Invented and originally structured by a patent examiner for the Russian Navy, Genrich Altshuller, TRIZ (Russian acronym, for “Theory of Solving Problem Solving”) competes with tools such as brainstorming, Six Hats and Lateral Thinking, and many other psychologically based inventive techniques.
Why is this? First of all, group problem solving and psychologically based techniques are inherently limited by the experiences and knowledge of the problem solvers. No amount of stimulation of any sort can create knowledge that is not there in the first place.
The genius of Altshuller and his successors was to recognize that the place to look for the basics of invention and new ideas was not in the brains of inventors, but where the inventions were collected and recognized — the patent office. As a patent examiner, he saw thousands of disclosures and granted patents come through his office from a broad range of technical fields and his genius was to recognize that, when the inventions were generalized, there were only a limited number of inventive principles being used.
Altshuller categorized these inventive principles in several retrievable forms, including a contradiction table, 40 Inventive Principles, and 76 Standard Solutions. The advent of modern computers has allowed these tools to be stored and used in use friendly formats. What he invented was a “left brained” creativity and innovation tool that used inventive principles from all fields of science and technology — as if one had invited all of the world’s inventors into the brainstorming session with a group.