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Here is another toolkit that you need to have in your innovation tool bag. It could be worth millions! TRIZ ( teoriya resheniya izobretatelskikh zadach) is a Russian acronym for the Russian Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. 

 TRIZ first emerged from the former Soviet Union in the 1990’s. TRIZ is “a problem-solving, analysis and forecasting tool derived from the study of patterns of invention in the global patent literature”. It was developed by the Soviet inventor and science-fiction author Genrich Altshuller (1926-1998) and his colleagues, beginning in 1946. [ref. 1] 

 I had the good fortune of learning about TRIZ personally from Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman, the Grandmasters of TRIZ. 

 TRIZ is a set of tools for directing creative thinking based upon the study of patents. It provides a systematic structured approach for solving complex technical problems and developing creative patentable solutions. 

 So instead of just right brain, ad hoc inspirational thinking to develop creative solutions now, we have a structured approach to Breakthrough Thinking. [ref. 3] 

 During World War II, Generich Altshuller, a science-fiction writer, was assigned the task of filing and cataloguing the Russian Patents. During his free time, Altshuller got intrigued by these patents, started reading them and analyzing them for patterns. He analyzed nearly 40,000 patents, recognized many repetitive patterns and started classifying them and writing about it. Over time he developed his theory of Inventive Problem Solving and started teaching and sharing his ideas with the Russian scientific and engineering community. The movement grew and over time, Altshuller had developed a following of several thousand TRIZ practitioners in communist Russia. Over time he identified several of the “best” practitioners and contributors to TRIZ as Masters and Grandmasters of TRIZ. [ref. 2]

By studying over 40,000 patents Altshuller classified inventions(patents)  into 5 Levels, from easiest to hardest. [ref. 4]


  1. Routine design problems solved by methods well known within the specialty. Usually no invention needed.
  2. Minor improvements to an existing system using methods known within the industry.
  3. Fundamental improvement to an existing system using methods known outside the industry.
  4. A new generation of a system that entails a new principle for performing the system’s primary functions. Solutions are found more often in science than technology.
  5. A rare scientific discovery or pioneering invention of an essentially a new system, e.g. Gramophone,  solid state transistor, microchip, Teflon, PVC.

Level-1 problems are solved using standard well known methods. Level-5 problems require a major new scientific discovery.  TRIZ is used for solving Level-2 to Level-4 problems.

In simple form, TRIZ goes through five basic steps. 

Step 1: DEFINE the Problem.

Step 2: Identify what an IDEAL solution looks like. 

Step 3: List system RESOURCES

Step 4: Identify the CONTRADICTION

Step 5: RESOLVE the Contradiction. 

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