ASQ - Energy and Environmental Division

Quality professionals who have been around for many years often see old ideas repackaged, so it is rare and refreshing to find new ideas coming into the quality body of knowledge. TRIZ is certainly a new concept that has gained use in six-sigma approaches to quality improvement and is working its way into the college curriculum in engineering and science programs.

TRIZ, an abbreviation for the Russian term "Theory of Inventive Problem Solving," is a systematic approach to creative thinking, sometimes called creative thinking for engineers, or creative thinking for left-brain thinkers. Developed by G. Altshuller in the 1950s, TRIZ is intended to help people quickly develop creative ideas for solving problems and developing new design concepts.

Altshuller's team conducted a study of millions of patents granted in the 1950s and 1960s to identify a set of 40 key inventive principles that can be applied to problem solving and design issues.

The TRIZ approach is based on Altshuller's observations regarding the need to tightly define a problem in terms of a technical conflict where a desired state cannot be reached because some part of the system prevents it. Altshuller also postulated a set of laws that technological systems follow in terms of evolution.

Altshuller's primary publication was Creativity as an Exact Science published by Gordon & Beach Science Publishing House in New York in 1984.

The University of Alabama has been conducting TRIZ workshops for faculty and staff with very positive feedback from participants. Engineers and other professionals who prefer an orderly approach to work are often uncomfortable with "thinking outside the box" programs for creative thinking and have given high marks to TRIZ for stimulating creative ideas in an orderly manner.

You can delve more deeply into TRIZ by visiting the TRIZ Journal Web site at www.triz-journal.com.

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