TRIZ Technical Note:
On the Basic Program "Creativity Methodologies for Problem Solving and Decision Making" Being Taught by the CSTC
   Phan Dung (CSTC, Vietnam National Univ. - Hochiminh City)
    "Creativity's Global Correspondents 1999", 

Short preface by the Editor (T. Nakagawa) (Jul. 8, 1999):

       This technical note was posted here on the request of the author as the copyright holder.
       See the TRIZ Forum page on the author's activities in Vietnam and communications with the Editor.
       An introductory paper on TRIZ by the auther is also posted here.






There are many programs designed for teaching creativity methodologies in the world. These programs differ in many ways, for example, in their theoretical rationale, in their creativity tools (in the widest meaning) to be taught, in the type of participants for whom they are intended.

On purpose to share ideas and work with the colleagues working in the field, in this paper I will report about the basic program “Creativity Methodologies for Problem Solving and Decision Making” (it will be called “the basic CM program” for short) that has been taught by me and the Center for Scientific and Technical Creativity (CSTC) in Vietnam and abroad since 1977. Our other programs will be presented in the future papers when opportunities allow.


1. The basic CM program was designed for preparing users of creativity methodologies, not creativity teachers or researchers.

2. Among the potential users, up to now we have concentrated our efforts on high school graduates or more highly trained people in the workforce.

3. To maximize benefits which participants in particular and society in general can get, we teach creativity not for the sake of creativity but for the sake of problem to be fully solved. Because “the end of fishing is not angling but catching” and I want to add “and the caught fish should be consumed by the appropriate subjects and the environment is not polluted afterwards”.

4. High school graduates or more highly trained people, I would like to make an emphasis on the following point: irrespective of age, career and position can be entitled to enroll in our basic CM program. The reason for this is as follows:

Our present educational and training system mainly prepares specialists. As a result of that, these specialists having such a narrow thinking may successfully solve their specialized problems but may not know how to think to solve other problems. Human being’s life is an assembly of problems to be solved and decisions to be made. His/her life will be happy when problems in general (not only specialized ones) can be solved well. This point also brings about benefits to companies, organizations and society. Please, imagine how workers can work well in the workplace when their heads are occupied with other problems (for example, family problems) they do not know how to solve. Besides, such a narrow thinking cannot respond to the contemporary challenges faced by us, for example, fast change, increasing complexity, diversity and competition.

Therefore, our program should be composed of knowledge, methods and thinking skills that are applicable to all or almost all areas of reality. In this connection, we think, TRIZ (the Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) and its sources relying on the most generalized scientific and technical knowledge can fully deserve attention. So we took TRIZ and its sources as the core of the basic CM program.

5. But we also suppose that to cope with a variety of problem situations that may occur in daily life and work of participants, creativity methodologies included in our program need to be varied. Except for TRIZ, we also teach other creativity methods. These methods had been selected on the following criteria: a) there is scientific rationale that underlies them; b) they have a wide area of application; c) they have, indeed, a strong effect on problem solving thinking process.

The selected methods had been integrated in our program logically, that is, they did not become a separate patch.

6. We strive to structure our program so that it takes participants through simple issues to more complicated ones and every part of the program is a logical successor of previous ones.

7. Our program has the purpose to prepare creativity methodologies users on a daily basis. We believe that participants will actually apply creativity methodologies in all aspects of their lives only when the program can induce inside participants the needed emotions promoting them to do that. So our program involved many examples, stories, cases, graphic depictions, cartoons and exercises that may inspire such emotions.

8. Our program also took Vietnam’s cultural traditions and present socio-economic features into account for Vietnamese participants, facilitating their understanding and use of creativity methodologies.

9. I began to take an interest in creative thinking in the early 1960s and had myself validate my thinking and give feedback on my problem solutions and decisions everywhere I could in my life. In 1973 I graduated from the first Soviet Institute of Inventive Creativity as one of its first students. After that I have to solve many problems concerning science, technology, organizing, managing, teaching, communication and behaviour. Thus, the basic CM program also includes my own experiences, ideas and scientific research on the subject.

10. Our program has been revised from time to time in light of the participants’ comments and suggestions.

Below, I will outline the current version of the 60-hour basic CM program.


Our basic CM program consists of seven chapters.

In Chapter 1Introduction” we provide participants with definitions and explain implications of the basic concepts, such as creativity, area of application, problem, creative thinking, innovation, full innovation, relationship between creativity and development, discovery, invention (in wide and legal meanings), patent information in order to create preparatorily the needed common language and framework of the course. Then we outline the program’s subject, objectives and benefits. We also provide a brief review of the historical development of creatology in general and creativity methodologies in particular.

Chapter 2 “The Natural Method of Problem Solving” presents the content of the trial and error method, its advantages and disadvantages. The emphasis is on its fundamental disadvantage: the trial and error method has no mechanism for directing the solver’s thinking towards the solution and it cannot respond to the contemporary challenges. We also show that there are two sides of creativity: subjective one (psychology of human being) and objective one (development laws of reality). Those people who manage this subjective side along the objective side can achieve a high efficiency and effectiveness in problem solving and decision making process. That is, the objective development laws can serve the directing mechanism.

Chapter 3 “Some Basic Knowledge” preparing participants for understanding and using creativity methodologies is organized into three parts.

The first part is designed to help participants understand and, to some extent cope with the psychological elements inherent in their thinking process: needs, emotions, memory, language, symbols, visual thinking, association, intuition, imagination, psychological inertia and so on.

The second part of chapter 3 centers on systems thinking and related issues. Concepts such as system, systemness, systems change spreading effect, systems intrinsic resources, systems space, systems non-linear cause and effect relations, systems inertia are stressed. The systems approach is consistently used in all other our programs.

The last part of chapter 3 focuses on dialectics - the philosophic foundation of all our programs. Dialectics, in our view, is the science of the most common laws of natural, social and mental development. Dialectical logic reflects the logic of development, therefore the logic of creativity. In fact, to solve a problem is to resolve contradictions on win - win basis to turn the given system into a new unity of two eliminating each other contrary sides (that is, into a new level of development). Please, see also APPENDIX.

In short, our programs aim at constructing such a kind of creative thinking which is systems thinking in form and dialectical in content.

Some other basic knowledge derived from cybernetics, information theory and other generalized sources are introduced to participants later in following chapters where needs for that appear.

Our program can be decoded as “ Scientific - Technical - Knowledge - Based Creativity Methodologies for Problem Solving and Decision Making”.

Chapters 4, 5, 6 contain creativity methodologies which are structured in the order such as in chemistry: chemical elements, chemical compounds (results of varied combinations of chemical elements) and chemical theory (where chemistry is organized into the whole logical system of knowledge).

Concretely, Chapter 4 “Forty Basic Creativity Principles” presents the elementary techniques and how to use them with a help of the Matrix of Principles and the Reduced Process of Problem Solving. When these principles are organized into appropriate combinations they will create creativity methods which are very useful for definite classes of problems. In TRIZ there are many methods such as these, for example, 76 Standard Rules, 11 Transformers.

Chapter 5 “Methods of Activating Creative Thinking” provides participants with a broad overview of familiar to western readers methods such as Brainstorming, Morphological Analysis, Synectics. In our view, for example, Morphological Analysis is the combination of some of 40 principles that are structured in the following sequence: Fragmentation - Local Quality - Local Quality again - Joining - Removal.

Chapter 6 deals with TRIZ as the theory and ARIZ (the Russian acronym for Algorithm of Inventive Problem Solving) as the Full Process of Problem Solving. We introduce the conceptualization of TRIZ by exploring creativity levels, eight laws of systems development, the lifeline of systems... All of them serve as the immediate base of TRIZ. We also demonstrate how to use ARIZ.

ARIZ built on the base of TRIZ is a logical, directed and planned program composed of many steps which aim at rationally organizing the process of problem solving and decision making. ARIZ is an algorithm for human beings so ARIZ’s steps were constructed not only on the basis of objective laws of systems development, but psychological elements were also taken into account. TRIZ is a large theory with a great number of creativity tools so we have been forced to put other TRIZ’s components into the intermediate and advanced CM programs.

The last chapter - Chapter 7 “Summary and Visions” provides a review of the whole program to help participants avoid “not to see the wood for the trees” and gives visions on related issues in the field.



There are several types of contradictions in problem solving process. Among them, physical contradiction (please, do not associate “physical” only with physics, it is simply the name) lies at the heart of the problem. The physical contradiction is usually presented as follows: one of the elements in the given system must have this side (in the widest meaning) to meet this demand and another contradictory side to meet the other demand, while these sides eliminate each other.

In fact, to solve a problem is to resolve physical contradiction, i.e. to make a unity of two mutually contradictory sides.

The following is some examples illustrating the above saying.

Example 1 (derived from engineering): Imagine the stage when people used only straight wires to connect electric devices. There was the requirement: make up a kind of the cord appropriately connecting the telephone with the handset.

If the cord is short we get the advantage of compactness but do not get convenience when using the telephone. If the cord is long we get convenience when handling the telephone but lose compactness.

The physical contradiction is: the cord must be short for compactness and long for convenience. In this problem two eliminating each other sides are “short” and “long”. Eventually, the straight cord was replaced by spiral cord which overcame the given physical contradiction. In the other words, spiral cord established the unity of two mutually contradictory sides : “short” and “long”. It is the short-long-win-win solution, not compromise one. The spiral cord in comparison with the straight cord has simultaneously both newness and usefulness so we have also creativity here.

At this point, I would like to turn your attention to the everyday language people used to use in thinking: instead of calling it the cord which creates the unity of the contradictory sides “short” and “long” they call it the spiral cord that disguises the unity. In addition, the usual either-or logic (either “short” or “long”) does not help much in resolving contradictions.

In general, in TRIZ there is the means that help the solver to reveal and to eliminate revealed contradictions. In the above mentioned example, the principles Dynamism and Spheroidality were used.

Example 2 (derived from business): There was a man loving animals very much. Whenever he got some money, he brought home to raise birds, cats, dogs, bears, elephants and so on. One day, he wanted to become a professional businessman in trade of animals but he did not want to leave his animals those he himself fed and trained.

Thereby, the physical contradiction is: these animals have to be sold to get profit and not to be sold to enjoy their owner.

The answer was to let these animals for rent. That means selling them for a while and then getting them back, and over and over again. In this case, the renting established the unity of two contradictory sides: “selling” and “not selling”. The principles used in this example were Uninterrupted Useful Effect and Periodic Action.

Example 3 (derived from manufacture): Candy company X set up the aim of changing no candy price to keep customers’ belief, though materials’ prices were increasing in the market. The physical contradiction came out of this: a candy should be small (decreasing in weight) to compensate for the increasing materials’ prices and big (the same size and form like before) to keep customers. The candy company X solved the problem by manufacturing the kind of candies with many slits on their surfaces. The deeper slits are, the lighter candies are while they are still in the same size and form. The principles to resolve the physical contradiction “small” - “big” were Dynamism and Moving To A New Dimension.

In this example, I do not want discuss the ethical implications that may arise. I will touch on the relationship between creativity and ethic in a separate paper.

Now, for you, my dear colleagues, there is Example 4 (derived from handling people). Please, analyse the following situation taken from the book “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie, p. 205, in the edition published 1991 by Cedar to find the physical contradiction. I can say in advance that the used principles are Beforehand Cushioning, Preliminary Counteraction, Counterweight and Self-Service.

“CHARLES SCHWAB was passing through one of his steel mills one day at noon when he came across some of his employees smoking. Immediately above their head was a sign that said “No Smoking”. Did Schwab point to the sign and say, “Can’t you read?”. Oh, no not Schwab. He walked over to the men, handed each one a cigar, and said, “I appreciate it, boys, if you will smoke these on the outside.” They knew that he knew that they had broken a rule - and they admired him because he said nothing about it and give them a little present and made them feel important. Couldn’t keep from loving a man like that, could you?”.

For Further Reading

For detailed information on some of the points presented in this paper, please consult the following articles, books and journals in English and Russian. Concerning the other materials in Vietnamese, please contact the CSTC.

In English

Phan Dung (1994) Introducing Creativity Methodologies into Vietnam. Creativity and Innovation Management, 4, 240 - 242.

Phan Dung (1995) TRIZ: Inventive Creativity Based on The Laws Of Systems Development. Creativity and Innovation Management, 1, 19 - 30.

Phan Dung (1996) Systems Inertia In Creativity and Innovation. Lecture presented at the fifth European Conference on Creativity and Innovation, Vaals, the Netherlands, April 28 - May 2, 1996

Phan Dung (1996) Creatology: A Science for the 21st Century. Keynote paper presented at the International Symposium and Seminar: “Education: The Foundation for Human Resource and Quality of Life Development”, Chiang Mai, Thailand, August 26 - 30, 1996

Phan Dung (1996) The Renewal in Creative Thinking Process for Problem Solving and Decision Making. Keynote paper presented at the sixth National Seminar on Educational Management and Leadership, Genting Highlands, Malaysia December 9 - 12, 1996.

Phan Dung (1996) Creativity Methodologies (the summary of the course) for English speaking participants.

Phan Dung (1997) Dialectical Systems Thinking For Problem Solving and Decision Making, The 7th International Conference on Thinking, Singapore, June 1 - 6, 1997.

Phan Dung (1998) Dialectical Systems Thinking For Problem Solving and Decision Making, in Morris I. Stein (ed.), Creativity’s Global Correspondents 1998, Florida, Winslow Press, USA, 143 - 161.

In Russian


Altshuller, G.S. (1969, 1973) Algorithm Izobretenia, Moskovski Rabotri, Moskva.

Seliuski, A.B., Slugin, G.I. (1977) Vdokhnovenie Po Zakazu, Karelia, Petrozavodsk.

Altshuller, G.S. (1979) Tvortrestvo Kak Totrnaia Nauka, Sovietskoe Radio, Moskva (If I am not mistaken, this book was translated into English and published by Publishing House Gordon and Breach in the USA)

Altshuller, G.S. ., Seliuski, A.B. (1980) Krilia Dlia Ikara, Karelia, Petrozavodsk

Jukov, R.F., Petrov, V.M (1980). Sovremennie Metodi Nautrno - Tekhnitreskogo Tvortrestva, Leningrad.

Altshuller, G.S. (1984, 1987) I Tut Poiavilsia Izobretatel, Detskaia Literatura, Moskva

Altshuller, G.S., Zlotin, B.L., Filatov, V.I. (1985) Professia - Poisk Novogo, Kartia Moldoveniaske, Kishiniov.

Altshuller, G.S. (1986, 1991) Naiti Ideii, Sibirskoe Otdelenie ‘Nauka’, Novosibirsk.

Petrovitr, N.T, Tsurikov, V.M. (1986) Putch K Izobreteniu, Molodaia Gvardia, Moskva.

Ivanov, G.I. (1987)... I Natrinaite Izobretatch, Vostotrnoe - Sibirskoe Knijnoe Izdatelstvo, Irkutsk

Sbornik (collection) (1987) Derzkie Formuli Tvortrestva, Karelia, Petrozavodsk.

Sbornik (collection) (1988) Nitch V Labirinte, Karelia, Petrozavodsk.

Zlotin, B.L., Zusman, A.V. (1988) Mesiats Pod Zvezdami Fantazii, Lumina, Kishiniov.

Sbornik (collection) (1989) Pravila Igri Bez Pravil, Karelia, Petrozavodsk.

Altshuller, G.S., Zlotin, B.L., Zusman, A.V., Filatov, V.I. (1989) Poisk Novikh Idei : Ot Ozarenia K Tekhnologii, Kartia Moldoveniaske, Kishiniov.

Salaamatov, Iu.P. (1990) Kak Statch Izobretatelem, Prosveshenie, Moskva.

Zlotin, B.L., Zusman, A.V. (1990) Izobretatel Prishiol Na Urok, Lamina, Kishiniov.

Sbornik (collection) (1991) Kak Statch Eretikom, Karelia, Petrozavodsk.

Sbornik (collection) (1991) Shans Na Prikliutrenie, Karelia, Petrozavodsk

Zlotin, B.L., Zusman, A.V. (1990) Reshenie Issledovatelskikh Zadatr, Kishiniov.

Vikentiev, I.L., Kaikov, I.K. (1992) Lestnistsa Idei, Novosibirsk.


Rubric ‘Technologia I Psikhologia Tvortrestva’ in Journal ‘Tekhnika I Nauka’ from 1979 to 1984

Journal TRIZ from 1990.
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