The Importance of Creative Reflexes for Everyday Innovation

Posted on April 26, 2017
Archive : April 2017
Category : Triz Blog

I was chatting to someone at a conference yesterday and explaining about TRIZ and he said "ah, is that anything like [Insert name of Branded Creativity Toolkit]?"

I asked him to explain this toolkit more and he replied "well I don’t remember much, but I learned it on a 4 week creative thinking course with my last job at an investment bank."

After I had recovered from the idea that a company would invest in a 4 week creative thinking course, I asked him if he ever used the tools he had learned and he said he didn’t, but he "probably has the book somewhere" but it’s very big so he never had the energy to get it out. Aside from the fact that sending anyone on a 4 week course which they then never use is a monumental waste of money and time, what a wasted opportunity to change someone’s thinking!

I gave him a copy of my very small book, "TRIZ for Dummies", and then explained to him something which has been very much on my mind recently, as I have been delivering a lot of in-house TRIZ programmes with teams who want to use TRIZ independently. 

At the end people always ask what they can do to transfer what they have learned to their daily activities and as well as encouraging people to use TRIZ properly, formally, following the structured processes, we also encourage people to start make TRIZ thinking a kind of mental reflex.  

There are some tools, such as Resources, which can both be used formally and informally. Thinking of how you can get what you want using only what you already have should become a part of your everyday thinking.

Lilly Haines-Gadd with TRIZ for Dummies book

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.


Examples of Creative Reflexes 

  • Start by thinking of what you really want (your Ideal Outcome) rather than what you know you can do right now. Then ask.

  • Think of the functions that you want before looking for specific solutions

  • Ask yourself how can you get what you want using only what you already have (your Resources)

  • When faced with a problem, ask yourself who else might have solved it before (Prism of TRIZ). Think of your colleagues, organisation, then think of industries for whom it life or death to solve the problem

  • When people suggest ideas, identify the concepts behind them to build on their ideas (Idea-Concept)

  • When you hit a problem, think of how you can use the problem to fix itself (Ideality)

  • Improve a system by removing things, not adding (Trimming Rules)

Of course this doesn’t happen on its own – you have to first make an explicit effort – and remember that TRIZ exists, and can be useful – but this is where attending a workshop can be so helpful. 

Over the years many people have said that simply attending a workshop and practising the tools repeatedly has changed their thinking forever (all our workshops are very hands on, and there is very little lecture – mostly exercises and feedback).   

TRIZ for Dummies vs TRIZ for Engineers

Karen Gadd likes to say that 'learning TRIZ is like having a chip implanted in your brain', because she’s an engineer. Because I’m a psychologist, I like to say that 'TRIZ thinking can become a habit – that creative thinking can become a reflex in response to the problems you see in everyday life.' 

These reflexes won’t deliver the kind of breakthrough thinking and revolutionary solutions that using TRIZ in a formal structured way would, but they will encourage you to improve many small things in clever ways.

You’ll start improving the systems you deal with every day to make them simpler, easier to use, more robust, and innovation will become a way of life. 



This can be as simple as setting aside 5 minutes first thing in the morning to review a TRIZ tool and think about how it could be useful today in the tasks you need to tackle. 

Also, when want to apply a TRIZ tool to a problem, expect it to take a bit longer to complete your task the first couple of times, so don’t start with something very time critical then get frustrated that it’s not delivering immediate results. 


Many people who attend our workshops like to put the charts and materials from our workshop on or around their desk to prompt them. I can attest that our laminated Contradictions Matrix makes an excellent mat to protect your desk from your lunch. 

If at first you don't succeed ..... keep practising


If you’re learning independently, make the effort to do a bit of TRIZ thinking every day, or every week. It can be as simple as when you read or watch the news, ask yourself how TRIZ could be used to solve the problems. 

Of course, the ideal is to set aside some time on a regular basis, say 1 hour a week, to explicitly try to apply the tools to a problem – any problem. Don’t worry if you think you won’t do it perfectly – just get started building up your regular practice.

The more you practice, I promise you, the better you will get! 


Lilly Haines-Gadd

Lilly is the author of 'TRIZ for Dummies', an easy-to-read introduction to TRIZ and part of Wiley’s successful 'For Dummies' series.
Lilly Haines-Gadd

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