Beginning in 1946 and still evolving, TRIZ was developed by the Soviet inventor Genrich Altshuller and his colleagues. TRIZ in Russian = Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch or in English, The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. Years of Russian research into patents uncovered that there are only 100 known solutions to fundamental problems and made them universally available in three TRIZ solution lists and the Effects Database.
Through enabling clear thinking and the generation of innovative ideas, TRIZ helps you to find an ideal solution without the need for compromise. However it is not a Theory - it is a big toolkit consisting of many simple tools - most are easy to learn and immediately apply to problems. This amazing capability helps us tackle any problem or challenge even when we face difficult, intractable or apparently impossible situations.
TRIZ helps us keep detail in its place, to see the big picture and avoid getting tripped up with irrelevance, waylaid by trivial issues or seduced by premature solutions. It works alongside and supports other toolkits, and is particularly powerful for getting teams to work together to understand problems effectively, collectively generate ideas and innovate.
Developed by Oxford Creativity, Oxford TRIZ™ is simpler than standard or classic TRIZ. Its tools and processes are faster to learn and easier to apply. Oxford TRIZ is true to classic TRIZ (neither adding nor removing anything) but it delivers:
TRIZ enthusiasts who have failed to use TRIZ effectively or to embed TRIZ into their organisations hail Oxford TRIZ as revelatory.
Very impressed with how Oxford Creativity has been able to create a methodology for applying TRIZ that can be widely used.
"I have learnt new and powerful ways of looking at problems differently to come up with new and viable solutions. It is a toolset that I think all engineers would find useful. "
Join one of our free webinars to learn more about TRIZ, its tools and how they can help you create innovative solutions to your problems.
Alternatively, sign up for Oxford TRIZ Live - Fundamental Problem Solving, our new online course that will give you a solid foundation in TRIZ concepts, tools and techniques and get you using them from day one.
It seems unfair that the work of Altshuller, perhaps one of the greatest engineers of the twentieth century remains quite obscure; especially as the his powerful findings enhances and transforms the work of managerial and technical teams in most countries of the world. He was a remarkable and charismatic man who innovated innovation and inspired many, as an inventor, teacher, and science-fiction author (Altov). The stories about Genrich Saulovich Altshuller (1926-1998) founder of TRIZ, derive mostly from those who worked with him, a community of Jewish intellectuals from Ukraine, Russia, and other countries once part of the Soviet Union. Many of these left Russia when they could, in the early 1990’s, taking TRIZ with them, to reach business and technical communities all over the world. Although TRIZ is a Russian acronym*, in today’s troubled world it is worth emphasising that TRIZ is much more Zelensky than Putin – as it was developed in a Siberian Gulag by those who stood up to Stalin.
Altshuller's groundbreaking work in the field of creative problem-solving derives from analysing the patent database and identifying and sharing the patterns of success in the world’s published knowledge. This is unlike most other creative techniques which cluster round brain prompts to improve brainstorming. TRIZ contains all these too, but they seem less significant than the power of the unique solution techniques uncovered by the TRIZ community in the last century.
Genrich Saulovich Altshuller was bought up in Baku, Azerbaijan, but was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on October 15, 1926, at those times both countries were a part of the Soviet Union. Just too young to serve in World War II, Altshuller was patenting his inventions from 1940 when he was just 14. He trained as a diver and electrician and later at the Azerbaijan Oil and Chemistry Institute in Baku. Altshuller joined the Soviet Navy as a mechanical engineer in his early twenties and worked in the Baku patent department, interacting with the Caspian Sea flotilla of the Soviet Navy where, as in all wars, creativity and invention flourished; this had a profound impact on his thinking and future endeavours. It was here that he began to formalize his Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, together with his colleague Raphael Shapiro. TRIZ was born out of the pair's aspiration to create a systematic approach to problem-solving that could replace the hit-or-miss strategies often used by inventors.
Altshuller’s genius observation of the frequent occurrence of identical solutions in different industries
Altshuller ’bottled’ the inventive process. He identified how frequently inventors duplicate each other’s work as they unknowingly reinvent the wheel. They fail to recognise that their efforts are repeating work already achieved (and documented), because their results are published in their own specialist technical language. Altshuller could see how science and engineering (by this time segmented and specialised) had become a ‘Tower of Babel’** because each discipline had its own different technical jargon. It was as if there were now many tribes in technology, with their own tribal language, which they used to write their papers and patents; (Chemists spoke chemistry and physicist spoke physics etc.). Altshuller showed that by stripping out details (which removed most technical jargon) both the problems being solved and their answers were revealed. This research showed that there are only about 100 fundamental ways to solve any problem. Altshuller and his teams gave these ‘ hundred answers to anything’ in three overlapping lists which show us how to:-
These concept solutions underly all inventive problem-solving and they help us solve particular problems through using the TRIZ Contradiction Matrix and Separation Principles and TRIZ Function Mapping. Also there is the TRIZ Effects Database which answers ‘how to’ questions – so if we wanted to know how to ‘change viscosity’ it would show us all published ways and give an explanation of each. (see https://www.triz.co.uk/triz-effects-database)
Development of TRIZ:
Altshuller and his TRIZ community created their database of technical problems and solutions from various industries by undertaking an exhaustive study of patents, scientific literature, and innovation history. TRIZ ‘uncovered’ all the ways humankind knows to tackle tough challenges and was a vast collaboration of many (including Rafael Shapiro) to formalise the TRIZ methodology by identifying patterns and principles common to all successful inventive solutions. TRIZ aimed to stop needless time-wasting duplication by providing a systematic approach to enable anyone to overcome problems and recognise and resolve contradictions, deal with harms and barriers in their work.
Once built the TRIZ foundations were their gift to the world distilling a vast store of human wisdom into the 3 simple lists of TRIZ concepts. Some erroneously describe TRIZ as complicated because it derives from more rigour and research than all other toolkits put together, but its power is its logical steps and simplicity. It is as easy as learning chess - each tool is can be quickly understood to see how it can be ‘played’ in specific ways – the challenge is knowing how to combine the tools together. There are as many solutions to problems as outcomes in chess – mastering both takes quick learning (and talent?) and then as much practice as possible.
Despite its immense potential, TRIZ was not initially well-received by the Soviet government, Altshuller's claim that scientists and engineers duplicated each other’s work was unacceptable "non-conformist" thinking, and TRIZ was initially labelled as "bourgeois pseudoscience." Altshuller, along with several of his colleagues, often faced oppression, and their work was kept underground in several different periods. By the late 1940s Altshuller was arrested on political charges and spent time in the infamous Vorkuta Gulag in the Russian Arctic before being released in 1954 (after Stalin’s death). On his arrest the KGB ‘interviewed’ his widowed mother, killing her by pushing her from the balcony of her flat. Despite these setbacks, his determination to pursue his theories did not wane even in the Gulag which he described as his university of life.
Upon his release, Altshuller returned to his work with renewed vigour, working through thousands of patents, extracting their patterns of problem-solving into the TRIZ lists, and also uncovering the contradiction toolkit and the other creative concepts essential to tackling problems such as the Ideal and Ideality, Thinking in Time and Scale (9 boxes) plus many other tools for idea generation.
Recognition and success
Altshuller's determination prevailed, and in the 1960s, he managed to publish some of his TRIZ-related works. He also conducted lectures and workshops to disseminate the principles of TRIZ across the Soviet Union and beyond. His community expanded to include school children from his fortnightly TRIZ comics and his most famous book ‘And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared’. His ideas gained traction among engineers, leading to the formation of TRIZ associations and study groups. After 1990 the political reforms which swept the Soviet Union and its territories enabled TRIZ to surge in popularity and recognition. Altshuller's efforts were finally acknowledged, and he received numerous awards and honours for his groundbreaking work.
Genrich Altshuller's legacy lives on through TRIZ, which continues to influence problem-solving and innovation processes worldwide. TRIZ has been integrated into various industries, including engineering, product development, and management, allowing practitioners to find inventive solutions efficiently. It has proved an essential innovation toolkit in countries like South Korea, China and Japan where they have moved to the top of Patent league tables, pushing aside counties like the UK where there is no official or university take up (exceptions include the universities of Imperial and Bath). However one the world’s leading TRIZ consultancies is based in the UK and created the popular Oxford TRIZTM. Russian TRIZ development seems to be detailed and complicated (the opposite of TRIZ simplicity)
Altshuller’s income derived more from his writings than his TRIZ work because he made TRIZ free to the world and public domain. Altshuller published so many books, articles, and scientific papers, which inspire and clarify the thinking of generations of inventors, innovators, and problem-solvers. In his later years he developed Parkinson’s disease, and he worked on sharing all the habits of geniuses and his last book was called ‘How to be a genius or heretic’ and he died on September 24, 1998, in Petrozavodsk, Russia. Altshuller's work has influenced numerous fields, including engineering, business strategy, and software development. Despite TRIZ being less known than other toolkit , his impact on the world remains undeniable if still largely under-appreciated. The power of TRIZ for boosting genius brain power, inventive problem-solving and innovation could change the world for the better if only it was known and accepted everywhere.