TRIZ (pronounced something like "trees") is a methodology which aids in the surmounting of seemingly insurmountable engineering problems, with regards to a design or concept. Conceptualised by Russian Genrich S. Altshuller (1926-1998) and published in 1956, it is the culmination of many years' research and examination of over 200,000 patents that has been found to truly aid innovation. Through his research, Altshuller identified several common traits that existed across these patents. Distilled from these are Altshuller's "40 Principles" of conflict resolution with regards to engineering issues, based on the theory that, at the heart of the issue, one of the 40 principles is the key to finding the solution.

So how does one determine which principle to follow? When charted on a grid, associated with common, objective characteristics, Altshuller's 40 Principles become his "TRIZ contradiction matrix". Using this matrix, engineers determine two characteristics for which conflict is making itself known; contained in the spot on the grid where both characteristics reside is the principle which should be examined by the engineers, to find a solution. Using an example from Andy Raskin's June 2003 article, "A Higher Plane of Problem-Solving", if a team of engineers is having a problem finding the trade-off between speed versus shape, using the matrix, they will find that the appropriate principle to apply to this problem is that of property transformation. From there, using this principle as a basis, engineers can work on alternate solutions that adhere to this concept. While the matrix does not give an outright solution, it gives the participants an idea as to where they might look for one.

Though not very well known in the "west", Alshuller's Matrix has been used in former Soviet regions for years. Even here, however, it did not achieve widespread usage until Stalin's death in 1953 and Altshuller's subsequent release from Soviet gulags. This said, it has been used in recent years by many a well-known company, including Ford Motor, Hewlett-Packard and Dow Chemical to help solve difficult engineering issues each has encountered.

Altshuller's logical arrangement of his principles has been shown to be a formidable method of focusing creative energies and fostering engineering solutions; today TRIZ organisations and shops have been springing up in many places around the world. Perhaps the most well-known is the Altshuller Institute, found on the internet at Interested readers, engineers or not, can go there to find out more about the intricacies of TRIZ. Another good website, which lists his 40 Principles, complete with tangible examples of solutions, can be found at

Works Referenced:
  • "A Higher Plane of Problem-Solving", Andy Raskin. Business 2.0, June 2003
  • Technical Innovation Center webpage:
  • "Genrich Saulovich Altshuller" (biography):

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