USIT Operators for Solution Generation in TRIZ:  Clearer Guide to Solution Paths
Toru Nakagawa (Osaka Gakuin University, Japan)
ETRIA World Conference: "TRIZ Future 2004",
held at Florence, Italy,
on Nov. 3-5, 2004
  (Proceedings, pp. 347-363)

 [Posted here on Nov. 16, 2004]   [Japanese translation version posted on  Oct. 18, 2004]
For going back to Japanese  pages, press  buttons.

Editor's Note (Toru Nakagawa, Nov. 15, 2004)

The ETRIA "TRIZ Future 2004" Conference was held in Florence, Italy two weeks ago.  The conference was a much success with 125 participants in total coming from 22 countries.  I am going to write a Personal Report of the Conference, as I did for these 6 years, but it will only be ready to post here after 3 weeks or so.   Thus I have decided to post my paper now separately from the report.  I wish to thank Dr. Gaetano Cascini and the staff of University of Florence for their efforts for making the Conference so successful.

"Why the penetration of TRIZ has been slow in the Western (industrial) world?" has been a major concern inside the current TRIZ community.  Victor Fey, in the keynote speech of the ETRIA Conference 2004, said: "TRIZ is good.  Distribution of TRIZ is bad.  Don't touch TRIZ!".  A number of researchers argued against it, giving different observations on the reasons and proposing/demonstrating different approaches of teaching/applying/distributing TRIZ. 

I have been working to make the problem solving method in TRIZ simpler and yet effective to learn and  to apply  by using the framework of USIT.  It was my understanding till half a year ago that the main weak point in TRIZ was the lack of clear (not-too-complex) overall procedure of problem solving in TRIZ and that this was caused by the separation of pairs of analysis and solution-generation methods (i.e. principal solution methods request their own analysis methods).  

The present paper is a further extension of my series of works.  My new understanding described here is that the weak point of TRIZ is its lack in a clear 'overall structure' in the problem solving.  Notice that an overall procedure can be represented with a flowchart  while an overall structure can best be illustrated with a 'data-flow diagram', where information required/obtained  in each step are shown in boxes.   Overall structure of TRIZ and of USIT are compared in the present paper (see Figs. 2 and 4 respecitively).  An new scheme of problem solving structure (Fig. 8) is now proposed clearly on the basis of USIT.  The new scheme gives us a clear guide to solution paths, to follow in a logical and yet creative manner.  Thus USIT is a new generation of TRIZ, being simple, unified, and effective.



1.  Introduction

2.  Current Scheme of Problem Solving in TRIZ

   2.1  TRIZ Knowledge Bases of Principles and Facts
   2.2  Individual Methods and Techniques for Problem Solving in TRIZ
   2.3  Overall Procedure of Problem Solving in TRIZ

3.  Unified Structure Inventive Thinking (UST) as a Simple and Unified TRIZ

   3.1  Main Features of USIT
   3.2  Problem Solving Procedure in USIT
   3.3  Overall Structure of Problem Solving in USIT

4.  USIT Solution Generation Operators

   4.1  The Hierarchical System of USIT Solution Generation Operators
   4.2  Illustration of Applying USIT Operators in a Simple Case:  Picture Hanging-Kit Problem
   4.3  Guidelines of the USIT Solution Generation Operators
   4.4  Experiences of Teaching and Applying USIT

5.  Concluding Remarks


Page top
Paper top
1. Introduction
2.  Scheme in TRIZ
3.  USIT
4.  USIT  Operators
5. Conclusion
Nakagawa et al.  Reorganizing TRIZ into USIT
Japanese page


USIT Operators for Solution Generation in TRIZ:
Clearer Guide to Solution Paths 
Toru Nakagawa
Osaka Gakuin University, Japan


The biggest reason for slow penetration of TRIZ into industries in Western countries is that very rich contents of TRIZ knowledge bases and individual methods of problem solving have been tried to teach without clear overall procedure/structure for problem solving.  It has been traditional that principal solution generation methods in TRIZ, including Inventive Principles, Inventive Standards, and Trends of Evolution, are applied separately on the basis of their own problem analysis methods.

Present paper demonstrates, on the other hand, that Unified Structured Inventive Thinking (USIT) is a simplified and unified version of TRIZ which has overcome the above-mentioned weak-point.  All the solution generation methods in TRIZ have been reorganized into a unified hierarchical system of USIT Solution Generation Operators.  On this basis, USIT has a clear procedure for creative problem solving process as shown in a flowchart and also has a clear structure, as shown in a dataflow diagram, of transforming problem information stepwise into solution information. 

User's specific but vague problem is (1) first converted into a 'well defined problem' at the problem definition phase, then (2) further converted into the understanding of the problem system in terms of objects, attributes, functions, space, time, ideal actions, and ideal properties at the problem analysis phase, (3) modified by applying the USIT Operators into pieces of ideas of a new system in the solution generation phase, (4) constructed into conceptual solutions on the basis of user's technological background capabilities, and (5) finally implemented into user's specific solution(s) in the implementation phase.  USIT guides at the steps (1) through (4).  USIT has been taught fully in 2-day training seminars at the level of solving real industrial problems by the participants themselves.  

Keywords: Solution generation, models, USIT, analogy, problem solving, TRIZ.

1. Introduction
 Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) [1, 7, 9, 2] is a powerful methodology for creatively solving problems in a wide range of technological (and many other non-technological) fields.  It has established knowledge bases (KBs) of technological facts with various useful indexing systems and of principles for inventive thinking and has also developed a large number of methods for problem definition, problem analysis, and solution generation.  These KBs have been constructed by extracting world best solutions in science and technology, and the problem solving principles in TRIZ are at a high level of abstraction so as to be applicable to a wide range of problems.

 In spite of expectations by TRIZ experts, however, TRIZ has not been spreading so widely and rapidly in the Western countries since its exposure in early 1990s.  The present author [3] observes, as many would agree, that the penetration of TRIZ has been slow not because it is poor but because it is so rich in contents.  'How to choose an effective principle' and 'how to apply a principle properly to the user's specific problem' have been the issues for TRIZ users.  Most TRIZ specialists have tried to teach the rich contents of TRIZ KBs and thinking methods in more or less orthodox forms, but most engineers in industries and engineering students cannot understand them up to the level being able to apply them to their real problems.  Some specialists may say 'It is a problem of the students and the training period', but the position of the present author in this paper is 'It is a problem of the teachers and the system of TRIZ itself.' 

 Basic model and overall structure of TRIZ should be reviewed and discussed in this context.  It is generally understood that TRIZ is based on the four-box scheme of problem solving [2] shown in Fig. 1.  Instead of trying to solve user's specific problem directly to specific solutions staying at the concrete level, TRIZ advises to go around at a higher abstraction level using standard models which show generalized problems and their generalized solutions.  TRIZ has adopted this scheme from the sound basis of science and technology. 

 Fig. 1   Four-box scheme of problem solving

 All the TRIZ KBs (such as Effect database, Inventive Principles, Inventive Standards, Trends of Evolution, etc.) have been built with the intention to let them serve as different models at the abstract level in this scheme. 

 Once models are established, the process of problem solving may be reduced to the following issues:

 Generally speaking, these issues are not well understood unfortunately in many fields of science and technology.  In each topic of a specialty field, one model is chosen and taught with a few examples.  Then the students have to learn, study, drill and practice many times to understand by themselves that the model is useful for some kind of problems after some kind of abstraction. 

 TRIZ has developed a number of procedural methods of problem solving in technology, for the purpose of guiding us in the abstraction and selection (and little in the concretization) processes.  These methods in TRIZ (such as 9-Window Method, Substance-Field Analysis, Technical and Physical Contradictions, etc.) are often very unique and powerful in the areas where no other effective methods and ways of thinking exist.  Nevertheless, the overall procedure of problem solving in TRIZ has not been well established yet and is in a confusing situation for users. 

 In the present paper, the current situation of the TRIZ methodology is summarized briefly in this four-box scheme.  Then I will demonstrate that Unified Structured Inventive Thinking (USIT) [8], i.e. a simplified and unified version of TRIZ, has established a clear structure of problem solving procedure by extending the four-box scheme into more meaningful six-box scheme.  The key to this structure is the USIT Solution Generation Operators, which have been obtained earlier by reorganizing all the TRIZ principles and methods for solution generation [4, 5]

2. Current Scheme of Problem Solving in TRIZ
 The current situation of the overall scheme of problem solving in TRIZ may be roughly summarized as shown in Figure 2 in the framework of Figure 1.  TRIZ KBs are shown in a box at the top and various TRIZ methods are shown in ovals according to the phases in problem solving.  These components are established well [1, 7, 9, 2] and are summarized in the following subsections first and the overall structure will be discussed next.

 Figure 2.  Overall Structure of Problem Solving in Traditional TRIZ

2.1  TRIZ Knowledge Bases of Principles and Facts

 First type of KBs in TRIZ is the accumulation of facts and technical means, especially:

 This type of KB is useful to learn various facts and means known in different fields of science and technology and to apply them to our own fields in novel ways.  Reorganizing the KB in the explicit hierarchical system of functions has been a major contribution of TRIZ. 

 Second type of KBs in TRIZ is at a higher level of abstraction of the principles for inventive thinking and has been the most important contribution of TRIZ.  They include:

 These are the major models in TRIZ in the four-box scheme and provide problem solvers with generalized solutions for generalized problems.  For each item in these KBs, examples of typical cases of application are accumulated and linked (e.g., to the Effects Database and to patent databases) and used for illustrating and stimulating users' analogical thinking.  It should be noted that these KBs are presented to users as parallel alternatives, separated (and more or less overlapped) with one another, as shown with the separating broken lines in Figure 2. 

2.2  Individual Methods and Techniques for Problem Solving in TRIZ

 In the area of methods and techniques for problem solving in technology, Classical TRIZ has developed a number of unique and effective methods.  Major ones are summarized below briefly with particular comments on their relationships to the TRIZ KBs: 

 Recent works in TRIZ have added some more methods, including:

2.3  Overall Procedure of Problem Solving in TRIZ

 The above description of the components of TRIZ KBs and TRIZ methods and their positions shown in Figure 2 are basically agreed in the community of TRIZ specialists [1, 7, 9, 2].  The overall procedure of problem solving in TRIZ must further specify the recommendation of 'which methods and which KBs should be used in which order in which situation of problem.'  This is the issue on which many TRIZ leaders have proposed and applied in many different ways, and is still under a confusing situation as follows:

 Altshuller [1] who developed all the individual methods and KBs in Classical TRIZ also developed the overall procedure in the name of ARIZ (Algorithm of Inventive Problem Solving).  Intending to make ARIZ more and more powerful for solving ever harder problems, he constructed various versions of ARIZ having complicated procedure of using various individual methods and their corresponding KBs.  He recommended to use ARIZ after at least 80 hours of training, and for solving simpler problems he advised to use more standard methods (i.e., some appropriate individual methods).   

 Yuri Salamatov, in his orthodox TRIZ textbook [7], recommends to try several inddividual methods listed above and use ARIZ later only when no satisfactory solutions are obtained.  Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman [9] have proposed TRIZ Tool Map and recommended to use different individual tools depending on the type of sub-problems which are suggested by the cause-effect analysis. 

 Darrell Mann in his recent textbook [2] proposes a four-stage process composed of 'define the problem', 'select the solution tool', 'solve the problem', and 'evaluate the solution' stages.  Though his explanation of individual methods is excellent and insightful, his overall process seems to contain two problems:  Methods for problem analysis, i.e. the main part of the abstraction process in the four-box scheme, are described separately in the 'problem definition' and the 'problem solving' stages.  In the 'tool selection' stage, he shows 19 situations of judging the results of the 'problem definition' stage and recommends for each situation up to four tools to select in the 'problem solution' stage.  The selection table is too large and complicated to summarize here. 

 Thus these overall procedures of problem solving in the traditional TRIZ have in common the following weak points:


3.  Unified Structured Inventive Thinking (USIT) as a Simple and Unified TRIZ
 USIT is a simplified and unified version of TRIZ, having reorganized all the TRIZ methods for problem analysis and solution generation, having constructed a clear full procedure for problem solving, and having a clear scheme of problem solving.

3.1  Main features of USIT

 USIT was developed by Ed Sickafus [8] at Ford Motor Co. in 1995 by adopting and enhancing Israeli Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT), which was a much simplified method of TRIZ developed in early 1980s.  USIT has the following features:

 The present author [3-6] introduced USIT into Japan since 1999 and further refined it.  The main features of refinement are:

3.2  Problem Solving Procedure in USIT

 The whole procedure in USIT is expressed in the flowchart [3] as shown in Figure 3.  Problem solving in USIT is done in three distinguished phases, i.e., problem definition, problem analysis, and solution generation.  In the problem analysis phase, we have three principal methods, i.e., (a) the Function and Attribute Analysis of the current system, (b) the Particles Method for considering an ideal solution first, and (c) Space and Time Characteristics Analysis.  Using either (a) or (b) depending on the nature of the problem is all right, but using both (a) and (b) for any problem is highly recommended from recent practices.  Sequential use of (a), (c), and (b) is the typical current practice.  In the solution generation phase, the five USIT operators are applied repeatedly onto possible operands in the system or in the solution space. 

 Figure 3.  Flowchart of Problem Solving Procedure in USIT

 The flowchart representation of USIT has been used since the initial days of USIT development.  It is quite natural because the group work of problem solving in USIT is actually conducted in sessions following this flowchart.  Typically, Session 1 for the problem definition phase, Sessions 2 and 3 for the problem analysis phase using the methods (a)+(c) and (b), respectively, and Sessions 4 and 5 for the solution generation phase.  

3.3  Overall Structure of Problem Solving in USIT

 Now let us consider to map the USIT process onto the basic four-box scheme of problem solving shown in Figure 1.  It is important to notice that the four boxes represent not the processes (or methods) but the information (or data) and that the arrows represent the processes.  Thus we are going to draw, in terms of information science, a 'dataflow diagram' of problem solving in USIT:

Figure 4.  Dataflow Diagram to Show the Overall Structure of Problem Solving in USIT

 This dataflow diagram (Figure 4) of the problem solving process in USIT demonstrates (and claims) the following points:

 Since the USIT Operators form the key process in this scheme of creative problem solving, the nature of them is illustrated and discussed some more detail in the following section.  

4.  USIT Solution Generation Operators

4.1 The hierarchical System of USIT Solution Generation Operators

 The USIT Solution Generation Operators [5] form a hierarchical system as shown in Figure 5.  There are 5 principal operators which may be further classified into 32 sub-operators in total. 

 Figure 5.  The Hierarchical System of USIT Solution Generation Operators

4.2  Illustration of Applying USIT Operators in a Simple Case: Picture Hanging-Kit Problem

 Before discussing the nature of the USIT Solution Generation Operators, we better have some illustrative examples in a simple case study [6].  Let me use the Picture Hanging-Kit Problem [8].  Our task is 'To improve the ordinary picture hanging-kit composed of a nail, a string, and two hooks so that the picture is not apt to tilt'.  Let us skip the description of the processes of problem definition and problem analysis (see Ref. [8, 3, 6]).  As the generalized problem model in this case, we have the following pieces of information among others.

 Figure 6.  Functional Analysis Diagram for the Picture Hanging-Kit Problem [6]

 Focusing on the nail, for example, let us apply various USIT Operators.  A part of such application results are demonstrated in Figure 7.

 Figure 7.  Illustrations of the Results of USIT Operators on the Nail in a Picture Hanging Kit

 Figures a) and b) show the original nail with a string.  The 'Multiply' operator (1b) is the simplest case of Object Pluralization (1), and gives solutions c) and d) with the intention of increasing the friction.  'Division' (1c) is also a form of Pluralization, and gives an idea shown in e) with the intention of holding the string tightly at the narrow slit.  If we want tighter holding function after adjustment, we may attach a screw as shown in j).  

 The second principal operator advises 'Dimensional Change in Attribute', and f) is a simple response where the smoothness attribute of the nail surface is changed into a much different value, i.e. making the nail surface rough.  Since rough surface is not good for adjusting, we have an idea shown in k) where only half of the nail is made rough whereas the other half is left smooth; this guides us the idea of adjusting the string at the smooth part of the nail and holding the string at the rough part.  The idea l) is to use a collar having rough and smooth parts around the nail body.   The surface of the nail may be changed not just rough but rugged, suggesting to change in the cross-sectional shape as shown in g).  Since only the top part of the cross-section is actually used, we may change the cross-sectional shape and size more drastically as shown in h).  The operational idea of 'changing shape' of the nail gives us another solution shown in i), which effectively has two nail bodies.  When I noticed that the nail i) is apt to be turned by the string tension, the idea of two-footed nail m) came up.  This may be regarded as the result of 'Unify' operator (1d) applied on the two nails shown in c).    

 You may notice in the above explanation that other 3 principal USIT operators have not appeared explicitly.  But don't worry.  Many of the above solutions are explainable as the results of other USIT operators as well.  For example, the idea k) can be explained to have been obtained in different ways as follows:

 In this manner, different USIT operators sometimes (or often) guide us to the same conceptual ideas.  This shows the intended redundancy in the USIT solution generation operators.

 For obtaining an idea, these operators may and may not be in mind explicitly beforehand.  But it should be noticed that the reflection of any ideas in the general terms of these operators is important for understanding the solutions in its essence.  For example, among the five ways of interpreting the idea k), the interpretation with the 'Operator (4c): Combination in time' is found to be most essential in this problem.  This operator, in its essence, corresponds to the application of the strategy of Separation in time to a Physical Contradiction, in the orthodox TRIZ terms.  Thus recognizing the idea k) in terms of this Operator of 'Combination in time' can lead the user to recognize the Physical Contradiction at the core of this problem and its possible elimination with the Separation in Time.  With this understanding, the user will be able to generate many more novel solutions easily. 

4.3  Guidelines of the USIT Solution Generation Operators

 The USIT Operators for solution generation have their guidelines (i.e., brief instruction accompanied by a schematic diagram) at the 32 sub-operator level and at even more detailed levels.  They reflect various TRIZ principles and have been reformulated in a much useful way [4, 5].  By way of example, let us discuss about the 'Divide an object' operator (1c) in USIT.  This operator has been derived from several TRIZ principles including:

 In deriving the USIT guidelines from TRIZ principles, we have chosen the following stand points:

 Thus the guideline for the USIT Operator (1c) is described as follows:

 Some more examples of guidelines in USIT are shown for other four operators which appear in the previous subsection:

 From these examples of guidelines in USIT, I hope the readers understand that a number of TRIZ principles (including Inventive Principles, Inventive Standard, Trends of Evolution, etc.) are smoothly unified in these USIT Operators, and that the solution examples shown above are easily obtainable by applying these USIT Operator guidelines. 

 Usefulness and intended redundancy of USIT Operators are based on the USIT concepts of Objects, Attributes, and Functions.  The USIT Operators on Objects (as shown in case of (1c)) take some Objects as the operand, apply the specified operation on the Objects, and then further apply modifications onto Attributes and Functions of the operand Objects according to the guideline descriptions.  Situations are similar in the USIT Operators on Attributes and on Functions.  This type of extension in the USIT guideline descriptions guides the problem solver in a way easier to follow than most TRIZ principles.  At the same time, the mentioning of Objects, Attributes, and Functions in each guideline description is the source of intended redundancy, i.e. overlapping, of the USIT Operators. 

 4.4  Experiences of Teaching and Applying USIT

 Experiences of teaching and applying USIT in Japan have been reported in [3, 6].  A lecture of 2 hours can cover the overview of TRIZ and USIT.  Typically, two-day USIT training seminar is held in a company with 15-25 participants of engineers.  After the overview lecture, 3 real industrial problems are brought in by the participants and are tried to solve in parallel group practice following the USIT procedure.  5 sessions are carried out, where each session is composed of a short lecture of the process, parallel group practice, and presentation & discussion.  Usually each group generates 20 to 40 ideas which may be further concentrated into several conceptual solutions worthy of further consideration for implementation.  Thus engineers, who were novice of TRIZ/USIT, can have the experience of solving an industrial problem with USIT by themselves, and can understand the full USIT procedure with 3 real case studies.  This shows the easiness and effectiveness of learning USIT in comparison with learning TRIZ.  


5.  Concluding Remarks
 In the basic four-box scheme of problem solving, generalized models of TRIZ (and many other scientific/technological theories) are expressed by the generalized problems and their corresponding generalized solutions, and are supposed to be used with analogical thinking.  Abstraction is for mapping the user's specific problem to the generalized one in the model, while concretization is for mapping backwards.  These mapping processes, however, are often not well explained in the procedural manner.

 The present paper proposes a different scheme of problem solving, as summarized in Figure 8.

 Figure 8.  Scheme of Problem Solving in USIT Using the USIT Solution Generation Operators

 Abstraction is done in two steps; the problem definition step converts the user's specific but often vague problem into a well defined specific problem and the problem analysis step converts it further into the abstract understanding of the current and ideal systems.  This abstract understanding of the system is expressed in the basic terms of objects, attributes, functions, space, time, desirable actions, and desirable properties, etc. and is in place of the generalized problem of the four-box scheme.  Then the Solution Generation Operators in USIT transform the elements of the abstract system into modified elements of a new solution system; this is the key step in the whole problem solving.  Then conceptual solutions are formed on the basis of technological thinking, and finally user's specific solutions may be designed in technology. 

 It should be noticed that the vagueness in the analogical thinking disappear in the new scheme.  Knowledge expressed in the 'Models' in TRIZ (and problem solving methods in general) has been concentrated into the USIT Operators.  And hence all the procedures of creative problem solving are now expressed in much clearer terms and procedures. 

 This unification and simplification of TRIZ can help people understand TRIZ more easily and widely and apply TRIZ to their real problems, as demonstrated earlier.  


[1] Genrich Altshuller: "Creativity as an Exact Science", Gordon &Breach, 1984 (E).

[2] Darrell Mann: "Hands-On Systematic Innovation", CREAX Press, Ieper, Belgium, 2002 (E); Japanese edition, SKI, Tokyo, 2004 (J).  [See: Publication Announcement of the Japanese Edition and Q&A Documents  for the English Edition, in TRIZ HP Japan, Jun. 2004 (E & J ).]

[3] Toru Nakagawa: 'Experiences of Teaching and Applying the Essence of TRIZ with Easier USIT Procedure', TRIZCON2002: Fourth Annual Altshuller Institute for TRIZ Studies International Conference, Apr. 30- May 2, 2002, St.Louis, MO, USA; TRIZ HP Japan, May 2002 (E) ; Jan. 2002 (J).

[4] Toru Nakagawa, Hideaki Kosha, and Yuji Mihara: 'Reorganizing TRIZ Solution Generation Methods into Simple Five in USIT', ETRIA World Conference "TRIZ Future 2002" held at Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 6-8, 2002; TRIZ HP Japan Nov. 2002 (E)
; Sept. 2002 (J).

[5] Toru Nakagawa, Hideaki Kosha, and Yuji Mihara: 'USIT Solution Generation Methods: Simplified System by the Reorganization of TRIZ Solution Generation Methods', Appendix to Ref. [4], ETRIA World Conference "TRIZ Future 2002" held at Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 6-8, 2002; TRIZ HP Japan Nov. 2002 (E)
; Sept. 2002 (J).

[6] Toru Nakagawa, Hideaki Kosha, and Yuji Mihara: 'Usage of USIT Solution Generation Methods: A Simple and Unified System of TRIZ', TRIZCON2003, held at Philadelphia, USA, on Mar. 16-18, 2003; TRIZ HP Japan, Apr. 2003(E)
; Jan. 2003 (J).

[7] Yuri Salamatov: "TRIZ: The Right Solution at The Right Time", Insytec, The Netherland, (1999) (E); Japanese translation, Nikkei BP, (2000) (J). 
[See: Publication Announcement of the Japanese Edition and Q&A Documents  for the English Edition, in TRIZ HP Japan, Nov. 2000 (E & J ).]  

[8] Ed. N. Sickafus: "Unified Structured Inventive Thinking: How to Invent", NTELLECK, Grosse Ile, MI, USA, (1997).

[9] Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman: "Tools of Classical TRIZ", Ideation International Inc., Southfield, MI, USA, (1999) (E); Japanese translation, Nikkei BP (2000) (J).

Page top
Paper top
1. Introduction
2.  Scheme in TRIZ
3.  USIT
4.  USIT  Operators
5. Conclusion
Nakagawa et al.  Reorganizing TRIZ into USIT
Japanese page

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