TRIZ Forum:  Seminar Participation Report 
USIT Training Seminar
   Instructor:  Dr. Ed Sickafus (Ford Scientific Lab.)
   Date:           March 10-12, 1999
 Reported by Toru Nakagawa (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) 
                    March 30, 1999 

Date:           March 10 - 12, 1999    (8:00 - 17:00)
Place:          Detroit  (Novi Hilton Hotel, Novi, Michigan, USA)
Held by:   NTELLECK (Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA)
Instructor:  Dr. Ed. N. Sickafus (Tech. Director, NTELLECK; Ford Scientific Lab.)
                       email:  "ens" <>,


USIT (Unified Structured Inventive Thinking) has been developed by Dr. Ed Sickafus,
Ford Scientific Lab., after adapting the Israeli SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking) which
was a much simplified version of TRIZ.  In Ford Motor Company Dr. Sickafus' group have
trained in it over 800 technologists for these four years and have been applying the methodology
to a large number of corporate problems.  The present seminar was the first presented to the
people outside Ford Motor Co.  Ten people including myself attended at it.

USIT is a methodology focusing on the initial, concept generation phase of technology
development.  It complises of a procedure for defining the problem, two methods of problem
alnalysis (i.e. Closed-World Method and Particles Method), and four techniques for
generating solution concepts.  A streamlined procedure is given for the whole USIT
methodology; terminologies are clearly defined; and each method/technique is simplified
in usage.  USIT does not deal with engineering details.  Thus, it does not use technical
knowledge bases in contrast to TRIZ, and uses a much simplified version of techniques
and principles for concept generation.  In the corporate practices in Ford, real problems
are brought  in to the USIT specialist team by groups of technologists.  So the USIT team
have joint meetings with the technologist group; and four to five meetings for two, three
hours each usually accomplish a proposal report containing multiple solution concepts.

In the present Training Seminar, the instructor explained ideas of the methodology
while presenting a variety of demonstration examples.  He also guided the participants to
follow the steps of USIT in solving a few more  examples.  Besides, all the participants are
requested to bring in two real problems to solve.  Forming groups of two or three members,
each participant group actually tried to solve two such real probelms by applying the
USIT procedure.  Three sets of "instructor's explanation, parallel group practise for 20-30
minutes, and joint presentation & discussion for 60 minutes" were carried out for solving
a problem in three phases, i.e. problem definition, problem analysis, and concept
generation.  The participants mastered the usage of USIT through these examples and

The training seminar was very effective, because the instructor presented the material
clearly and taught the methodology repeatedly by using a variety of examples, and
especially because we participants had experiences of applying the methodology on our
own real problems.  The whole lecture and discussion was carried out intensively and
quickly;  I was happy to be able to understand them fully, partly because I had already
read most part of the USIT textbook.

Mastering USIT seems to be much easier than mastering TRIZ.  Once some people
become experts, they will be able to work jointly with a number of technologist groups
for solving corporate problems, in a way similar to Ford.

One point I would like to comment on is the Ford's assumption that there are many
other methodologies to apply after the concept generation by USIT.  Considering the
current situations in Japanese industries, we should better construct a sequence
of methodologies with which a same group of technologists generate concepts,
examine/develop the engineering models, and actually develop the technical s
ystems/processes/products.  USIT can effectively serve in the initial phase of such a
sequence, and some more methods from TRIZ may be useful in the succeeding
phases, I believe.

(1)  References and background

The philosophy of introducing USIT into Ford was presented by Dr. Sickafus
in recent two papers at conferences; they are translated into Japanese and posted
in the Japanese pages of the "TRIZ Home Page in Japan".

[1] "Injecting Creative Thinking into Product Flow", Ed Sickafus,
         First TRIZ International Conference, Nov. 1998, Los Angeles   . 
[2] "A Rationale for Adopting SIT into a Corporate Training Program",
        Ed Sickafus, TRIZCON99: First Symp. on TRIZ Methodology & Application,
           March 1999, Detroit.

Concerning the USIT methodology itself, no handy paper has been presented yet,
but a detailed and excellent textbook was already published:

[3] "Unified Structured Inventive Thinking -- How to Invent", Ed Sickafus,
         NTELLECK, Grosse Ile, Michigan (1997), 488 pages.

The publisher, NTELLECK, was established by Dr. Sickafus for promoting USIT
under the permission of Ford Motor Co.  Its WWW site posts the USIT book review,
papers on USIT, and seminar plans, etc.

The present USIT Training Seminar was the first trial specially opened for the people
outside Ford Motor Co. under its generous permission.  I had a contact with Dr. Sickafus
after the last year's TRIZ conference and when I was suggested the possiblility of this
seminar, I immediately replied with my wish of participation.  I am very glad that
Dr. Sickafus' enthusiasm and Ford Motor Co.'s kindness have made the USIT methodology
publicly known to the world outside Ford.

(2)  Training program

1st Day.  AM:  Overview of USIT (lecture with examples)
                 PM:  Problem analysis with the Closed-World Method
                               (lecture and small exercises)

2nd Day.  AM:  Analysis of plausible root causes (lecture with examples)
                            Group practice A-1 (Probelm definition)
                   PM:  Group practice A-2 (Problem analysis with Closed-World Method)
                             Group practie A-3 (Concept generation)

3rd Day.  AM:   Particles Method (lecture with examples)
                            Group practice B-1 (Probelm definition)
                  PM:  Group practice B-2 (Problem analysis with Particles Method)
                            Group practie B-3 (Concept generation)

(3)  Overview of the USIT methodology

The overview of the USIT methodology can clearly be illustrated with the following flow chart:
(Note that the flowchart was originally drawn by Dr. Sickafus and slightly modified by

(4)  Problem definition procedure in USIT

One shoud follow the followg procedure step by step:

  -  Select a single problem
  -  Express it in a short written statement
  -  Draw a simple sketch
  -  Express a root cause    (Apply the Plausible Root Cause Analysis, if necessary)
  -  List up relevant objects   (Avoid specific technical terms and generify.)
  -  Select a minimal set of objects to express the problem.

In defining a problem, it is requested to put aside technical details, metrics, technical
drawings, specifications, costs, time schedules, etc.  During the concept generation stage,
you should better put them aside and think as freely and broadly as possible to obtain
multiple concepts.  Then, in the next stage of engineering examination, the concepts
should be selected with introducing such factors as "technical filters" and be made
more specific fromengineering viewpoints.

(5)  Problem Analysis with Closed-World Method of USIT

USIT has two separate methods for problem analysis.  Either or both of them can be
used for any problem.  The Closed-World Method is more preferable for problems
requesting improvement of existing systems/ideas, while the Particles Method for
problems without base models.

The Closed-World Method proceeds in the following way:

-  First, construct the Closed-World Diagram.
     This diagram represents the objects and their functional relationships of the present
      system, according to the designer's intention.
     [This diagram may be compared with the Su-Field Analysis in TRIZ.]

-  Next, construct the Qualitative Change Graph.
      The effect/function representing the problem is taken as the ordinate of this graph.
      By choosing an attribute of an object as the abscissa, the dependence of the
      effect/function may be shown qualitatively, i.e. either increasing together, decreasing
      reversely, or essentially independent.  Qualitative Change Graph uses a short-hand;
      it just lists up the relevant attributes of objects having parallel dependence and those
     having reverse dependence.
     [This thinking process much simplifies the derivation of Technical Contradictions in TRIZ.]

(6)  Problem Analysis with the Particles Method in USIT

This method is an adoption of the "Smart Little People Method" in TRIZ.  Israeli SIT
developers found that students unconsciously declined to put the smart little people in
severe circumstances, like inside a strong acid; so they renamed as "Particles".  The
Particles Method proceeds in the following way:

 -  Sketch the problem situation.
 -  Sketch the ideal solution situation.
  [This corresponds to the idea of Ideal Final State in TRIZ.]
 -  Sketch the intermediate situation between the above two.
 -  Put the "Particles" in the above sketches.
       The particles may be put at any place showing changes/differences among the sketches.
 -  Describe the actions which you want to have the miracle particles achieve.
       These actions are broken down into simple actions in a hierarchical way while specifying
       the AND or OR relationships among them.  Thus Sickafus calls the hierarchical diagram
       as "AND/OR Tree".
 -  List up possible properties of the particles for achieving each of the above action.
      These properties are written in generic words in science (in a broad sense) and not in
     "fairy tales".

During these processes of sketching and listing up actions and properties, a variety of ideas
are often stimulated.  Such ideas are already very close to elements of solution concepts;
take memos of them in the sketches and keep them in mind.

(7)  Uniqueness Analysis in USIT

USIT uses another simple yet powerful analysis method just after any of the above two
analysis methods; it is called as "Uniqueness Analysis".

 -  Qualitatively draw the space characteristics of the effect/function of the problem in
      the problem situation (and in the ideal solution situation).

 -  Qualitatively draw the time characteristics of the effect/function of the problem in
      the problem situation (and in the ideal solution situation).

By explicitly showing the space and time characteristics of the problem, directions to
possible solutions are easily suggested; such as the space/time separation.  In this sense,
Sickafus places this method in between the analysis and the concept generation pahses;
but I understand it as an analysis method.
   [This analysis corresponds to the derivation of Physical Contradictions in TRIZ.]

(8)  Problem solving techniques and concept formation in USIT

USIT provides the following four techniques for problem solving, which may be used
in any appropriate order and repeatedly.

 - Dimensionality Method:  Focuses and operates on the attributes of objects.
       Activate/deactivate an attribute; map between a variable and a constant; map between
       time and space; etc.

 - Pluralization Method:  Focuses and operates on the objects.
       Multiply/divide objects; go to extremes including zero and infinity.

 - Distribution Method:  Focuses and operates on the functions.
       Rearrange the functions (e.g., switch, alternate, overlap, separate, multiplex, etc.)

 -  Transduction Method:  Links multiple functions through intermediate attributes.

These problem solving techniques are much simplified in comparison with TRIZ.  They
focus and operate on different aspects of the system, which are represented by objects,
attributes and functions in the Closed-World Method,  and are simplified to be easy to
[I think these techniques have close relationships to Invention Principles and Standard
Solution Techniques in TRIZ; this point should be clarified some more by further research.]

USIT further recommends to "Generify" the generated concepts and feed them back to
solution techniques.  Not being confined in concrete terminology in objects, attributes,
functions, etc., it is important to think broadly and flexibly by using generic words.

In the procedure of USIT, a variety of ideas come out during any process of problem
analysis and solution; thus it is important to take notes of them at any moment and to
accumulate them for constructing conceptual solutions.  The final stage of using USIT
is to write a report of problem solving with multiple conceptual solutions.

In proposing these conceptual solutions, technical descriptions and discussions are not
necessary.  The report should be submitted to the manager of the engineering group for
their examination and for their further engineering from technical and business
[This practice of using USIT in Ford may need some more consideration for introducing
into other industories, especialy those in Japan.]

(9)  Group practises

The participants of the USIT Training Seminar this time are, besides myself from
a university,
   four people (professors and a graduate student) from Mechanical Department,
         Texas A&M Univ.,
   a professor in quality engineering of University of Michigan,
   two corporate consultants, and
   two from industries.

Problems actually solved during the group practises include the followings:
 -  Caterpillar structure which does not harm firm road surfaces
 -  Electric toaster toasts unevenly.
 -  Detect a small water leakage from a high pressure gate valve.
 -  Effectively removing the water generated by the reaction on the catalyst surface.
 -  In a lock gate cannal, operate a ship smoothly and safely against the water flow.
 -  Preventing empty ski lifts from violently swinging in the wind.
 -  Increase the foam ratio in forming a porous sheet from gas-solved molten polymer.
 -  Apply a lubricant to an automobile part by constantly squeezing for two years.

All the four groups of participants obtained good experiences by solving these problems
and achieved insightful analyses and interesting conceptual solutions.  The instructor,
Dr. Sickafus, is an experimental physicist and gave a lot of stimulating and clarifying
advices not only on the usage of USIT but also on the problems themselves.  It is said
that, though not obvious in the problem analysis phase, in the concept generation phase
the results of problem solving naturally reflect the bredth and depth of the solver's
scientific and technological background, besides the knowledge of the solving techniques.

(10)  Is USIT a family member of TRIZ?  Yes!

As described above, SIT and USIT are much simplified versions of TRIZ.  So the Israeli
people use the word of "SIT" and Dr. Sickafus uses "USIT".  However, at least in this
"TRIZ Home Page in Japan", I am going to treat SIT and USIT as a version of the
TRIZ methodology.  As I understand recently, the most important topic in the modern
development of TRIZ is to adapt it to much wider technologists in the world.  Showing
the "procedure" to use various findings and techniques originated by Altshuller,
simplifying the techniques, and implementing the findings/techniques into easy-to-use
software are the current efforts of modernizing TRIZ persued in the global scale.  All
these are the efforts of establishing the new generation of TRIZ in the S-curve next
to the "Classical TRIZ" established by Altshuller.  With this understanding, I feel it
quite natural to treat USIT as a family member of  the modernized TRIZ methodology.

Two pictures of the seminar are shown below.

It is recently announced by Dr. Sickafus that a second USIT Training Seminar outside
Ford will be held in the beginning of May.  I recommend it highly especially to those who
already learned TRIZ.
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Last updated on Mar. 30, 1999.     Access point:  Editor: