[This post is part of a series on creativity. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Altshuller called his ideas the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, or that’s what the Russian gets translated to, which is generally called TRIZ. People pronounce it to rhyme with ease or is.
As best I can tell, the ideas have been taken up in technical and scientific circles more than any place else. He came from technical realms and his analytical style lent itself to their style of thinking and problem solving.
I learned the techniques in business school, and they worked great applied to product development and devising new marketing plans. Of course, Jacob had modified Altshuller’s ideas to suit business. I should mention, Jacob, like me, got a PhD in physics before switching to business.
One of my first applications outside of school was consulting to a composer of contemporary classical music. He had been stagnating — able to compose, but everyone said his new compositions, however different he tried to make them, sounded like each other. He needed new ideas. I reviewed just one of the templates with him and he went wild with new ideas. I don’t even know music, but I know how to apply the techniques and he knew music. Together I showed him how to recombine the elements of his music and he interpreted what I said to make sense as a composer.
The last I had asked him about it, he said he was still developing the ideas from that session six months later. More importantly, he continued to think differently about how to create more music.
I mention the successful applications to music and business because I see a big disconnect between TRIZ practitioners and supporters and non-technical communities, particularly business and art. Check out a few pages from people promoting TRIZ:
- The main page of the Altshuller foundation
- The Altshuller foundation’s page on the 40 principles
- The TRIZ Journal’s page on What is TRIZ
- An organization called TRIZ40
- TRIZsite — the ultimate site for TRIZ lovers
They may be informative and helpful, but I don’t see how anyone could call them welcoming to artists or business people. Yet these worlds crave innovation and creativity. The business world, in particular, pays for creativity, which you’d think would motivate the translation of this material to business-friendly language.
Jacob’s book is a step in the right direction, and his class was extraordinarily well received by our class — some people called it the best class they took in business school, others remarked how most classes could be taken anywhere, but to learn to be more creative… that set Columbia apart — but he is primarily an academic and writes for that audience.
Jacob also told me publishers approached him to create a more business-friendly version of his book. Actually, he told me this after I suggested myself working on that book. So maybe I’ll work on it, or maybe I’ll contact a publisher or be contacted by a publisher or agent to do it.
In the meantime, since I’m teaching at Parsons now, I’m proposing a class on systematic creativity for designers and artists there that includes this material. I’m sure such classes have been done before. We’ll see how the proposal is received. Maybe it will lead to a course and a book.
Sorry to keep talking about history and anecdote. I’ll get to some of the principles next time.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees