Tuesday, September 23, 2003

TRIZ - Russian patterns for technology problem solving

A Higher Plane of Problem-Solving
Can the theories of a onetime enemy of Stalin solve your company's most vexing technological challenges? A cult of business consultants swears that they can.
By Andy Raskin, Business 2.0, June 2003

"In a 1948 letter addressed "Personally to Comrade Stalin," Genrich Altshuller, a 22-year-old lieutenant in the Caspian Sea Military Navy, argued that the Soviet Union's approach to technology was chaotic and ignorant. A prodigious inventor (by the 10th grade, he had patented an underwater diving apparatus and built a rocket-propelled boat), Altshuller wrote that he had devised a systematic approach by which any technical problem could be solved. A little over a year later, Soviet officials invited him to discuss his ideas in Tbilisi, Georgia; upon arrival, he was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in the gulag."

Technologists should check out TRIZ, a Russian acronym for "theory of inventive problem-solving." The picture above represents a problem in thermodynamics where a solution is looked for in mechanical effects. Just as the drunk looks for lost keys under the street lamp, the expert looks for the solution in his or her area of expertise, when the real breakthrough technology might be found elsewhere.

Substitute radiation therapy for thermo-dynamics, pharmaceuticals for chemical effects, and surgery for mechanical effects and you have a picture of the field of medicine. Major future breakthroughs will occur in electromagnetic devices and psychologic inertia will prevent current players from capturing the benefits of new technologies.


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