TRIZ – For People Who Struggle with Open Innovation 1

Prepare yourself to start looking at TRIZ from a few different viewpoints. Next week’s Business901 Podcast is with co-author Ellen Domb, Simplified TRIZ: New Problem Solving Applications for Engineers and Manufacturing Professionals, Second Edition, and founder of the PQR Group, a TRIZ training & consulting. Besides the book, they offer a good way to start  TRIZ through their e-learning platform (http://www.trizpqrgroup.com/e-learning.php). 

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe: Can you start off by giving a high-level description of TRIZ? Simplified TRIZ

Ellen Domb: TRIZ is an acronym. T-R-I-Z. And it’s a Russian Acronym for theory of inventive problem solving. And don’t worry about the word “theory” because, in fact, TRIZ is a whole bunch of very practical methods for creative problem solving. The thing that I have found that some people do is separate their own problems, their own company’s problems, from their customer’s problems, which is somewhat how we get, “Is it is a profit problem, or a product problem?” But if you use the same method on all of them, you don’t have to learn two methods. I find that if you solve a customer’s problem – you’ve got a new product or a new service or a new offering – and if you solve an internal problem, you’ve got improved processes or higher margins. In other words, it’s all good stuff.

What TRIZ is is a systematic way of looking at the problem and applying the solutions that have been developed by other people, both in your own industry and other industries. The magic of TRIZ is understanding how your problem related to other people’s problems and how you can use other people’s solutions to solve your problems. In other words, there really is no magic. It’s a method of analysis and then a method of using databases. Does that help you, Joe?

Joe: In today’s world, we talk about co-creation, open innovation and things. TRIZ seems like this engineering thing to me. Is it something we can use in fields like co-creation and open innovation?

Ellen: Absolutely. One of the reasons that people come looking for TRIZ these days is that they’ve tried open innovation methods without a lot of success. What they find is that the TRIZ method of analyzing a problem helps them write a much better open innovation – they usually call it a challenge or an open innovation inquiry. If they use the TRIZ method, they sometimes don’t use it to get the answers, they use it to get the better questions. The reason for co-creation, especially when it’s supplier/customer-type co-creation, is because you need the knowledge that other people have that may be outside your company. Well, TRIZ starts out with the function that you need other knowledge, not only from outside your company, but probably from outside your discipline. It helps you formulate the problem in a way that you can go use that other knowledge.

Joe: When I first look at TRIZ, I see all these building blocks and hierarchy structure that’s step-by-step. The methodology seems really weighty and complicated. Is it? Or is it simple?

Ellen: Well, you could say that about almost anything. How about the simple version of Six Sigma? Historically, I think with a lot of systems, including TRIZ, the people who did the research when they went off to try to teach it, they were so excited about what they did that they wanted to give you 15 years worth of research and then give you the system. And so, it got complicated. The advantage to people like me who learned it later is that we were able to take a point of view of saying, “Okay, what does a beginner need to do to get started?” So, let’s say modern TRIZ is simple. If you tried it 20 years ago and thought it was too complicated, give it another chance.

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