Inventing Something New Using TRIZ Tools

By Lilly Haines-Gadd

The chance to invent something new is quite a rare opportunity for most people. Triz can help. When you invent, you can either work ‘top down’, starting with capturing all needs and then finding ways to deliver them, or ‘bottom up’, starting with an existing system and improving it.

Start by mapping out all the requirements that you want to deliver by completing the Ideal Outcome. This stretches your thinking to consider all benefits and encourages you to uncover previously unarticulated benefits. It’s worth talking directly to your customers if possible, or marketing and sales staff and anyone else in your organisation who has contact with them, to uncover all the things they’d want in an ideal world.

It’s useful then to define the Ideality of the system that you want to deliver – thinking of the levels of costs (such as design and development time) and harms (such as risk) that you’re willing to tolerate.

To develop new solutions from the top down, take each benefit and identify what functions could deliver it. You start thinking of an ‘X-Factor’ that delivers the functions you need and can systematically look to use existing resources or accessing the Effects Database. As soon as you have a range of solutions, you can work out how to put them together to create a practical system.

If you want to invent an alarm clock that wakes up only one person, without disturbing anyone else, you can identify a number of functions that could deliver this other than sound; for example your X-factor will deliver vibration, temperature change, electric shock or light and so on. You then identify different solutions that could deliver these functions; for example, a mat under the pillow, sleep mask and so on.

To develop new inventions from the bottom up, take an existing system and apply the Trends of Technical Evolution. These will suggest the routes forward that existing technical systems are likely to take – so you can start with existing products and develop the next generation directly from that starting point.

Pick two or three existing alarm clocks and identify where they lie on the Trends. It’s a good idea to start with different systems, such as a travel alarm clock, traditional alarm clock and an alarm function on a phone. The Trends will predict a number of future directions for each of these systems, and you will quickly generate a large number of new ideas. The next step is to group these by concept and start to bring them together to form a new solution – and potentially a range of solutions – both immediate solutions and longer-term solutions that require more development.

Ensure you:

  • Complete an Ideal Outcome

  • Define the Ideality of the system you want to create

  • Choose a route:

    • Find solutions by thinking benefits, functions and solutions (X-Factor, Effects Database, Creativity Tools)

    • Apply the Trends

  • Group ideas by concept and combine