Brewing Free Beer

 Using Ideality to develop a 'free-to-use' TRIZ Effects Database

TRIZ Future 2012, Lisbon, Portugal:  Andrew Martin presented how the TRIZ thinking tools developed the TRIZ Effects Database.


This paper describes how the TRIZ concept of Ideality was used to inform the development and deployment of a 'free-to-use' TRIZ database of scientific and physical effects. The TRIZ ‘Time and Scale’ framework (also known as Nine Boxes, Nine Windows or System Operator) is used to structure the narrative based on three phases: Pre-Development, Development and Post-Development. 

effects database - TRIZ tools

In the Pre-Development phase it was recognized that most comprehensive effects databases tend to be commercial products providing excellent content but at a price presenting a potential barrier to their use, especially by those new to TRIZ. The few 'free-to-use’ effects databases that were available tended to be less comprehensive than the best of their commercial rivals. 

This led to an Ideal Outcome (or Ideal Final Result) for the effects database: "delivery of complete and perfect results to any user without restriction or cost". This highlighted a contradiction between the performance of the system (primarily represented by the quality and quantity of the results it produces) and the cost of delivery (primarily represented by the cost of developing the database infrastructure and collecting and collating the database content). 

As the project moved into the Development Phase this contradiction was tackled using a three-pronged Ideality-based strategy of: focus on delivering only the essential Benefits, reduction of Harms that detract from the essential Benefits and finally reduction of Costs by using existing and/or low-cost resources. 

Focusing on essential Benefits resulted in the selection of a simple database design that minimised the data required to populate the database. The principle Harm (where Harm is an output that is not useful) considered was that of an inaccuracy in the results delivered to the User. A taxonomy of database inaccuracies was compiled and each identified inaccuracy type considered in terms of its influence on the Ideality of the database system. This revealed, somewhat surprisingly, that inaccuracies were not only inevitable but were also not critical to the overall usefulness of the system. The principle resources used for cost reduction were: open-source database development tools, available internet resources and people. 

The Post-Development Phase was triggered in October 2011 with the deployment of the database on the Oxford Creativity website. The principle activity since that time has been a series of content updates. In addition consideration has been given (somewhat belatedly) to other aspects of the Post-Development column of the Nine Box model. The User’s perception of Ideality has shifted from "Can I have more results" to "There are a lot of suggestions here – can they be filtered in some way?" This is a useful reminder that (in common with most systems) the database falls short of delivering the Ideal Outcome of complete and perfect results. Some candidate routes towards the realization of this Ideal are suggested. 

effects database - TRIZ tools snippet

Introduction (and Nomenclature

This paper discusses how the development of a free-to-use database of engineering and scientific effects was informed by the TRIZ concept of Ideality. 

Effects databases are an important and established part of the TRIZ tool kit, with paper-based examples appearing in many TRIZ reference works and a number of computer-based versions available on the internet or incorporated into TRIZ-based software tools. 

This paper is structured using the TRIZ 'Time and Scale' framework  (also known as Nine Boxes, Nine Windows or System Operator) shown in Figure 1.