The Theory Of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ)

by Gunter Ladewig

1.0 Genrich Altshuller, worth his weight in diamonds.

If the 2001 century is to be characterized as an epidemic of innovation, then possession of a systematic inventive thinking process will determine global leadership.

Every once in a while, on very, very rare occasions, a truly great individual is born. This individual was Genrich Saulovich Altshuller (1926 - 1998). Like the Aga Khan, who was weighed in gold and later in diamonds, Genrich Altshuller was truly worth his weight in diamonds, for his tremendous contribution to creativity based on science, The Theory Of Inventive Problem Solving.
Altshuller, employed in the patent office of the Soviet navy, wondered how inventions happened. Could inventions be the result of systematic inventive thinking?

2.0 From Horse and Buggy to the Jet Age of Innovation

Over many years, Altshuller investigated over 200,000 patents (to date over 1,500,000 patents have been investigated), to see how they were solved. He found that exceptional patents resolved contradictory requirements, like increasing speed without higher fuel consumption, that is without trade-offs. Furthermore, by categorizing patents on what they did functionally, rather than by industry, he found that the same problem had been solved over and over again across many industries.

3.0 The Holy Grail of Innovation, Mankind's Creativity with 40 Principles

Genrich Altshuller discovered:

3.1 FORTY INVENTIVE PRINCIPLES: Well in excess of 90% of the world's patents use 40 Inventive Principle again and again. That is, with forty Inventive Principles we can gain access to mankind's creative genius. See Table 1

3.2 39 GENERIC CONFLICTING PARAMETERS: The same 39 Engineering Parameters that again and again define contradictory requirements. See Table 2

3.3 TECHNICAL CONTRADICTION MATRIX: To automate innovation, Altshuller developed the Technical Contradiction Matrix.

Graph 1: Contradiction Matrix (partial matrix)

A TRIVIAL EXAMPLE USING THE CONTRADICTION MATRIX: A presentation pointer must satisfy contradictory requirements of:

1 - It must be long: Go to the left most column, "Y" axis, of the Technical Contradiction Matrix locate the Generic Conflicting Parameter that most closely matches lengthening capability to reach the board:
(3) - Length of Moving Object,

2 - It must be small: Go to the top row, "X" axis, and locate the Generic Conflicting Parameter that most closely matches the negative effect if we used conventional means to shorten the pointer:
(7) - Volume of Moving Object, and

3 - In the intersecting cell of row: (3) - Length Of Moving Object, and column: (7) - Volume of Moving Object

We find four Inventive Principles:

Contain the object inside another which in turn is placed in a third object. Examples: periscope, Matushka dolls

17 - MOVE TO A NEW DIMENSION (for definitions see Table 1)

4 - ASYMETRY (see Table 1)


THE ANSWER: From the first Inventive Principle, 7 - NESTING, it is obvious that a telescoping pointer should be used to solve, without trade-offs, the conflicting requirements of: LONG, to reach the board Vs SMALL, to fit into the shirt pocket.

4.0 The Oracle Of Technology Forecasting, "Back to the Future"

By analyzing hundreds of thousands of patents Genrich Altshuller discovered the Trends Of Technological System Evolution. (See Table 3) He discovered that systems evolve along predictable "Vectors of Evolution", that is, by studying the past Altshuller could predict the future. In addition, these "Vectors of Evolution" are made up of discrete phases. Thus an "Innovation Potential Assessment" can be made of a technological system. By defining its "Vectors of Evolution", and along that vector, its phase, we can determine:

1 - Product maturity, or the development "Headroom" still remaining,
2 - Next generation products, and
3 - Patent fencing and circumvention strategies.


Let's continue with our somewhat trivial presentation pointer. The "Vector Of Evolution" most applicable to the pointer, is the Trend of Structure Dynamization. The discrete phases are:

1 - Monolith, a single piece pointer
2 - Single jointed, foldable once
3 - Multi-jointed,
4 - Elastic, pliable, perhaps like a coil
5 - Powder
6 - Liquid
7 - Gas
8 - Field

From the above we can see that our telescopic pointer clearly belongs in phase 3, multi-jointed. By looking at phases 4 to 8, can we come up with a next generation product? Perhaps a bellows-like pointer, which in its natural state would extend lengthwise, and for carrying in our shirt pocket is compressed or flattened. In this example we combined two phases, multi-jointed and use of a field (force) to compress the bellows-like pointer. But of course we all know that by going to phase 8, used of a field, we can get the ultimate pointer, the laser pointer.


  1. 1. See:

  2. 2. Altshuller, G. S., 40 Principles: TRIZ Keys to Technical Innovation, TIC, Worchester, 1998.

  3. 3. Altshuller, G. S., Creativity as an Exact Science: The Theory of the Solution of Inventive Problems, Gordon and Breach Science Publishing, New York, 1984.

  4. 4. klobovsky, K. A. and Sharipov, R. H., Theory, Practice and Applications of the Inventive Problems Decision, Protva-Prin, Obninsk, 1995 (in Russian)

Table 1: 40 Inventive Principles

1. Segmentation

  1. Divide an object into independent parts: bicycle chain,
  2. Make an object sectional: jigsaw puzzle, telescopic pointer, 'plug able' computer boards
  3. Increase the degree of an object's segmentation: ball bearing Vs bushing
  4. Transition to micro-level: fluids instead of bushings or balls as bearings, nanostructured materials

2. Extraction, Separation, Removal, Segregation

  1. Extract (remove or separate) a disturbing part or property from an object: I-beam Vs solid beam
  2. Extract only the necessary part or property: Polaroid sun grasses
  3. Environmental Stress Screening
  4. Clean rooms
  5. Hermetic seals

to top

3. Local Quality

  1. Transition from a homogeneous structure of an object to a heterogeneous structure, change an external environment or influence from uniform to non-uniform: plywood/anisotropic materials, temperature gradients for evaporation/condensation
  2. Have different parts of the object carry out different functions: Swiss army knife, small and large teeth on a saw blade, p-n-p or n-p-n transistors
  3. Place each part of the object under conditions most favorable for its operation: fridge's, cool Vs frozen sections

4. Asymmetry

  1. Replace a symmetrical form with an asymmetrical form: component shapes for foolproof assembly
  2. Change the properties of an object to suit external asymmetries: use liquid instead of solid materials to make contact with an odd-shaped solid
  3. If an object is already asymmetrical, increase the degree of asymmetry: small front Vs very large rear tires for a dragster

5. Combining, Integration, Merging

  1. Combine in space identical or similar objects, assemble identical or similar parts to perform parallel operations: honey cone, zero and one (off/on function) i.e. transistors
  2. Combine in time homogeneous or contiguous operations: synchronize manufacturing operations, parallel manufacturing operations
  3. Agglomerate objects to Bi- and Poly-systems: One power supply for multiple applications, Electro-chemical polishing

to top

6. Universality, Multi-functionality

  1. Have the object perform multiple functions, thereby eliminating the need for other object(s): hand for holding, pointing, sensing, etc. laser for cutting, fusing, cleaning
  2. Use standardized attributes: Specifications, measurement master reference, communication protocol

7. Nesting

  1. Contain the object inside another which, in turn, is placed inside a third object: paper cups, packaging of electronic devices, e.g. chip/module/card/board/computer housing
  2. Pass an object through a cavity of another object: telescopic pointer, laser pointer

8. Counterweight, Levitation

  1. Compensate for the object's weight by joining with another object that has a lifting force: outriggers/pontoons
  2. Compensate for the weight of an object by interaction with an environment providing aerodynamic or hydrodynamic forces: sail, wings, ocean tides for lifting, capillary action, e.g. solder wick

to top

9. Preliminary anti-action, Prior counteraction

  1. Perform a counter-action in advance: annealed steel
  2. If the object is (or will be) under tension, provide anti-tension in advance: pre-stressed concrete

10. Prior action

  1. Carry out all or part of the required action in advance: pre-tinned electronic components,
  2. Arrange objects so they can go into action in a timely matter and from a convenient position: SMDE, Single Minute Die Exchange

11. Cushion in advance, compensate before

  1. Compensate for the relatively low reliability of an object by countermeasures taken in advance: plating, painting surfaces, redundancy, tolerances, screening failure prone devices, e.g. Stress Screening, Burn-in

12. Equipotentiality, remove stress

  1. Change the working conditions so that an object need not be modified, raised, or lowered: pit for oil change, flexible coupling, continuous discharge to eliminate catastrophic ESD

to top

13. Inversion, The other way around

  1. Instead of an action dictated by the specifications of the problem, implement an opposite action: move the part instead of the tool, use negatives instead of positives
  2. Make a moving part of the object or the outside environment immovable and the non-moving part movable: escalator
  3. Turn the object upside-down: Hour glass. Mobius Band for increases length

14. Spheroidality, Curvilinearity

  1. Replace linear parts or flat surfaces with curved ones; replace cubical shapes with spherical shapes: use rollers instead of skids to move parts, replace typewriter keys with one IBM print "ball", rounded instead of pointed objects to minimize stress concentrations, Ball Grid Arrays, BGA's
  2. Use rollers, balls spirals: ball bearings
  3. Replace a linear motion with rotating movement: carousel conveyor instead of straight conveyor
  4. utilize a centrifugal force: spin coatings, rotating water sprinkler, turbine Vs reciprocating engine

to top

15. Dynamicity, Optimization

  1. Make an object or its environment automatically adjust for optimal performance at each stage of operation: self-adjusting tinted glasses
  2. Divide an object into elements which can change position relative to each other: adjustable wrench, variable pitch screw, MEMS
  3. If an object is immovable, make it movable or interchangeable: water faucet
  4. Increase degree of free motion: ball joints or universal joints

16. Partial or excessive action

  1. If it is difficult to obtain 100% of a desired effect, achieve somewhat more or less to greatly simplify the problem: to apply coatings dip and then skim or spin off the excess, allow for safety margins by using robust designs that enable generous tolerances e.g. large Cpk

17. Moving to a new dimension

  1. Remove problems associated with moving an object linearly by using two or three-dimensional movement: in machining use Z-axis motion to avoid obstacles, solve problems by using time Vs space
  2. Use a multi-layered assembly of objects instead of a single layer: thermal clothing is layered, multi-layer printed circuit boards, stacked or brick-walled electronic components
  3. Tilt the object or turn it on its side: skidoo or boat trailers that tilt for easy load/unload
  4. Use another side: Mobius strip, double sided printed circuit boards (PCB)

to top

18. Mechanical vibration/oscillation

  1. Set an object into oscillation: hammer drill, mixing by using shaking
  2. If oscillation exists, increase its frequency, even as far as ultrasonic: vibratory part feeders, ultrasonic cleaning, ultrasonic and thermo-sonic bonding
  3. Use the resonant frequency: violin, kidney stone removal
  4. Instead of mechanical vibrations, use piezoelectric vibrators: crystal oscillators, piezoelectric vibrators for spray coating
  5. Use ultrasonic vibrations in conjunction with an electromagnetic field:

19. Periodic action

  1. Replace a continuous action with a periodic (pulsed) one: DC Vs AC, quality sampling, High Mix Low Volume Manufacturing,
  2. If an action is already periodic, change its frequency: Micro-processor frequency (ever increasing frequency of Pentium chips), pulsed laser cutting
  3. Use pauses between impulses to provide additional action: remove or insert parts in die press during reciprocating die punch motion, perform machine setups during slack periods

to top

20. Continuity of a useful action

  1. Carry out an action continuously (i.e. without pauses), where all parts of an object operate at full capacity: Hydro-electric generators pump water into reservoirs during low electricity consumption periods, use 24/7 operation
  2. Remove idle and intermediate motions: rotary cutters for cutting in any direction, during burn-in or stress screening perform other diagnostic tests g

21. Rushing through

  1. Perform harmful or hazardous operations at very high speed: inoculation "gun" instead of syringe, seal glass ampoules very quickly by using high temperature thus eliminating thermal damage to the contents

22. Convert harm into benefit, "Blessing in disguise"

  1. Utilize harmful factors or environmental effects to obtain a positive effect: friction rotates tire, gas from manure, waste recycling
  2. Remove a harmful factor by combining it with another harmful factor: explosions to put out oil well fires, reduce the drag on airplane wings caused by linear air over the wing by creating a rotating micro-layer of air turbulence between the wing and the linear air flow
  3. Increase the amount of harmful action until it ceases to be harmful: increase vibration to stop resonance, increase the frequency until it becomes inaudible

to top

23. Feedback

  1. Introduce feedback: cursor on computer screen, inspection, Statistical Process Control (SPC)
  2. If feedback already exists, reverse or change it: part inspection: sampling Vs 100% inspection, Stop the manufacturing line if SPC data is unsatisfactory

24. Mediator, intermediary

  1. Use an intermediary object to transfer or carry out an action: chisel plus hammer instead of just using the hammer, primers for paint adhesion, Nickel or Tin coatings on electronic components to facilitate soldering, multi-layer substrates in electronics to achieve high wirability (minimize area)
  2. Temporarily connect an object to another one that is easy to remove: magnet to hold photo onto fridge, air in air mattress, dry ice for cooling

25. Self-service, self-organization

  1. Make the object service itself and carry out supplementary and/or repair operations: boomerang, knife holder that sharpens, use the surface tension of solder to fine tune the positioning of electronic components
  2. Make use of wasted material and energy: use scrap parts for setups, use both sides of paper for writing, use excess heat to cool e.g. evaporation

to top

26. Copying

  1. Use a simple and inexpensive copy instead of an object which is complex, expensive, fragile or inconvenient to operate: mock-ups, printed circuits instead of wired interconnections, modeling, simulations, spread sheets instead of actual counts
  2. Replace an object by its optical copy or image: drawings, computer animation, optical inspection, projection lithography
  3. If visible optical copies are used, replace them with infrared or ultraviolet copies: use ultraviolet markings so they're hidden from human vision, infrared interferometry, X-ray laminography, photoluminescence, polarized light


  1. Inexpensive, short-lived object instead of expensive, durable one Replace an expensive object by a collection of inexpensive ones, forgoing certain properties (e.g. longevity): paper/plastic bags, plastic eye lenses, disposable gloves, slippers, masks, cameras

to top

28. Replacement of a mechanical system with 'fields'

  1. Replace a mechanical system with a sensory (optical, acoustic, taste or smell) system: optical sensors, bar code readers,
  2. Use an electrical, magnetic or electromagnetic field for interaction with the object: solenoid, magnets, eddy current,
  3. Replace fields:
    1. Stationary fields with moving fields: Microwave drying, curing, cleaning
    2. Fixed fields with those changing in time: replace DC with AC, pulse vacuum cleaner suction
    3. Random fields with structured fields: random vibration rock drill with a resonance induced drill
  4. Use a field in conjunction with field-activated (e.g. ferromagnetic) particles: ferromagnetic particles in electrorheological materials for controlling substance stiffness, use of lumiphores

29. Pneumatics or hydraulics:

  1. Use gaseous or fluidic objects instead of solid objects: air bearings, shock absorbers, vacuum pick-and-place, pneumatics

to top

30. Flexible membranes or thin film

  1. Replace traditional constructions with those made from flexible membranes or thin film: beer can, plastic bags, foam for heat of sound insulation, car air bag
  2. Isolate an object from its environment using flexible membranes or thin film: paint, surfactants on ponds to minimize evaporation, tape for holding tape-and-reel electronic components, thin oil films for lubrication

31. Use of porous material

  1. Make an object porous or add porous elements: sintered metal, bricks, air or liquid filters, strainers
  2. If an object is already porous, use pores to induce a useful substance or function: capillaries for suction, heat pipes, photo-mask for etching

32. Changing color or optical properties

  1. Change the color of an object or its surroundings: traffic light, RGB color mixing, polarizing of light
  2. Change the transparency of an object or its environment: X-rays, optical lens coatings,
  3. Use colored additives to observe objects or processes which are difficult to see: Luminescent strips, LEDs, magna fluxes for detection of cracks in steel parts

to top

33. Homogeneity

  1. Make those objects which interact with a primary object out of the same material or material that is close to the primary object in behavior: tooth fillings, allow ice to build up on bridge columns to minimize damage from ice flows, to minimize stress in mechanical assemblies use at high temperatures use components having the same coefficient of thermal expansion

34. Rejection and regeneration, Discarding and recovering

  1. Make portions of an object that have fulfilled their functions disappear (discard, dissolve, evaporate) or modify these directly during operation: digestible medicine capsules, space shuttle booster rockets, skeet shooting disks made from ice that melts
  2. Immediately restore any part of an object which is exhausted or depleted: water in toilette basin, condensation of evaporated refrigeration coolant

to top

35. Transformation of the physical and chemical states of an object, parameter change, changing properties

  1. Change an object's physical state (to solid, gas, or liquid): use ice bergs to transport water, transport feather pillows as a vacuum pack, use dry ice to cool
  2. Change the concentration, consistency, rheology: magnetorheoligal materials, thicksotropic materials like ketchup
  3. Change the degree of flexibility: rod Vs chain VS belt, spring, shock absorber
  4. Change temperature: Change temperature of Curie materials to affect electrical conductivity,
  5. Change pressure: Vacuum deposition, friction welding

36. Phase transformation

  1. Use phenomena that occur during phase transitions of a substance: use boiling water to maintain a constant temperature of 100 deg. C., use evaporation to cool, freeze water to increase its volume

37. Thermal expansion

  1. Use a material which expands or contracts with heat: use heat shrink tubing to hold separate items, thermal compression assembly
  2. Use various materials with different coefficients of heat expansion: fuses, bimetallic on-off heat sensor, leaf spring sensors

to top

38. Use strong oxidizers, enriched atmospheres, accelerated oxidation

  1. Replace normal air with enriched air: breathing apparatus,
  2. Replace enriched air with oxygen: oxy-acetylene torch
  3. Treat an object in air or in oxygen with ionizing radiation:
  4. Use ionized oxygen: anodic arc plasma oxidation
  5. Replace ionized oxygen with ozone: UV-Ozone cleaning

39. Inert environment or atmosphere

  1. Replace the normal environment with an inert one: Use Nitrogen during soldering to minimize oxidation of solder joints, hermetic enclosures, Nitrogen atmospheres material storage, clean rooms, deionized water
  2. Add neutral or inert components to an object: add air to materials for improved thermal insulation, vacuum bonding

40. Composite materials

  1. Replace a homogeneous material with a composite (multiple) material: alloys, fertilizer, plastics with fillers: glass, metal, etc., laminated structures for flexibility, fiber glass, steel belted tires, Si-on-Si, Silicon-on -ceramic

to top

Table 2: Generic Conflicting Parameters

1.Weight of moving object 2.Weight of stationary object 3.Length of moving object 4.Length of stationary object
5.Area of moving object 6.Area of stationary object 7.Volume of moving object 8.Volume of stationary object
9.Speed 10.Force 11.Tension, pressure 12.Shape
13.Stability of object 14.Strength 15.Durability of moving object 16.Durability of stationary object
17.Temperature 18.Brightness 19.Energy spent by moving object 20.Energy spent by stationary object
21.Power 22.Waste of energy 23.Waste of substance 24.Loss of information
25.Waste of time 26.Amount of substance 27.Reliability 28.Accuracy of measurement
29.Accuracy of manufacturing 30.Harmful factors acting on object 31.Harmful side effects 32.Manufacturability
33.Convenience of use 34.Repairability 35.Adaptability 36.Complexity of a system
37.Complexity of control 38.Level of automation 39.Productivity  

to top

Table 3: The Trends of Technological System Evolution


- Technological systems tend toward ever increasing functionality, while reducing their unwanted or not needed functions: The computer has progressed from a computational system to one that is in addition a radio, a fax, a printer, a video projector, while at the same time reducing its cost, size, and weight.


- As technological systems improve, certain sub-systems can't keep up with required performance improvements. This causes conflicts or contradictions. For example, although engines had the capability to produce high speed of racing cars, these speeds were unattainable until the aerodynamic property of the car itself was improved.


- Structures tend to evolve from rigid to hinged to multi-jointed to flexible to hydraulic to pneumatic to field-like(e.g. electro-magnetic) to non-existent structures. An example would be wire printer, inkjet, laser printer, to a non-existent printer, the computer monitor.


- Systems tend to evolve from mono to bi to poly-systems: Examples are razors (1, 2, 3 blades), screwdrivers, one to multi-head.


- To eliminate contradictions systems may fragment and later convolute. Examples: to increase/reduce heat transfer a system may fragment/coalesce.


- Technological systems first take over the primary function, then the control function and ultimately, in the future, the planning function. For instance, the sewing machine performs the primary function of sewing, plus the functions of pattern and thread color selection via computer control.

to top

Copyright, 2003 by Gunter Ladewig. All rights reserved