writing on this point, I remember Tolstoi’s observation: “It is worth not only knowing that the Earth is round but more importantly knowing how to come to this conclusion”. I must say the teacher Mr. Altshuller had managed to capture the heads and hearts of the learners. He was not only a teacher but also an artist. He, himself, was a symbol of beauty in conveying the best and the most human quality, that is, the creativity, to the learners. Probably for this reason, he is also well appreciated in the Soviet Union as a science fiction writer.
Through his answers to my questions in the classroom,
at break-time, or during my visits to his apartment, especially in the
time of writing my thesis, I felt my knowledge became more profound. He
not only satisfied my queries but also provoked me to develop my thoughts
further in a way that I could not imagine before. Simultaneously, I became
more strict with myself because in answering carefully certain questions,
he added “My answers all follow from what we have already learned”. His
eyes seemed to say “with your ability you can answer your own questions,
you should solve these yourself first. Be self-confident, my young man”.
Since then, I have usually applied my own knowledge to answer the questions
by myself and only asked the teacher or others once I cannot. This effort
improved my self-confidence and my independence in learning and researching
In writing our theses, the teacher Mr. Altshuller encouraged us to choose our own subjects appropriate to our specific fields. Knowing that my major was physics, he suggested I should choose the theme “Guiding the Usage of Physical Effects in Inventing” while my heartfelt, long-nurtured topic was “The Psychological Inertia in Solving Creative Problems”.
As I said above, in my high school, I usually validated my own thinking process in solving problems, but there were many problems I could not solve. After seeing the result, I realized that it was not because I did not have enough necessary knowledge and capacity but because there seemed to be a certain force hampering me to apply my knowledge, and I hated that force. Afterwards, I found its name : the Psychological Inertia. Minding the psychological inertia, failing many times because of it, and really have strong negative feelings about it, I wanted to choose it as my topic instead of complying with his advice. I did not know how to tell him (in Vietnam I was taught to obey the teacher). Finally I decided to tell him frankly because I was also taught to have “frankness and courage”. That made me feel peaceful.
I intended to accept his suggestion once he did not agree with me. When I told him, I thought that he would persuade me to follow his idea, but, unexpectedly, he agreed at once: “If you love the psychological inertia, begin now please”. Simultaneously, he showed me the difficulties that I had to figure out in advance when I, as a physicist, moved to study psychology.
I gave him whatever I had partially finished writing.
If he had time, we would discuss it at once, if not, he would read it at
home and make an appointment with me. He commented on every part of the
thesis and asked me many questions such as: “How have people taken
steps to implement this idea? Which document was it published in? Have
you really read the original text? Have you found all of the related documents?
Is your data convincible? Is there any data more convincible? Is it too
early for you to draw this conclusion? Is there any other explanation?
Any other kind of approach and consideration? Are you able to create tools
or at least offer some advice to help others overcome their psychological
inertia? In which directions may this theme be continually developed?”
... As a matter of fact, “I shed the sweat” while working with him
and I understood that he was very strict in research work. His training
and teaching style gave me important advantages when I worked on my dissertations
for doctor’s degrees: Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science(1) in
physics about the optical processes in semimagnetic semiconductors in 1980s
in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). And especially “The Psychological
Inertia”, which then I continued to develop into “The Systems Inertia”,
was reported at the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation and
published in the Netherlands.
When I gave the teacher Mr. Altshuller my manuscript for his last review before it was typewritten, I wrote on the first page, the Scientific Supervisor: Genrikh Saulovich Altshuller. He saw it and crossed it out. To my surprise he just smiled and said: "You chose and completed the thesis yourself, not me, you have to be responsible for your work". There were some implications in his speech. Maybe he judged that my thesis was not good enough for him to put his name to and even made him lose his prestige; maybe, he was sincere, and thought that his role was only as an opponent or an adviser, not as a scientific supervisor. Furthermore, he wanted to raise the responsibility of learners who should make their own authority in science research without relying on other's reputations. Here, I suddenly remember a humorous story "Rabbit Defends his Thesis". It was said that, in his thesis, the rabbit concluded that he could eat fox, wolf even bear. Finally, the thesis was also passed because of a simple reason - his scientific supervisor was a lion.
By the way, I would like to say a little more.
I came three times to study and to work in the setting of university education
and science research in the Soviet Union - in total about 12 years. I found,
in general, that lecturers and scientists did not impose their research
idea on their learners. They were willing to discuss with learners who
sometimes had their own idea. Even in the case that learners did not agree
with their lecturers or scientific supervisors, they did not use their
authority to hamper learners from implementing their research idea. In
my experimental physics field, I met such problems about ten times. After
discussion, these professors generally said: "Here are samples and equipment,
try to conduct your experiments as you like and see what will happen, you
never know". However, they would not compromise their high requirements
of the process and the method of implementing the idea, the verification
of the obtained data, the interpretation of results gained and the prediction
of possible consequences.
During the time of the teacher Mr. Altshuller's reviewing my thesis for the last time, I was really in an indescribable state: happiness and worry. They were mixed up. I was happy because I had just finished what I was interested in. Also, I was worried because I had to type my paper according to the rules of submitting research. Typing was my financial problem because my monthly scholarship was only 6O roubles. So, I planned to cut down some of my expenses.
On returning my thesis in a large envelope, he said, "You have to finish some missing figures. Congratulations on your successful work!". He shook my hand and quickly walked away. On the way to my student hostel, I could not understand what he had meant, for in the thesis I had already drawn all the figures. So why had he asked me to do that again? Entering my room, leaving the door open, hurriedly I opened the envelope. My thesis had been typed with some blanks for the “unfinished” figures. In the next meeting, I said thanks to him. He said to me, “I did it because the Institute's typist was typing some new documents. So I took the opportunity to ask her for help”. He said: “I took the opportunity” then changed his subject. He advised me to bind the thesis in volume by myself, not to waste my money on having it done in a workshop, because there were only 4O pages.
I realized that he went out of his way to help
me in many cases. The point was that, when we Vietnamese students talked
to him during the break time or when we visited his apartment,
answering his and his wife's (Mrs. Valentina Nhikolaevna Zhuravliova) questions
about our life, study, scholarship, and accommodation... they remembered
everything and they always took the opportunity to help us. In their words,
manner and actions we clearly felt their parental warm concern for us.
They cared for us in many ways, giving us advice on things such as how
to keep warm in the freezing temperatures, what to eat a lot of for our
health, where to go sightseeing... They used to invite us to come to their
apartment to enjoy a family atmosphere, and always asked us to have dinner
with them before leaving. Their and other teachers' hospitality comforted
us a lot for the long time of six years of study there in Baku, because
we had no money to travel back home for holidays, even once.
After successfully defending my two theses:
one on physics at the University and other on creativity at the PIIC I
went to the teacher Mr. Altshuller's appartment to say goodbye to
his family because I had to get back to Vietnam after my graduation. I
gave him my address in Vietnam and promised to write to him as soon
as I got there. He took a lot of typed pieces of papers out
and gave them to me and said:“ Here is the draft of my book. Take it with
you. After its publication, I will post the printed copy to you. But in
case it gets lost, you already have this draft copy. Send our best regards
to all your family members. I am sure that your country will be completely
re-unified without fail”. I told him that, maybe in a short time
I would come back here to be a doctoral student in physics because I was
recommended by the State University of Azerbaigian. But according to our
rules, I had to return to my country first. At that time, it was
the beginning of the summer of the year l973, the Paris Agreement
on Peace in Vietnam had been signed several months ago. He kept his promise
and to ensure that they reached me, he asked the students who returned
to Vietnam after me to bring me the necessary materials.
Until the end of the year l982, I was prevented from going to the Soviet Union for my work on Ph. D. dissertation(1) because of many unreasonable bureaucratic reasons on four occasions. Finally, after I had passed a tiring exam with many requirements, I flew to the Soviet Union. This time, I studied at the State University of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) some thousands of kilometers away from Baku. On January 2nd, l983, the teacher Mr. Altshutller replied: “Pleased to get your letter from Leningrad, not somewhere else. It is wonderful, because there are schools of TRIZ with many instructors and researchers. They will give you a lot of information about TRIZ as well as its accomplishments. I am writing immediately here some addresses of those who are in Leningrad".
Further, he gave me a list of three with their
full names, addresses, and telephone numbers: V.M. Petrov(2),
E.S. Zlotina(3), V.V. Mitrofanov(4)
and wrote: "You tell them that I introduced you to them, and today I will
write to Zlotina about this”. He added: "Today I will also send you the
following books: "Creativity As An Exact Science", and “The Wings for Icharus”
and a new document “ARIZ-82B”. I’m going to write to the Trizniks(5)
in Leningrad and they will provide you with other materials. How about
the Journal “Technology and Science”(6).
Have you subscribed to the one for the year l983? And how about the old
ones? You must read the issues from l to 9 from the year l981, and from
3 to 5 and 8 from the year l982”. He reminded me of his ten-year old suggestion,
taking my interest in psychological inertia into his account: "I really
expect you to do something on "Guiding of the Usage of Physical Effects
in Inventing", while you are living in the Union these days. If necessary,
the above mentioned Journal will publish your research, or also your research
on psychology... Happy New Year with many best wishes for your health and
prosperity in the days living in Leningrad". After receiving the
teacher Mr. Altshuller's letter I contacted Volodia Petrov and Fira Zlotina.
And we became friends.
At the beginning of October, l983, I went to Baku to visit my old places, my old teachers and classmates, especially the teacher Mr. Altshuller's family. Never has the trip faded from my mind. It was an extremely emotional, unforgetable one. Maybe you can guess why. I myself, during the last ten years, had worked, was now married with a child, had faced the severe reality of daily life and work. As a result, I looked much more experienced than before. So this time, meeting Mr. and Mrs. Altshuller I could discuss with them many subjects in a deeper and more thoughtful way, even some “delicate” topics in comparison with the standards of that time. I knew much more about his personal life with its many ups and downs as well as his intentions about TRIZ. I told him about what I had done in Vietnam (I had taught the first course on TRIZ in Vietnam in 1977) and my opinions about TRIZ … He gave me positive encouragement about my work, gave me his own ideas and his own experiences. They were so precious to me. If he had some points to disagree with me, he just suggested, “You may be right in such a case”. Then, he presented me with many materials on TRIZ and others including magazines, books, and typewritten research papers.
He saw me off at the bus station. He went with his back just beginning to be bent over and a slightly slow walk which I had not seen before. I felt moved and loved him so much. From the bottom of my heart, I prayed for his health. I wished that he would live a long, long time.
Quite different from my arrival with a light traveling
bag, I flew back to Leningrad with my overweight baggage. Although
I did not have to pay tax for 20 kilos according to the rules, additionally,
I had to pay the same amount as an excess baggage charge for the
presents from my old teachers and classmates. The teacher Mr. Atlshuller’s
gift alone weighed over 10 kilos.
Thanks to him and TRIZ colleagues, especially, my new friends: Volodia and Fira, I always kept up with the development of and new studies on TRIZ (including the manuscript materials that would be published later in the form of articles or books). Leafing back through his letters, I encountered the things he used to write to me, such as “ Let me know about this material... that one, have you got them yet ? If not , I will send them to you ". Or ," In the package I am sending to you today there are the following materials...”
I remember one episode. It was the third time I
was living in the Soviet Union (again in Leningrad), doing my research
on my Doctor of Science's degree, and I discovered two books in the package
he had sent me. These books were written by his former students about TRIZ
and about how to teach it with acknowledgements and dedications to him
from the authors in ink on the first page. At once, I phoned him to confirm:
"Genrikh Saulovich, you must be mistaken in sending me the books whose
authors had presented them to you". He just laughed, "No , I am not
mistaken. You need them more than I do" Hearing nothing from me on the
end of the line, he thought that I must be so embarrassed. So, he added,
“Don’t worry. I will tell them that I presented the books to you from me.
Now let's change the subject…”.
Here is his last letter of February 2nd,
l997: “I’ ve got your letter of January 6th, l997 with your
report on your teaching trip in Malaysia and your photos. Thank you so
“I am enclosing here with this letter for you the “Information” about the TRIZ Association. I would like you to know all about its activities”.
“TRIZ has begun its long steps towards the West. Many TRIZ related institutes and schools have been established, the translation of TRIZ is in progress. The book “And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared” that was translated into English (in America) has just been printed. As soon as I receive it, I will send it to you. Write to me more often. Good luck !”
“PS: Did you get the two books “How to Become a Genius” and "The Corner of Attack?”.
After that, I did not get any letters from him any more although I had written to him several times. I thought that, maybe, he had moved to a new address like before, when his family went to Petrozavodsk from Baku to live, but... maybe... sometimes I shuddered with fear when my mind was lead to that terrible thing... In the end of the year l998, our Center for Scientific and Technical Creativity (CSTC) was connected with the Internet, on American TRIZ websites I got the distressing news that he had passed away on September 24th, l998 after a long sickness.
Getting the bad news, I quickly sent the teacher
Mr. Altshuller's family a fax of condolence to share the great loss all
Trizniks had suffered. Then I phoned Mrs. Valentina Nhikolaevna Zhuravliova,
his wife, to talk more about him and remember with her my sweet memories
of him. During the conversation, she repeated several times, "You Vietnamese
students were very lucky to have a long time to study with him. Many Trizniks
did not get an opportunity like that".
In my mind, I often think I had a very good opportunity to improve myself immensly when I was his student, working and corresponding with him. It is said that one of the most effective ways of learning is imitating, willingly following other's examples. This impulse naturally comes from the learner's need and internal aspiration. Considering the typical example of a child's learning to speak at home, we can see that he lives, plays, and communicates naturally without realizing he is learning and accepting the effect of nurture from his teachers. But he can learn how to speak from the family members very rapidly with everyday improvement. If you are lucky enough to have regular contact with those who get your admiration, your love, and who are better than you in many aspects, you will learn a lot from them almost as if you had been infected by them, although they do not have the intention of teaching you at all, and you yourself do not have the intention of learning, either. This is such a natural, effective way of learning that what you have learned will be digested and transformed into your own flesh and blood. It is not a borrowing process.
Remembering what I knew about him (directly or
from TRIZ colleagues and other's memoirs), the idea sometimes springs up
in my mind that he was real and not real at the same time. He was real
in his worldly body as my teacher. And he was not real like a legendary
hero stepping out of the pages on which great names are written, for I
had read much about them. Many of them encountered obstacles, they were
even crushed by the evil powers, but with all their efforts, endurance,
strong will and, of course, their talents, they contributed their great
achievements to mankind's prosperity. I knew all this, but before meeting
the teacher Mr. Altshuller, I had no chance to contact let alone to learn
from them, or to work with such people.
The teacher Mr. Altshuller's life, indeed, had been unlucky even when he was in his mother's womb. His father married his mother when they were working together for the Azerbaigian News Agency (Azerbaigian was one of 15 Republics of the Soviet Union) in Baku. His father had already been married once previously to marrying his mother. So his grandmother on his mother's side objected to the new mariage so violently that his parents had to move to Tashkent city, the capital of the Republic Uzbekistan, where he was born on October 15, 1926. In 1928, his family returned to Baku amid the cool attitudes of his mother's relatives.
His parents worked for the Press. So his home, of course, was packed with books that interested him from a very young age. He went to schools where there were many professional and devoted teachers. This enabled him to look for new things, arouse his curiosity about inventions. He got his first patent when he was still at high school.
The Soviet Union was attacked by Fascism in 1941, at the time he was 15. After high school, he joined the army and was assigned to an infantry regiment. Then, he was recommended to train in an air force school. No sooner had he finished the training, than the war ended. He applied for a position as a navy patent examiner at the Patent Office of Caspian Fleet, located in Baku. Right here, his interest in invention from a young age was combined with the needs of his job: he studied the patent information, examined invention documents, gave his advice to inventors. In 1946, he began the first steps on the path to constructing TRIZ. His desire to help the general populous to invent methodologically in a scientific way became stronger than his original purpose: how to get many patents for himself.
In 1949, he and his associate Mr. R. Shapiro directly wrote Stalin a thirty-page letter which took them 6 months. Beside the presentation of their invention, they proposed many measures to improve the Soviet patent system and creative, inventive activities in the Soviet Union. In the end, he and his friend were mistakenly accused of terrorism, arrested in 1950 and sentenced to twenty-five year's penal servitude. He was exiled to Vorkuta, a hostile area with ice and snow, to work as a coal miner. During the time he was in his labor camps his father died. His mother applied many times for his amnesty, but failed. She was so disappointed that she committed suicide in 1953. Stalin died in the same year. So many sentences were again judged. In 1954, he and his friend, Mr. Shapiro were released. Back in Baku, he had to change his workplace several times, for a former prisoner was not welcome when he applied for a job. Finally, he decided to be his own employer. He worked as a freelance. He turned to writing for newspapers, then writing science fiction under the pen name Genrikh Altov. With the little money he earned he had time to develop his ideas originating from 1946. Sometimes, his life was not secure in this way. He had to sell his books, which he had collected over years and which he appreciated like his own children, to second - hand book-stores.
The first results of his and Mr. Shapiro's research, which laid the basic foundation for TRIZ, were published in the Journal "Psychological Issues"( No. 6, 1956, pages 37 - 49). Later, Mr. Shapiro migrated to Israel. So, only the teacher Mr. Alshuller kept on his study of TRIZ. From 1958, he began to spread TRIZ through seminars, first in Baku, then in other cities such as Moscow, Donhetsk, Tambov, Ryazan ... As the results of the success of the seminars, over 9 years from 1959 to 1967, he continuously wrote to the Central Council of the All Union Association of Inventors and Rationalizators (Russian acronym is VOIR) with many proposals, but did not receive any positive responses although the proposals were within Regulations and met the criteria of VOIR. Until, in 1968, the Central Council's president, Ivanov was seriously sick. So, the secretary of the Council, V. N. Tiurin took his place temporarily. At that time, the situation seemed to get out of its darkness. The Public Research Laboratory of Inventing Methods (OLMI) was opened in 1969 and the Public Institute of Inventive Creativity (AzOIIT) was formed in Baku in 1971. In 1972, Sofanov, the newly-elected president of the Central Council of VOIR returned to the old policies, causing many problems for Mr. Altshuller's activities. The highest tension point was reached in 1974. On one occasion Mr. Altshuller admitted some cadres from the School of Perfection of Management Qualification belonging to the Polish Council of Ministers to study at the AzOIIT, without an official permit from the VOIR's Central Council. So Sofanov closed OLMI. To give his protest to the decision, Mr. Altshuller withdrew from AzOIIT.
Since then, the research and spreading of TRIZ has completely relied on the interest and willingness of volunteers, who expected no financial returns, under Mr. Altshuller's leadership, without any legal financial support from the government, or from other societies. Many times he and his followers gave TRIZ classes in a "nomadical way" from city to city. Then they created TRIZ groups, centers, schools operating in clubs or cultural houses… Until the 1980s, hundreds of cities in the Soviet Union with such activities came into being. At first, he was the only one who taught TRIZ in the 1950s, 3 more began teaching TRIZ in 1968, and there were over 200 teachers by 1979. After that, conferences on the special subjects of TRIZ were held in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988 with more and more participants. The TRIZ Association was established in 1989 and the Journal of TRIZ came into being in 1990. The flourishment of TRIZ led the State Committee of Invention (GOSKOMIZOBRETENIE) and VOIR to make their decision to support the teaching system of the methods of invention and creativity (in Mr. Altshuller's opinion, this decision should have been made 20 years before).
As soon as the cold war ended, the Soviet Union's economy changed into the market one. So TRIZ development faced other new advantages as well as disadvantages. Due to the information exchange between the East and the West being better than before, some developed countries discovered TRIZ and quickly welcomed it to their countries. Now TRIZ became an international movement and the term TRIZ became an international term.
Unluckily, at the triumphant time of TRIZ, Mr.
Altshuller left us forever with much love and respect from those who knew
him and knew of him. At least, I think, one thing could console him and
all Trizniks, that is he had witnessed how his loved child TRIZ had been
There is one Vietnamese saying: "You can make a cake only if you have flour. It is a true genius who builds his whole cause with empty hands". In fact, Mr. Altshuller created his brand new cause from nothing in hard conditions. He worked without any financial support from the government or other organizations. You can imagine that at that time the Soviet Union did not follow the market economy. Its economy consisted of only two components: the national and collective. They were strictly and directly controlled under the government. Therefore, all scientific and technical research was concentrated in institutes and universities that were managed by the state. At that time, he did not belong to the staff of any organization. Because of that, he could not get his passport to go abroad to report on TRIZ at international conferences. During "perestroika" the passport procedure changed but his health would not allow him to travel abroad. In other words, he had no chance to go out of his country even to the neighbouring socialist countries right up to the day he died. He also did not have a Kandidat Nauk degree (Ph.D.) yet he dared to invent a different way from that accepted by the state scientists in the field of creativity and innovation. Under the eyes of almost all scientists working for the above state institutes or universities, he was a "heretic", incompetent to give his ideas on professional issues. In addition, there were other discriminations including a delicate one - he was a Jew.
Thinking about the teacher Mr. Altshuller and his cause I believe that the following reasons may explain why he persistently followed the ideal he had discovered and won deep love and respect from his disciples and students.
1. Victor Hugo wrote: "There is one thing stronger than all the armies of the world. And that is an idea whose time has come". Apparently, Mr. Altshuller had managed to catch the idea and foresaw the "time of idea"; therefore, he became stronger than any obstacle he met on his way. And he got more and more supporters, and followers, in his own country as well as all over the world. Since the 1990s, more and more researchers have predicted that the age of creativity and innovation will come after the age of information.Those who knew him all admired his ability to work. Some people believed that he worked as much as a whole research institute. His huge amount of published books and articles on creativity and innovation and science fiction stories were merely the tip of the iceberg. To illustrate his working ability I want to tell you about his minor deed: his writing and reading letters. Between 1974 and 1986 he cooperated with the newspapers "The Truth for Children" writing the special column "Invention? So Simple - So Complex” to introduce TRIZ to the youth. After some publications, he received some hundreds of reponses. Later, there were 6 - 8 thousand letters to him per issue. The amount of letters only relating to this work which he read was about 22,000. To lead the TRIZ movement, he had to reply to at least 20 letters a day to his students living in other cities.
2. Not stopping at the creation of TRIZ, he also put his theory and tools into action as a great innovator. He knew how mobilize the "intrinsic creative resources" inside people to maximum effect, resolved many "physical contradictions" in his life and work and always kept the direction towards " the ideal system" and "the top ideal final result " in a flexible way.
3. What he did was motivated by his great love of mankind which included every ordinary person. He used to say things such as, “The inventing process may and must be scientific. Creativity science, which will be an exact science, can be taught as well as learned in order that everyone (even a housewife) can invent in a scientific and methodological way”.
His great love helped him overcome any barries,
any obstacles ... to calmly control his own suffering: his father had died;
his mother had killed herself while he was at his penal servitude. In 1985,
his only son, Evghenhi (pet name was Gienhia, about 10 years younger than
I) whose unjust death was due to a mistaken appendix operation at a hospital
left him and his family a granddaughter who just born - Yuna.
Despite the difficulties of his life, Mr. Altshuller was lucky in many aspects. He had a faithful wife, Mrs. Valentina Nhikolaevna, a real friend who could share everything with him, and he also had his friends, disciples, followers and students. These may seem ordinary and natural but in reality they are elusive for many.
One Vietnamese saying states: “ You cannot succeed without the help of your teachers”.
We all have our own teachers and thank them for their nurture. As a matter of fact, I have many ones like those. However, the teacher Mr. Altshuller, truthfully speaking, has given me the deepest impression. I was very lucky to be his student.
You may question, “What did you manage to learn
from him as his student?”. My answer is: “I have just learned a little
from the teacher Mr. Altshuller. However, this small amount seems great
to me because it changed my life in every way in comparison with the time
(1) : There are two doctor's degrees in the Soviet Union. The first one called "Kandidat Nauk" is roughly equivalent to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy ( D.Ph. or Ph.D.).
The second one called "Doktor Nauk" is the highest degree. It is translated into English as Doctor of Science (D.Sc. or Sc.D.). The degree "Doktor Nauk" is awarded for a dissertation where its author having the first degree has opened a new research direction or solved a highly generalized problem in the given field.
(2) V.M. Petrov, at the beginning of the l990s migrated to Israel. Now, he is the president of Israel - TRIZ Association.
(3) E.S. Zlotina, at the beginning of the l990s migrated to Israel. She passed away because of cancer on December 8th, 1998.
(4) V.V. Mitrofanov, at that time, was the principal of the People University of Scientific and Technical Creativity in Leningrad and now he is the president of the International TRIZ Association located in Saint Petersburg.
(5) Trizniks are people who work in the field of TRIZ.
(6) The Journal "Technology
and Science" (“Tekhnhika i Nauka”) came into being l894, published monthly
in Moscow with its special subjects on science, technology, and manufacture.
In the Soviet time, the Journal was directly mannaged by the All Union
Council of Science and Technology Associations.
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Last updated on May 8, 2001. Access point: Editor: email@example.com