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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Invent Strong - A Framework (abstract, introduction and conclusions a conference paper)

How to Invent Strong - A Framework

(**** introduction to a paper that I am writing for a conference ****)

Abstract: One of the most important outputs of human mind has been continuous stream of inventions over many eras of civilization. However, human mind has been inventing using what is called “trial and error” methods on its evolutionary journey. As our world becomes more complex, inventing through trial and error is unsustainable. Theory of Inventive problem solving (TRIZ in Russian acronym) has been developed through analysis of patents describing the logic of inventions. It categorized the inventions into five increasing levels of inventiveness based on sources of solutions and the quantum of change they created compared to existing systems.  In this paper, we describe set of tools for thinking to invent strong, i.e., to invent at level 3 and above of TRIZ five levels. Thinking about new operating principles to deliver the functions, making the existing systems closer to an ideal system and resolving deeply embedded conflict in the system called physical contradiction are the key elements from TRIZ that we have included in the framework for invent strong. Three real case studies- for cracking of hydrocarbons, improving the digestive abilities of the cattle and choosing the stronger paths using Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) to invent – are described to give a flavor of how the invent strong framework can be applied. We propose using TRIZ for inventing strong is essential need of the world as it becomes more complex and requires stronger innovative solutions quickly. The human mind has to quickly learn to adapt to inventing strong. The how to invent strong framework described in this paper with its associated tools has proven to be an effective method to generate novel solutions and can be utilized for application in multiple fields. 

1.    Introduction
For the purpose of this paper we define an invention to be a new and non-obvious technical solution to a problem. The concept of a generalized “system” is central to the technical solution. The textbook definition of a system is a set of elements interacting together to perform a function or achieve an objective. The technical solution typically results either in creation of a completely new system to deliver the function, change in the operating principle of the existing system to achieve the system functions, change in the structure of the existing system or subsystems, change in a subset of system or subsystem parameters, or just a simple addition of more functions to the existing system functions.  Many times the solution depends upon the problem itself or the focus of the “inventor” on the specific part of the system or subsystem.
“Trial and error” to solve problems or to invent new solutions has been the standard approach humanity has used to solve problems throughout its evolutionary journey. As the set of problems encountered change, the skill, knowledge and experiences gained in solving problems in previous contexts are not of much use. The inventor has to do both - learn the new context and resort to trial and error again. Typically, he tries to force-fit the previous solutions to the new problems - a rather inefficient, time consuming and random process. To change this trial and error process into a systematic method and to find a better way of inventing strong solutions had not seen much focus, until Altshuller, a young engineer, in erstwhile USSR after second world war, started exploring the patent data of many inventions and formulated a general theory of inventive problem solving, now known by the Russian acronym TRIZ.  
TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) classifies inventions into five novelty levels (For example see [1]). Figure 1 summarizes the 5 levels of inventions. At level 1 are inventions that are slight modifications of the existing systems on one parameter, for example, more reliability. Typically these are localized within a single sub-system. At level 2 are those inventions that resolve a system conflict or contradiction (called a technical contradiction between two parameters of a system), using usually inventive solutions or inventive principles used to solve similar problems in other systems. This is what resulted in the most used TRIZ tool of contradiction matrix and 40 inventive principles. In fact, since 77% of inventions were at level 1 or level 2, TRIZ in popular press and by many consultants/trainers have been reduced to exploring and explaining contradiction matrix and 40 inventive principles. 
Figure 1: 5 Levels of Inventions based on TRIZ
However, it is with deeper understanding that leads to level 3 and above inventions, TRIZ can be very powerful. At level 3, the inventions change one subsystem or resolve the system conflicts in a fundamental way. TRIZ found that about 19% inventions were at level 3. At level 4, the invention gives birth to new systems using interdisciplinary approaches. Less than 4% inventions were found to be at this level. The level 5 inventions are closer to a recently discovered scientific phenomenon. They start a new engineering discipline and have long range impact on the technological development of human race. For example, [2] considers, agriculture, money, hammer, wheel, pump, lasers, etc, as level 5 inventions.
Recently, a new tool to quantify the levels and estimate the life of an invention using the level of inventiveness as described by TRIZ, has been developed [3]. Based on the change created in the new invention compared to existing or previous version of the system (usually called “prior art” in the patent related literature), a change score is computed. The weighted sum of all proposed changes in the invention is used to estimate the level of invention and map it to 5 levels defined in TRIZ.
In this paper, we describe a framework to invent strong along with three real life case studies. In Section 2, we describe the key pointers based on quantification of levels of inventions and laws of system evolution to indicate thinking paths to increase the strength of inventions. Section 3 describes couple of case studies to indicate the usage of the methodology. Section 4 concludes the paper with pointers for further applications.


.      Conclusions
Human minds have been solving problems for inventing new solutions using trial and error. Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) developed after analysis of large number of patents, offers a radical change to the random trial and error. The theory classifies the inventions in five different levels of increasingly strong inventiveness. Using the levels of inventions and associated thinking tools of TRIZ, this paper provides a framework for invent strong. Three real life cases are described where we applied this framework to help identify and explore new paths. The key message of the case studies is that in the absence of TRIZ inputs, the inventors using the trial and error would have continued to remain at level 1 or level 2 - a mere improvement.  Further, as part of this framework, we describe a new methodology that uses the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) on three criteria of Novelty, Feasibility and Business Potential to map 7 laws of system evolution for higher and stronger inventions. The overall framework helps us invent strong in a more efficient manner. We propose TRIZ based framework described here should be used not only to invent strong but also to solve complex global problems.


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