TRIZ Forum:  Communication:  USIT Seminar
USIT Training Seminar in Japan:  First Trial of a 3-day Seminar
  Toru Nakagawa (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) 
  Sept. 1, 1999 (in Japanese), 
  Sept. 7, 1999 (in English translation) 


In late last July, we held an in-company USIT Training Seminar for three days, for the first time in Japan, and I served as the instructor.  This seminar was successful in understanding the methodology better, in transfering it wider in a company, and in actually solving some practical problems.  Though we cannot describe the technical problems themselves, here am I summarizing the training program and the methodology's solution processes, with the hope that such a report would be helpful for our readers to learn USIT (and TRIZ) better.

I am very grateful to the Japanese company which held this training seminar and allowed me to publish the present report on our Web site, and I also thank Dr. Ed Sickafus of Ford Scientific Laboratory, the developer of USIT, for his guidance and continuing encouragement to me.

1.  Start of the plan

At the end of last March, I received an email message from Mr. A, who is a reader of this "TRIZ  Home Page in Japan" and  had some acquaintance with me.  He was working for  an R & D department of Company B and was asking me to give a lecture on TRIZ.   In his company, they have been trying to introduce TRIZ for a year or so and want to learn how to apply it more effectively.  So I gave a lecuture late in May to about 35 managers and engineers of R & D divisions for three hours including Q and A.  I talked about  basic understanding of TRIZ, its directions of further development, its examples of application, the ways of introducing it in industries, and also applications of USIT as a simplified version of TRIZ.  Soon after this lecture, the company asked me to give a training seminar on USIT, as a next step for their promoting TRIZ in their R & D divisions.  Thus we started to prepare for the seminar.

Last March I attended the first outside-Ford USIT Training Seminar given by Dr. Ed Sickafus [1] and mastered USIT.  I evaluated the USIT methodology highly, and was thinking to promote it in Japan; so I was much looking forward to giving a training seminar of USIT.  I proposed a three-day seminar, with half a day for a lecture and all the rest for group practices of real application of USIT.  Mr. A took care of  organizing and preparating for it  in the company; appointment of the participants, selection of the problems to solve, and other detailed arrangements including negotiations with the management.  Thus the seminar became real at the end of last July.

2.  Types of seminars:  Theme selection and corporate secrets

We first planned to handle six real problems by about 12 participants.  The company's legal department, however, was not willing to handle real problems (possibly containing corporate secrets) in front of an outside consultant, even under a non-disclosure agreement.  With this respect, we examined the following four types of seminars:
Type (1):  Lectures with Q&A, without participants' practice.   (Half a day or one day may be enough for this type.)
Type (2): (1) + practice with textbook example problems
Type (3): (1) + group practice with non-secret problems brought in by the  participants
Type (4): (1) + group practice and problem solving of real problems (possibly containing corporate secrets) brought in by the participants

  After some discussions, we agreed to hold the seminar of Type (3), and the participants brought in some problems without corporate secrets.  The number of problems was reduced to 4 at this time, and we had the seminar with 8 participants (6 of them fully participated).

3.  Target of the seminar

The target of the seminar was set to master the methodology of problem analysis and concept generation by the use of USIT (Unified Structured Inventive Thinking).  Not only the lectures but also group practices of solving semi-real problems and discussions would be helpful for mastering the methodology and for obtaining some clews to creative concept generation for the problems handled.

4.  Outline of the program

The seminar was carried out according to the following time schedule:
 a.m.:  Lecture: Introduction to USIT (history, overview, two detailed case studies, definition of USIT keywards, etc.)
p.m.:  Group practice:  Problem definition stage of USIT on real problems (4 problems)
  a.m.:  Short lecture:  USIT case study (a case taken from Sickafus [4])
Group practice: Problem analysis stage of USIT with the Closed-World Method (for 2 real problems of problem group A)
p.m.:  Group practice: Problem analysis stage of USIT with the Particles Method (for 2 real problems of problem group B)
a.m.:  Short lecture: Concept generation techniques of USIT
Group practice:  Concept generation stage of USIT (2 real problems of problem group B)
 p.m.:   Group practice:  Concept generation stage of USIT (2 real problems of problem group A)
Wrapping up: How to introduce USIT into industries; overall discussions;
  writing the inquiry sheet.

I designed this seminar schedule on the basis of Dr. Sickafus' Seminar  [1]and with some improving ideas:  I made the lectures shorter partly because I knew I had much less materials to talk than Dr. Sickafus; I chose to use more time to think creatively together with the participants in front of real problems.  All the four problems were handled in parallel from the beginning to the end for two days and a half.  Two problems (group A) are analyzed with the Closed-World Method, while the other two with the Particles Method.  Each session of the group practice is composed, adopting Dr. Sickafus' way, of "short explanation, parallel group practices for the preassigned problems, and group presentations and instructions/discussions in front of all the participants".  Each participant not only thinks to analyze and solve his own brought-in problem, but also directly take part in two problems by using two different analysis methods, and further participates in the presentations and discussions on all the four problems.  This means that each member thinks his main problem in combination of different ways of thinking, i.e. direct intensive thinking during the session of his own problem, indirect thinking while handling other problems, and reluxed free thinking in the evenings/nights/early-mornings.

The seminar was from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day with one hour lunch break.  On the first-day afternoon, the time schedule was tight; on other time frames, however, we had sufficient time to consider and discuss on each of the problems.

The parallel group practices were carried out by 2 to 4 participants per group.  The contents of the discussion/problem solving were written on OA boards (i.e., white-board with photo-recording capability) and automatically recorded into photocopies.  The photocopies were reproduced into an OHP sheet for presentation and into paper copies for all the participants.  This method allows the discussion to develope freely without restriction due to the recording-space and eliminates the rewriting for presentation.  Thus, at the end of the seminar, all the records of the group practices were at hand of all the members.  After the seminar, the participants who brought in the problems reported the results of the seminar to their bosses effectively with these documents.

4.  Contents and sources of lectures

Pretty rich texts about USIT are already accumulated in this "TRIZ Home Page in Japan":
  -  Report of Dr. Sickafus' USIT Training Seminar including introduction to USIT [1]
  -  Two papers by Dr. Sickafus (Rationale for introducing USIT into Ford [7], and current USIT activities [6])
  -  Two USIT case studies written by Nakagawa (using the Closed-World Method [4], and using the Particles Method [5] in the problem analysis)

With reference to Dr. Sickafus' USIT textbook [2] and USIT course materials [3], I made the lectures with the following additional materials:
  -  Definitions of important concepts in USIT (from Sickafus' course material [3], Mar. 1999).
  -  USIT case study (one case from Sickafus' course material [3], Mar. 1999).

5.  Group practices in the USIT steps

5.1  Problem definition stage

Dr. Sickafus shows in his course material [3] an example of several draft definitions of a problem.  This example was very helpful for the participants to understand the change in focus of the problem by different definitions of one problem.  Such difference in the problem definition would lead the efforts of problem solving in quite different directions. It was also understood that the problem definition is closely related to the recognition of root cause of the problem.  Dr. Sickafus put emphasis on the effects of root cause on the direction of problem solving: The root cause statements contribute to focus the efforts for problem solving and to search meaningful solutions effectively; at the same time, however, it works as a bias in recognizing the problem situations. [These points have not been explained well in my writings so far, I feel.]

As a matter of fact, the participants in the present seminar have found that this problem definition stage was most difficult in practice.  In textbook examples and reported cases, problems are already stated in sentences, which do not contain irrelevant facts/statements.  For the people in actual situations, however, various facts and speculations are related in so complex way that they feel they have to handle/solve a network of problems and a variety of targets together.  Thus it seems especially difficult for the person in charge to concentrate his efforts to solve one problem in focus.  Hence it is important to focus the problem sharply and state the problem definition in a short and clear statement; the participants now understood this importance.

In this relation, I think it important to train ourselves to understand the essential points of problems even though we do no know much details; this is the type of ability necessary for supervisors.

5.2  Problem analysis stage

USIT has two methods in parallel for the problem analysis.  The first one is the Closed-World Method.  In this method, the current system in problem is analyzed by use of the concepts of Objects, Attributes, and Functions.  USIT provides clear definitions of these concepts, and the Closed-World Method is the main stream in the analysis stage. The way of describing the original-design's system functions in the Closed-World diagram, however, is rather hard to learn; I realized the necessity to study more examples of this formulation.  The second substep in the Closed-World Method is called Qualitative Change Graph and easier to construct and use.

The second alternative of USIT problem analysis is the Particles Method.  One should first think of "Ideal solution", and then try to ask the magic Particles (or magic substances/"Fields") to do some actions for realizing the Ideal solution, and further consider possible suitable properties the Particles should have for doing such actions.  In the present seminar, almost all participants found this method very easy to use and powerful to solve problems.

The Uniqueness analysis to find the space- and time-characteristics of the system was found easy and effective.

5.3  Problem-solving and concept-generation stage

When we made group practices in this third stage of USIT, we changed the preset schedule so as to handled the group B problems first.  These problems were analyzed by the Particles Method the day before; and even in the analysis stage, a lot of elements of solution ideas were mentioned and discussed.  This observation urged me to switch the two problem groups in the order for the concept generation stage.  To generate solution concepts on the basis of the analysis with the Particles Method, the participants mostly derived the solutions intuitively without explicitly using the USIT's four solution techniques.

One point I guided the participants in this stage is to generify the ideas.  USIT recommends to generify each concrete idea and feed it back for considering other solution concepts.  I showed the participants the scheme of thinking shown in the following figure.  This thinking scheme is sometimes called Mind Mapping, and is very powerful for systematically searching the solutions, even if used by itself. [Note: you may refer to Kowalick's paper and my review of Fobes' book.]

In the afternoon on Third day, we tried to solve the two group A problems for which we had analyzed with the Closed-World Method.  For these problems we tried to apply the USIT four solution techniques, i.e. Dimensionality method, Pluralization method, Distribution method, and Transduction method. The application of these methods was still difficult for us, partly because we do not have much examples yet to learn. Nevertheless, with the help of the generification method, we found a large number of solution concepts for these problems as well.

One further step I guided the participants was to consider some apparently hopeful solution concepts deeper instead of just listing up the ideas of solution concepts.  Every idea of solution concept may have some weak points and difficulty in realization, and may be rejected easily as "it won't work so nicely" in the latter stages of technical/business examination, I am afraid.  From this consideration, at the stage we had proceeded to spread the range of solution ideas wide enough, we quickly evaluated the importance and feasibility of the solution concepts and tried to consider some hopeful concepts deeper.  We tried to find some complimentary solution concepts to strengthen the weak points, to overcome difficulties, to increase its functionality, etc.  Thus multiple concepts for each problem were brought up to the points of our feeling that they might be successfully applicable or they might become feasible if some difficulties were overcome. I feel this trial was a success.

6.  Evaluation of the Training Seminar

This was the first trial for me to hold a USIT Training Seminar (or even any three-day seminar as the instructor).  My lectures might not be so good, and the number of application examples were not large enough at moment; I should improve these points for myself in the near future.

The participants answered in the inquiry sheets at the end of the seminar as:  They have understood and positively evaluated on the importance of problem definition, effectiveness of the Particles Method, the power of the generification method to enhance the multiple concept generation, the clarity of the USIT process, etc.  On the other hand, they felt difficulty in understanding and in application of the concepts of the USIT Closed-World Diagrams, and the four solution techniques.  For these points of difficulty, we should need to study much more and learn good examples.

The group practices on real problems contributed much to clarify the problems and to find a number of solution concepts, at the levels higher than the persons who brought in the problems had expected beforehand.  The USIT methodology of course contributed to these results; but there was another important effects of this kind of seminar.  That is the effects of the cooperative working of people having somewhat different specialities.

Since we handled the problems without corporate secrets as mentioned above, there were some cases whose core parts could not be disclosed/discussed during the seminar.  This might have reflected in the results which seemed not good enough to reveal the real focus of the problem.  Among the four problems, the problem poorest at the initial definition stage succeeded in the most excellent solution concepts.  The engineer who brought in this problem could not make the focus clear at first; so we had to make a second round of problem definition with the direct involvement of a director, who was originally participated as an observer.  It was our great pleasure that the most difficult problem was solved elegantly with the USIT methodology.  We all realized that we should attack real problems, the problems we really want to solve even though how difficult it seems at first.

7.  Future process

On the basis of this USIT Training Seminar, this company is going to master the USIT methodology first and to try to apply it to their real problems.  Mr. A, who prepared this seminar as the coordinator, wants to become an expert in USIT and TRIZ and to promote USIT/TRIZ in the company. Various TRIZ methodologies and the TRIZ software tool TechOptimizer are going to be used more in the future, he says.  I believe that the promotion of USIT/TRIZ by the leadership of in-company experts should be the most suitable and effective way.  In-company experts can work together with a large number of engineer groups in the company to tackle any problem in the core of company's cecrets.

Using the experiences of this seminar, I myself also want to understand USIT and TRIZ deeper and to promote them wider in Japanese industries.


[1]  "USIT Training Seminar (Instructor: Ed Sickafus, Mar. 1999)", Toru Nakagawa, TRIZ Home Page in Japan, Mar. 30, 1999 (in Japanese and in English).
[2]  "Unified Structured Inventive Thinking: How to Invent", Ed. N. Sickafus, NTELLECK, Grosse Ile, Michigan, 1997,  p. 488.
[3]  "USIT Training Seminar (USIT-01) Course Materials, Ed Sickafus, NTELLECK, Mar. 1999.
[4]  "USIT Case Study (1) Detection of Small Water Leakage from a Gate Valve", Toru Nakagawa, TRIZ Home Page in Japan, Jul. 2, 1999 (in Japanese), Aug. 26, 1999 (in English).
[5]  "USIT Case Study (2) Increase the Foam Ratio in Forming a Porous Sheet from Gas-Solved Molten Polymer", Toru Nakagawa, TRIZ Home Page in Japan, Jul. 2, 1999 (in Japanese) , Aug. 26, 1999 (in English).
[6]  "Injecting Creative Thinking into Product Flow", Ed Sickafus, First TRIZ International Conference, Nov. 1998, Los Angeles .
[7] "A Rationale for Adopting SIT into a Corporate Training Program", Ed Sickafus, TRIZCON99: First Symp. on TRIZ Methodology & Application,  March 1999, Detroit.
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Last updated on Sept. 10, 1999.     Access point:  Editor: