TRIZ Reseach Note
TRIZ and Total Product Development: New Millenium Status Report 
   Deborah Hoerner and James Kowalick
       (Renaissance Leadership Institute)
    Nov. 23, 1999; Revised Dec. 8, 1999
    [Posted here by courtesy of the authors, Dec. 16, 1999]

Editor's Note (Toru Nakagawa, Dec. 15, 1999)

I received the original version of this article on Nov. 24, 1999 by email from the authors sent to their hundreds of (possible) customers.  On reading it through, I was very much impressed by its concise, clear and persuasive explanation on TRIZ and Total Product Development.  So I immediately asked the authors for their permission of my translating it into Japanese and of my posting the Japanese version, with various minor adaptations for eliminating advertisement, on this non-profit public Web site.

The authors sent me their slightly revised version of the article and gave me the permission of Japanaese translation and its posting on Dec. 8.  And, on my further inquiry about various treatments of the article and its related documents, the authors willingly allowed me, on Dec. 11, to do the followings:
   (1)  To post their English revised version on this Web site in an HTML format,
   (2)     with replacing their Editor's Note with Nakagawa's Editor's Note, and
   (3)  To publish the outline of one of their training courses as an attached document,
   (4)     after eliminating some concrete descriptions, e.g. course fee and detailed addresses.
   (5)  To translate the (revised) article into Japanese and to post it on this Web site.
   (6)  Not to translate the course outline into Japanese.

We are very grateful to the authors for their kind permissions:
     Ms. Deborah Hoerner and Dr. James F. Kowalick
     Renaissance Leadership Institute

The authors say taht they do not have a plan of posting the article on their Web site but they are happy to respond to any question/comment from the readers via the above email address.   [In the original article, Hoerner is the only author and describes an interview with Kowalick.  But, in this home page, I would like to handle them as coauthors.]

I hope this English page as well as its Japanese page help many TRIZ learners/practitioners understand the core essence of TRIZ, especially in the overall framework of Total Product Development, and to apply TRIZ to their own problems.
Top of this page Top of the article Conflicts and resolution Experiential Training  Total Product Development Training Program  Japanese page



Deborah Hoerner
Renaissance Leadership Institute


Introduction     It’s now possible to rapidly - and very successfully - apply TRIZ and other leading-edge engineering design and development tools to the most difficult technical problems and design challenges that a corporation faces.  As a strategic initiative, corporations can develop - right now - next-generation, market-dominating, breakthrough products in a short time, and use far fewer resources. This report documents the effectiveness of TRIZ, and its importance in the total product development process.

Brief History   TRIZ (Theory of the Solution of Inventive-Type Problems) was developed in the USSR, but it was never possible to fully “test” it there - relative to its application in the total product development process. Free enterprise did not exist in the former USSR; nor did any appreciable applications of the Total Product Development process. There were (in the former USSR) relatively low-tech, small-scale industrial TRIZ applications - as indicated by the TRIZ database of “examples” - but for the most part, TRIZ-in-the-USSR was largely an “academic” pursuit.

In the interval between the fall of the Iron Curtain and the present time, corporate TRIZ applications in the western world have still not emerged from the “infancy” stage.  For all of the above reasons, a thorough verification of the true power of TRIZ had to wait for its appearance in the United States.  A handful of U.S. corporations - Dr. Kowalick’s clients - have incorporated TRIZ into the total product development process in an integrated way -  achieving far superior products.   Stikingly, these “total product developments” were accomplished rapidly, with significantly lower expenditures of corporate resources.

Their secret is “effectively integrating leading-edge design and development tools into a product-development roadmap package that worked well.  One of the key tools in this roadmap is TRIZ.

The Merits, Challenges and Implementation of TRIZ   TRIZ is the revolutionary technical-creativity approach of the 20th century, and the approach of choice for the new millennium.  There are several reasons for this:

1.  TRIZ does the job.  TRIZ works, and it works very well, for solving even the most difficult technical and engineering problems (including “impossible-to-solve” problems and design challenges).   It’s now possible for a technical professional to learn how to apply TRIZ to rather formidable engineering challenges, and to conceive design breakthroughs, in just several days.   To accomplish this requires an expert instructor who knows how to teach TRIZ tools “experientially,” and who has in-depth, subject-matter-expertise in both science and engineering (not to mention the need for excellent English-language skills).

2.  TRIZ is a structured approach.  TRIZ is a structured approach to innovative and creative thinking - based on observations made from a deep analysis of the global patent collection.  Anyone who wants to become good at chess has to study the games - the strategies and moves - of chess-masters; similarly, a TRIZ-aspirant has to study the “game” - the strategies, techniques and tools - of inventing.  Studying the process of invention (i.e., “problem-solving”) means analyzing the world’s collection of inventions to find out a) what inventive principles were involved, and b) the nature of the inventive process.  Although the world’s greatest inventors may not have consciously applied TRIZ strategies and principles, nevertheless, such strategies and principles become evident from a “looking-back” perspective.

3.  The powerful (and lucrative) predictive powers of TRIZ.   Applied to a product family, it’s possible to forecast - accurately and with considerable design detail - the whole range of next-generation products.  These are the products which normally would not be discovered for decades.  TRIZ techniques are based on laws and technology trends that technical systems follow as they evolve over time.  As one example of this capability, Dr. Kowalick and his colleague, Dr. Mueller, have developed a forecasting algorithm for the drug industry.  This algorithm quickly and accurately predicts characteristics of next-generation, breakthrough drug molecules - beyond the more specific prediction tools that now exist in the pharmaceutical industry.

4.  There are other powerful tools and techniques besides TRIZ.  The TRIZ toolbox is full of highly useful tools and techniques that have been applied to very difficult problems and design challenges.  These include the “ideal final result” concept; conflict resolution; S-Fields; the alternative design approach; algorithm for solving inventive-type problems; inventive operators; inventive principles; inventive effects; functional cost analysis; logical and causal flow diagrams; and a host of other techniques.  Besides the TRIZ tools, other tools have been developed by RLI.  These include HLT (Higher-Level Thinking) and Triads.  Technical professionals who are practiced in HLT can perform problem-solving at lightning speed, and can achieve high-level solutions.  Triads is a superior way of thinking and working with technical functions and technical functional statements (superior to S-Fields).

Since 1992 Dr. James Kowalick has conducted TRIZ training, as well as training in other leading-edge tools, for over 100 corporate clients.  With a highly effective, experiential training approach, technical professionals learn the required skills in a three-day’s experiential training session - they learn by doing: applying TRIZ and other leading-edge creativity tools to their toughest technical problems and design challenges.  Besides this experiential approach for practitioners, Dr. Kowalick offers a two-day’s awareness session for technical executives - Creating Breakthrough Products - at Cal Tech’s Executive Training Center in Pasadena, California (the California Institute of Technology was recently recognized as “America’s best college” by U.S. News & World Report).

Not all companies want - or need - TRIZ training.  Some corporations merely go for the bottom line: “To rapidly develop next-generation, breakthrough products that will dominate the global marketplace.”   Dr. Kowalick works with corporate project teams, assisting them in accomplishing this goal, by taking them through the three stages of engineering design and development.  The deliverable is a breakthrough product - either a brand new article, or one that is significantly improved over existing products.

The remainder of this report is an interview with Dr. Kowalick about how corporate clients and their technical professionals can rapidly and successfully implement TRIZ and other leading-edge tools into their total product development process - making the total product development process significantly “cheaper, faster and better.”

Interview with the Total Product Development Guru

Deborah Hoerner (DH)    Dr. Kowalick, let’s begin with TRIZ.  What’s so remarkable about it?

Technical Conflicts

Dr. James F. Kowalick (JFK)   Presently, most designers and developers solve problems by making design tradeoffs.  That’s because the toughest design problems have one thing in common - they all contain technical conflicts.

DH  Could you give an example of a technical conflict?

JFK   Suppose you’re a designer working in the shaving industry.  Your job is to conceive and design a disposable shaving system that gives shavers a closer shave.  A reasonable approach is to make the razor blade’s edge as sharp as possible.  You do this, and suddenly you have a disposable razor that’s far more effective in cutting whiskers than any other model available on the supermarket shelves.  But there’s a “slight” problem:  your design also cuts skin very well!  That’s a conflict:  you make an “improvement” (a sharper razor’s edge) to accomplish one thing (cutting whiskers), and something else gets worse (the sharper razor’s edge nicks your skin).

DH   So . . . the designer compromises by making the blade “not so sharp?”

JFK   Yes, the designer has been trained to think that it’s not possible to have the “best of both worlds.”  Most designers believe that some sort of tradeoff is always necessary.  They often see the dilemma as a contradiction that involves a certain key parameter.

DH   Could you explain that?

JFK   In the case of the razor blade, the key parameter is “sharpness” of the blade.  On the one hand the blade should be “very sharp” in order to yield a closer shave.  But on the other hand, the blade needs to be “very dull” in order that the skin can never be cut. So the dilemma involves razor blade sharpness:  it should be very sharp, and very dull.  A designer is highly likely to choose some intermediate sharpness as “the solution” - and this is surely a tradeoff involving degree of sharpness.

DH   Have you worked with the shaving industry?

JFK   Dr. Gernot Mueller and I have conducted a two-year, deep analysis - using the tools of TRIZ - on dispensable (throw-away) razor shaving systems.  We now know that it is possible to signficantly reduce the cost of such systems, while further improving the performance.   We will soon be briefing the shaving systems industry on the results of that study.  The results include next-generation, breakthrough designs for dispensable shaving systems.

DK  Do all problems contain conflicts?

JFK   Only the difficult problems and design challenges - these are the high-level problems that are worth solving.  Simpler problems - problems that are not much of a challenge - are readily and rapidly solvable by most technical persons.  The point is that TRIZ solves technical conflicts without tradeoffs and compromises.

DH   Did I hear you correctly?  You are saying that with the TRIZ approach, a designer can find solutions without having to make tradeoffs?  If that’s true, that seems unbelievable.

JFK   It is true.  Appropriately using the tools of TRIZ results in a design solution that has no tradeoff.  Such a solution is really a breakthrough design - the kind that designers would “die for.”

DH   How does TRIZ do this?

Inventive Principles and Other Conflict-Resolution Tools

JFK   The most difficult problems and design challenges are resolved by using one or more “conflict resolution” techniques.  For example, there are 40 inventive principles behind most of the really great inventions or design solutions.  When the appropriate inventive principle is applied, it resolves the existing conflict.  Besides the inventive principles, there are several other conflict-resolution tools that could be used as well.

DH   Could you give an example of an “inventive principle?”

JFK   Well, there’s one called the “Local Quality” principle, meaning that different locations on a product should be designed to locally optimize whatever functions are being served at those locations.  This principle requires the designer to be a “subject matter expert” with regards to what his product is designed to accomplish.

DH   So, if there is a technical conflict, and the solution to the technical conflict were the “Local Quality” principle, how would the designer know that?

JFK   The TRIZ approach is designed to suggest the appropriate inventive principle for a specific conflict.  The designer would be “prompted” to apply the Local Quality principle, in this case.

DH   It sounds as if TRIZ has some degree of artificial intelligence.

JFK   Very much so.  That intelligence comes from the global patent collection.  The designer, on the other hand, has to learn how to follow certain problem-solving procedures.

DH   Now I’m beginning to see what makes TRIZ so remarkable.  You mentioned “conflict resolution” tools.  Are there other TRIZ tools and techniques?

JFK   There are several others.  Because of the various types of problems and design challenges, there’s a need for tools and techniques to effectively address a broad spectrum of problems and challenges.   There are really no “impossible problems.”

Rapid Learning by Applying TRIZ to Real Design Challenges

DH   That’s quite a statement.  How can a technical professional learn to apply TRIZ to really difficult problems or design challenges?

JFK   I believe in “learning by doing”  -  experiential training.  This means that participants in my TRIZ sessions must already have thought about, and selected, appropriate problems or design challenges.  They bring these to the training.  They work on them - often as teams - during the session.  And they also find design solutions during the training.  Sometimes they file patent applications not long after the training.

DH   Where did the idea of “experiential training” come from?  When did you first encounter it?

JFK   Back in the late 1980’s I enrolled in a Japanese course for managers.  It was offered by a Japanese company called Kanreisha Yosei Gakko (literally translated:  “Management Enlightenment School”).  This was a 13-day, total-immersion course.  It may still be offered in Japan at various base camps on Mt. Fuji.  They employed experiential training techniques in that course.  This was my first experience with a very high-level form of experiential training (“learning by doing”).

DH   And what do you mean when you say that participants must select “appropriate problems or design challenges” to bring to a training session?  Do you mean “easy” problems and “easy” challenges?

JFK   Not at all.  The problems and design challenges that technical professionals bring to a TRIZ training session are selected because, when they are solved, the design solutions represent major payoffs to their company.

What’s Required from the Design Team Members

DH   This sounds almost too good to be true.  Are there limitations on the success of a design team working on a challenging design problem during a session?

JFK   Of course there are limitations.  Let me enumerate a few.  First, if the problem is not specifically defined, there can be no immediate solution.  Vaguely specified problems result in vague results - if any at all.  The problem has to be specifically defined before we can apply problem-solving tools to it.   Second, the designer and the design team must have a certain degree of subject matter expertise in the technical system they are working on.  And third, the problem can’t be too “open ended.”  By “open ended,” I mean a problem statement like “Let’s build a better car.”  Although it’s always possible to build a better car, that problem statement is far too general.  The design team has to have a better-defined starting point than that.

DH   What I’m hearing is that problem description, problem analysis, problem formulation and problem definition are all quite important - before getting into the solution stage.

JFK   That’s correct.  These preliminary steps are crucial.   Fortunately, a major part of the TRIZ approach is devoted to these stages.


DH   It sounds as if several books can be written on TRIZ alone.  But let’s move on.  I understand that the major “deliverable” from learning the TRIZ approach is a new or improved breakthrough design, isn’t that true?

JFK   Certainly we want breakthrough designs - both new and improved designs.  But besides that, another major deliverable is the way that the designer or other technical professional thinks.  TRIZ changes several things: the way one thinks about solving problems; the way that one invents; and the way that one creates new breakthrough designs.

DH   Can you elaborate on that?  After really learning TRIZ well, how will engineers, scientists and other technical professionals think differently?  And what else, if anything, will change?

JFK   They won’t rely on brainstorming to think of solutions.  They won’t need to use the (very unproductive) “trial and error” approach to find solutions.  They will fix their sights on “the ideal design solution.”   They’ll begin to see problems as conflicts and contradictions that have appropriate solutions.  They’ll learn to think more abstractly, and they’ll practice more “analogous thinking.”   In short, they’ll ultimately become at least an order of magnitude more creative.  As far as other changes are concerned:  they will be solving problems and meeting design challenges far more rapidly; and, the “level” of their design solutions will be far higher.

TRIZ and Total Product Development

DH   That sounds exciting.  What’s next after TRIZ?  Isn’t creative thinking just one of the stages in the “total product development” process?

JFK   One of the deliverables from applying TRIZ is a concept design.  It can be a brand new, next-generation product (or process), or it can be a significantly improved product or process.  Naturally the designer will want to build a working prototype to verify its performance.  No fresh new concept works flawlessly - there’s a great difference between performance on the lab bench and in the real world.  The new concept design has to be made to work in the real world, under all types of trying conditions, including variabilities encountered in manufacturing, variabilities in user behavior, and variabilities due to the environmental changes.

DH  Of course that’s true.  It’s always a challenge taking a product from the lab bench to the “field.”  Is there a better way to do this than the ordinary way of testing, modifying and testing, etc.?

JFK   The answer is yes.  The better way is called robust design, as developed by Dr. Genichi Taguchi.  Robust design is an experimental way of rapidly - and at a relatively low expenditure of resources  - optimizing both the performance and the cost of a new or improved product (or process).   The Robust Design stage naturally follows the TRIZ (Concept Design) stage.

DH   What is the chief advantage of a robust product?

JFK   Usually engineers and designers jump right from the concept to design specifications and manufacturing.  This has been a costly mistake in many ways - including the lack of quality of the product.  A robust product, on the other hand, is one whose performance is 1) always on target, and 2) insensitive to variabilities of any kind:  variabilities in manufacturing; variabilities due to the environment; and variabilities in use.

DH   That sounds like magic.  But I’ve actually experienced robust products. I know that there is a difference in robustness among products.  I won’t drive some cars, because their steering systems are less reliable.  I could notice this when I test-drove several of them.   Among computers, the differences in robustness are also obvious.  I suppose there’s a difference in robustness among all types of products.

JFK   That’s true.  And the robust products win out in the marketplace.  They cost less to develop, and they cause fewer problems for producers and for customers.  They’re real winners.

DH   Why don’t more companies produce robust products?

JFK   They’re really not aware of what’s possible.  Their professional staffs are so used to using the same old tools and approaches in total product development, that they simply can’t escape from old design habits.  As you know, old habits are hard to change - even if the new habits are better.

DH   That makes sense.  You’ve already addressed two important stages of engineering design:  Concept Design and Robust Design.  You say earlier that the third stage of engineering design is Tolerance Design.  What happens in that stage?

JFK   After the Robust Design stage is completed, designers will know what the critical product parameters are, and what the target values for these parameters are.  They will also have a sense of which of these parameters are more critical, and which ones are less critical.  The degree of criticality of a parameter dictates its tolerance -  the allowable degree of deviation from its target value.

In the Tolerance Design stage, we make tradeoff decisions for each of the critical parameters.  If tolerances are too tight, the cost skyrockets.  If tolerances are too loose, quality goes down, and the company with its customers experience quality losses.  So, a “compromise” tolerance is chosen:  one that minimizes total costs.

DH   Is practicing Tolerance Design equivalent to making good engineering judgments about tolerancing?

JFK   No.  But fortunately there are good design tools to assist the designer in making tolerancing decisions.  One world-class tool is called the Loss Function.  With the Loss Function, the assigned tolerance is chosen on the basis of “total losses that will be experienced by the company and its customers.”  This loss-based procedure considers both manufacturing costs (including inspection, SPC, etc.), as well as quality losses due to poor product performance after the product leaves the factory.

DH   The tolerance-design procedure that you describe appears to be different from what is used currently, where designers base their selection of tolerances on experience, or on information gleaned from engineering handbooks, or from a sense of “what seems to work” performance-wise.

JFK   Tolerance Design is different.  The “bottom line” for identifying the best tolerance for a critical parameter is cost - and cost alone.  What permits designers to make such a decision is information derived from the Loss Function.

DH   After the three stages of design are completed, what’s next?

JFK   The new or improved product is produced and purchased by prospective customers.  If the designers have skillfully used the TRIZ, Robust Design and Tolerancing as discussed above, the new or improved product is highly price-competitive and it performs better than competing products.  In other words, it’s a real global marketplace winner.

DH   Thank you, Dr. K.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


In-Company Design-Generation & Problem-Solving Session

IN-COMPANY DESIGN-GENERATION & PROBLEM-SOLVING SESSION  (3 Days) -  The leading-edge conceptual and problem-solving tools and approaches are applied to your company’s products and processes: to generate new, breakthrough designs and to solve those “impossible-to-solve” technical problems that the company may have been wrestling with for months, years and even decades.  The goal: achieve market dominance in your product-lines.

? Description.

This three-day results-getting session is experiential.   This means that your technical professional staff members bring real technical product problems - and design challenges - to the session, and solve them during the session.  It is not unusual for patent applications to be filed as a result of this revolutionary session.  Besides this “deliverable” of breakthrough design solutions, another important deliverable is that the professional staff learns to think in an entirely new way - about solving problems and creating next-generation designs.  This creates an explosive expansion of your corporate technical staffs’ problem-solving, breakthrough design-generation, and inventive powers! It leads directly to patents and to the establishment of intellectual-property umbrellas. The session is hands-on, with participants learning to actually apply leading-edge conceptual and problem-solving tools to real problems and challenges.  The session includes one day of introduction to the leading-edge tools and approaches, the use of invention software, and how to apply problem-solving algorithms. During the latter half of the session, individuals and teams apply the tools, software and algorithms to their selected technical problems and design challenges.  Dr. James Kowalick, TRIZ-master and Taguchi-master, is the program leader.

 Session Agenda

                        PART I.  KNOWLEDGE SESSION

1.  Breakthrough Products: Evolution and Strategy

2.  The Most Difficult Problem:  Problem Definition & Analysis 3.  Human Creativity and Barriers to Creating Breakthroughs 4.  Traditional Approaches to Problem-Solving & Product Design 5.  TRIZ:  New Conceptual Approaches for Inventing Breakthrough Products 6.  Selecting the Best Concept Design from among Many Concept Alternatives 7.  The Vital Steps that Must Occur after Product Conception



8.  Demonstrating Higher-Level-Thinking and Invention Software:  Algorithm 44 and Other Intelligent Programs



9.  Briefings on Selected Problems and Design Challenges by Team Members

10.  Applying Creativity and Problem-Solving Tools to Selected Projects 11.  Presentation of Solution Concept Designs to the Group

 Session Parameters         [Omitted by T. Nakagawa]

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Last updated on Dec. 16, 1999.     Access point:  Editor: