The Origins of TRIZ
During the late 1940s, Genrich Altshuller, the originator of TRIZ, was
working in the patent department of the Soviet navy. His primary responsibility was to assist
inventors in filing patents, but because he was himself a gifted inventor (he received his
first patent at the age of 14), he was often asked for help in solving problems encountered
during the innovation process.
Assuming that methods existed to help people solve creative
problems, Altshuller went to the library and began researching. He found studies based upon
the notion that, since innovation is a product of the human mind, the process can be improved
using psychological techniques. Several methods (such as brainstorming) had been developed to
overcome psychological inertia -- that is, to help people generate ideas "outside the box."
But Altshuller soon began to realize the difficulty of
obtaining objective information on the innovation process through psychological means, as the
results were neither measurable nor reliable. In contrast, he reasoned, technical information
is objective in nature. While there are no tools that allow us inside the human mind to study
the process of innovation, the results of this process can be easily observed by
studying the inventions themselves, or the patent literature associated with them.
Realizing that an innovation represents a fundamental change to
a technological system -- and is therefore subject to analysis -- Altshuller turned his
attention to the patent fund, screening over 200,000 patents from all over the world. He
identified 40,000 patents that constituted "inventive" achievements, and began a rigorous
analysis of these. The results of his efforts formed the theoretical basis of TRIZ and laid
the groundwork for the problem-solving tools that would later be developed. As the TRIZ
methodology grew over the next four decades, the patent research continued; by the mid-1980s
over 2 million patents had been investigated.
The Evolution of TRIZ and I-TRIZ
The history of TRIZ can be divided in stages as
1946 - 1980
- Genrich Altshuller is virtually the only
person developing TRIZ; others provide occasional assistance.
- Fundamental discoveries have been made and
the basic ideas and tools of classical TRIZ have been developed.
- Occasionally, others contribute their ideas,
however these ideas are usually weak and of secondary importance.
- This stage ended in 1980 when the first TRIZ
Specialist conference took place in Petrozavodsk, Russia.
1980 - 1986
- TRIZ receives publicity in the former USSR.
Many people become devotees of TRIZ and of Altshuller; the first TRIZ professionals and
- Altshuller is highly efficient in developing
TRIZ due to the large number of seminars conducted, the various TRIZ schools established,
and individual followers who join the ranks, allowing for the rapid testing of ideas and
tools. TRIZ schools in St. Petersburg, Kishinev, Minsk, Novosibirsk, and others become very
active under Altshuller's leadership.
- The strong development of classical TRIZ
results in the first serious attempts to move TRIZ beyond the strictly technological domain
(the book Life Strategy for a Creative Individual, children's education, "subversion"
analysis, Theory of Evolution of Organizations, etc.).
- Although the free exchange of ideas and open
publication exists, publication is extremely difficult to achieve.
- TRIZ materials accumulate rapidly but vary
widely in quality (from useless to real breakthroughs).
1986 - 1991 -- Contemporary TRIZ
In 1986, the situation changed dramatically.
Altshuller's illness limited his ability to work on TRIZ and control its development, thus he
discontinued his work on technological TRIZ. For the first time in the history of TRIZ,
Russian perestroika allowed it to be applied commercially. In 1982, Boris Zlotin and
Alla Zusman founded a technical school in Kishinev, Moldova which specialized in teaching the
TRIZ methodology and providing TRIZ analytical services for industrial companies.
The accomplishments of the Kishinev TRIZ School
- over 6,000 students taught
- over 4,000 technological problems solved or
- development of a methodology for solving
- development of a methodology for identifying
possible causes of failures as well as potential failures
- identified numerous lines of evolution
- published nine books on TRIZ (three together
- contributed monthly to popular magazines on
the practical application of TRIZ
- launched a monthly contribution to Russian
newspapers on TRIZ for children
- published numerous other articles on the
- developed the basic patterns of evolution of
- developed recommendations for using
students' unresolved real-life problems as a teaching process
- developed educational programs for various
audiences at a range of technical levels
- provided analytical services for business organizations
By 1989, the extensive experience of the Kishinev TRIZ School
in teaching and problem solving allowed Zlotin and Zusman to define the main weaknesses of the
classical TRIZ methodology. These were:
- Its non-rigorousness (i.e., many analytical skills that were
required for the successful application of TRIZ tools had not been transformed into
documented rules, algorithms and recommendations).
- A limited amount of the TRIZ knowledge-base had been
documented and was available for study and use.
- Each tool had been developed separately and as a result the
tools did not form an integrated system.
- Problems of different types had to be treated differently,
but there were no clear recommendations for which tool to use for a particular type of
problem or situation.
- The tools did not support all stages of the problem-solving
process. For example: problems had to be pre-formulated in TRIZ terms before the tools could
As a result of the above limitations, TRIZ was characterized by
- Considerable education (from 100 to 250 hours) was required
to effectively utilize TRIZ.
- Extensive practice (from 1 to 5 years) was required to
become self-sufficient in the methodology.
- Making TRIZ available for mass utilization posed an
In addition, these same drawbacks made the process of
computerizing TRIZ -- which had already begun -- very difficult.
Given the above considerations, Zlotin and
Zusman determined to advance the TRIZ methodology in the following directions:
- Develop integrated tools so that all types
of problems can be treated in the same manner.
- Add the "missing" tools so that TRIZ
supports all stages of the problem-solving: problem identification, formulation, and
categorization; identifying and utilizing the appropriate tools; evaluating results;
planning the implementation.
- Restructure and extend the TRIZ knowledge
base to take advantage of computerization.
- Continue development of the lines of
- Continue development of problem-solving
- Reveal patterns of evolution in
This work resulted in the following
- A new, comprehensive version of ARIZ, which
is much more rigorous and suited to computerization.
- A problem formulation process, first for
mental use and then for computerization.
- A System of Operators that incorporates the
entire existing TRIZ knowledge base.
- Substantial extension of the TRIZ knowledge
base (twice as many operators, many additional examples, added technical applications of
- A complete problem-solving process (later
called the Ideation Process).
- A prototype of the Innovation Workbench
software system, which incorporates the complete problem-solving process.
- A software prototype for personnel
1991 and Beyond -- TRIZ in the USA
The rapid deterioration of the economic
situation in the former USSR forced many capable TRIZ specialists, most of whom who had
established their own businesses, to move TRIZ abroad. Many TRIZ specialists immigrated into
the U.S. and Israel and started promoting TRIZ individually. Others found international
partners and established TRIZ companies. Recognizing the U.S. as a key for the successful
dissemination of technology, Zlotin and Zusman joined with American professionals to form
Ideation International -- an American company incorporated in 1992. During the ensuing years,
Ideation accomplished the following:
- Acquired the Kishinev TRIZ School, moving
most of their principal scientists to the U.S.
- Translated and repackaged an extensive
amount of information on TRIZ
- Became familiar with the U.S. marketplace
- Learned the requirements of potential TRIZ
- Adapted TRIZ to the American engineering
- Delivered products and services to numerous
- Trained hundreds professionals in the
- Established educational programs to help an
individual become self-sufficient in TRIZ and develop further mastery
- Developed a family of software tools and
installed thousands of copies
- Continuously advanced the Ideation/TRIZ
The Evolution and Transformation of TRIZ
As I-TRIZ has evolved, other spin-offs of
classical TRIZ appeared as well. The figure below illustrates the differences between I-TRIZ
and other systems in terms of power and simplicity.