TRIZ is a creative thinking exercise that was developed for the engineering field. It was developed by the Soviet inventor and science fiction author Genrich Altshuller and his colleagues in the 1940s. In English, TRIZ is typically translated as “the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving.” The full TRIZ process includes many problem-solving strategies, but a simplified version of the approach lends itself to improvement work.
When to Use TRIZ
TRIZ can help an improvement team think creatively about how to solve a problem or improve a complex process by thinking about the opposite of the desired result. TRIZ encourages participants to think outside the usual solutions by envisioning what would be the perfect system to prevent the desired result from occurring. By focusing on how to ensure that the opposite occurs, characteristics that may be preventing the desired result from happening are more easily identified and can then be addressed. As a structured creativity exercise, TRIZ works best in a small group (5-8 participants), but can be used in larger groups by applying the technique in several small groups working in parallel and then bringing pairs or trios of groups together to share and integrate their insights.
How to Use TRIZ
Step 1. Think of a difficult and complex problem that the team needs to solve or a complex process to improve. Examples of such can be found on the TRIZ website.
Step 2. Describe as many of the key elements of the desired result or outcome of improving that process/solving the problem. Be as specific as possible.
Step 3. Design a comprehensive system that makes it absolutely impossible to get that result. What policies, practices, and ways of operating would make it 100% certain that there is no way any of the desired results can happen. List the key elements of the perfect system to prevent the desired result from occurring.
Step 4. Compare the list to the current situation to identify what aspects of the system are actually in place now.
Step 5. For each element of the “perfect system to prevent the desired outcome” that is similar to the current situation, identify what it would take to eliminate the similarities. Use these insights to design specific changes to make in the current process/system.
More techniques like TRIZ can be found in the resource guide, Engaging Everyone with Liberating Structures Handbook.