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Creativity Hack: Use TRIZ to Solve Problems and Generate Ideas

Creativity Hack: Use TRIZ to Solve Problems and Generate Ideas
    The toolbox known as TRIZ

    TRIZ — the Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving — is a toolbox of techniques for solving problems and generating ideas. It was created in the 1950s by a Soviet naval patent clerk named Genrich Altschuller.

    Altschuller believed that it was possible for people to learn to become inventors. He studied hundreds of thousands of patents and found that there are only about 1,500 basic problems to be solved. In addition, all of these problems can be solved by applying one or more of 40 universal principles.

    Although TRIZ was originally developed in order to help engineers to solve technical problems and create new products, it can be applied to many different areas, such as education, the law, public policy, your small business, and so on. You can use TRIZ in order to solve problems as varied as the following:

    • How can I increase my income?
    • How can I get more blog subscribers?
    • How can I sell more eBooks?
    • How can I improve this product?
    • How can I provide better service for my clients in order to encourage more word of mouth?
    • How can I generate ideas for blog posts, NaNoWriMo, a photography contest, a college art class, and so on?

    When most people have a problem that they need to solve, they use a random approach in order to generate a solution. That is, they sit down and they try to think hard. Although eventually they’ll come up with a solution by using this method, it usually takes a long time. In addition, the solution they come up with is often not particularly creative. A much better approach is to systematically apply the TRIZ principles and begin generating ideas right away. Once you’ve generated several ideas by using TRIZ, you can evaluate them and choose the best one.

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    This article explains and gives examples of the first three TRIZ principles, which are the following:

    • Segmentation
    • Taking Out
    • Local Quality

    You can find out more about each of these TRIZ principles below.

    First TRIZ Principle – Segmentation

    Segmentation is looking at your problem and fragmenting it. It’s about solving a problem by transitioning it to the micro level, or by dividing it into its smallest pieces. The three techniques that you can use in segmentation are the following:

    • Divide an object, or break it down, into independent parts.
    • Make an object easy to disassemble.
    • Increase the degree of fragmentation or segmentation.

    Here are some examples:

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    • Break down furniture into modular components so that it can be configured based on the customer’s needs. More pieces can be added when the customer can afford them, or when their needs change and they need more storage.
    • Quick disconnect joints in plumbing.
    • Break a large project down into smaller tasks.

    In addition, segmentation is often used in marketing. As an example, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” is a book published in the 1990s which contains inspirational stories and motivational essays. It became a huge success and sold millions of copies. The authors – Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen – asked themselves how they could sell even more books.

    They proceeded to launch an entire “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. Each book in the series applies the same concept as the original book, but each one is directed at different segments of the population and different life circumstances. They’ve already published over 200 titles under the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” umbrella.

    As another example, suppose that you want to start a blog and you’re trying to decide on a niche. You know that the topics that people are most interested in are the following:

    1. Health
    2. Money and Status
    3. Relationships

    Look at each of these topics and ask yourself how it can be segmented. A segment of “Relationships” could be “how to have a strong marriage”. A segment of “how to have a strong marriage” could be “have a strong marriage if you have a blended family”. Continue segmenting until you find a topic that interests you, that has a large enough audience to make it worthwhile, and that isn’t already saturated.

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    Second TRIZ Principle – Taking Out

    The second TRIZ principle is “taking out” or “extraction”. The basic question that you ask yourself with this principle is the following: Is there something that I can take out of this product, service, or situation, in order to increase the good and minimize the bad? There are two basic ideas behind this principle:

    1. Take out or separate an interfering part of a product or service.
    2. Single out the only necessary part (or property) of a product or service.

    Here are four basic examples of this TRIZ principle:

    • Identify how you’re spending your time in your business, pinpoint those activities which are not at the core of your business and which are using up a lot of your time, and consider outsourcing those activities. That is, take those activities out of your business.
    • Air conditioning companies took the noisy compressor out of the air conditioning system so that it could be placed outside of the building, thereby reducing the noise level inside the building.
    • Take out the sound of a barking dog and implement it into a burglar alarm.
    • Franchises are popular because they take out most of the risk and guess work from starting a business. If you open up a McDonald’s you already know that it’s a business model that works, you’re given a marketing plan, you’re given a training manual for your employees, and so on.

    There are a lot of business opportunities for those who can extract the key ideas from complicated concepts and make them easier for others to understand and to apply.

    Third TRIZ Principle – Local Quality

    The principle of local quality is about changing an object’s structure or external environment from a uniform to a non-uniform state. It’s about modifying or enhancing your product so that it matches the environment in which it’s going to be used. For example, fast food establishments will often adapt their menus to meet the needs and wants of customers in different countries.

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    A second example is cell phone skins. With these skins, each person can adapt the look of their cell phone to match their own personal taste. This makes the product more appealing.

    Another example of local quality is related to purifying water in developing nations. The cost of sewage treatment and water treatment plants is out of reach for these countries. Therefore, the solution was not to create an expensive water treatment plant, but to create a small water filter —- called the Life Straw — to be used by each person to filter the water they’re about to drink. A large problem was solved by making it local: it was solved at the level of each individual.

    As a fourth illustration, suppose that you’re a blogger and you write what you consider to be high quality blog posts. You’re convinced that if a high profile blog would link to one of your blog posts it would go viral and you would get your name on the map. Instead of randomly sending out emails to the largest blogs that you can find, think local. That is, identify which blog is most likely to be interested in the topic that you write about. Then, find out which editor from that blog would be most likely to resonate with your writing style and viewpoint. Lastly, target that particular person.

    This last example of local quality is for job hunters. Instead of sending out generic resumes, tailor each resume to each particular company and job description.  In addition, prepare for job interviews by researching the company that you’re interviewing with, so that you can make sure that your answers during the interview are relevant to that company. It’s even better if you can find out who will be interviewing you, and you can find some information about them; for example, where they went to school, if they have any hobbies, articles they’ve published, and so on.

    Conclusion

    The three TRIZ principles explained in this article can help you start generating ideas right away. In addition, there are thirty-seven more TRIZ principles, so there’s a very high likelihood that one of them can help you regardless of what your problem might be. Had you heard of TRIZ before? If so, please share your experience with TRIZ in the comments section below.

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    Marelisa Fabrega

    Marelisa is a lawyer and entrepreneur who blogs about creativity, productivity, and getting the most out of life.

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    Published on July 15, 2019

    10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

    10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

    Habits are an important part of the direction you take your life, and — as I’ll share with you shortly — there are certain daily habits you can adopt right away that are guaranteed to improve your life.

    Think back to when you were just six or seven years old…

    At that age you probably didn’t have many habits. But, as the years went by, you picked up more and more good and bad habits.

    You may not have thought about it before, but habit forming never really stops.

    That’s why it’s never too late to change your habits and transform your life.

    So, if you feel burdened by your bad habits, start kicking them into shape by replacing them with these 10 positive, life-changing strategies:

    1. Go to Bed a Little Earlier and Wake up Earlier 

    Starting tonight, get yourself to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. And, then make sure you get up tomorrow morning 30 minutes earlier, too. This small change can have a BIG impact on your day. 

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    Instead of furiously rushing in the morning to get ready for work, the extra time will give you a golden opportunity to start your day off on the right note. You can drink a smoothie while sitting on your porch, spend 10 minutes exercising and stretching, and still have time to read a few pages of an inspiring book.

    2. Be Grateful for the Good Things in Your Life 

    Setbacks and obstacles are inevitable in life. But, with a positive mindset, you’ll be able to overcome most of these. And, when you do, you’ll boost your self-confidence. 

    This is something you can definitely be grateful for. 

    However, if worst-case scenarios are playing out in your life, then sometimes, to stay strong, you’ll need to keep your mind on the good things that are happening to you. For example, your relationship with your partner might be crumbling, but your career is continuously getting stronger. It’d be easy to feel downtrodden and miserable about your relationship problems —  but, it would be much healthier to keep your mind and gratitude on these things that are going well, such as your career.

    3. Drink Water All Day Every Day 

    I’m sure you’ve heard the advice of drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, but are you following that advice? If not, you’re robbing your body and mind of essential hydration. 

    With the right amount of water intake a day, you’ll be amazed how good you feel — and how good you look!

    4. Take 15 Minutes to Set Goals for the Day, and Then Tackle Them One by One 

    This strategy will put your life into a new stratosphere! And, it’s very simple to do. 

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    Simply spend 15 minutes in the morning (either at home or at work) planning what you need and want to achieve during the rest of the day. Once you’ve listed your tasks, the next step is to put them into order of priority. 

    For instance, you have three things to do: catch up with your emails, write a project update, and prepare a briefing for your CEO. It’s best if you put these in order of importance. In this example, your emails can probably wait until you’ve created your CEO brief and updated your project documentation.

    5. Turn Off Your Cell Phone (or Put it on Airplane Mode) When You’re Focusing 

    A 2012 study found that even looking at a cell phone or feeling it vibrate in your pocket can significantly distract focus and reduce your ability to complete complex tasks.[1]

    It’s no surprise really, as our thoughts are subconsciously drawn towards checking our phones when they’re switched on. It’s a bad habit — but one that most of us have. However, when you need 100% focus (like I do when writing my articles), then switching your phone off, or at least putting it into airplane mode, will free your mind and supercharge your focus. Try it and see!

    6. Walk as Much as You Can 

    Have you noticed that most people’s lives are sedentary? They drive to work, sit in front of a screen all day, then drive home and binge on the latest Netflix series. It’s no wonder there’s a growing epidemic of obesity and mental health issues. 

    Our bodies are made to move — so we should move them! This can be as simple as walking up the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator, and going out for a walk around the block at lunchtime. In the evening, instead of arriving home and crashing on the sofa; spend 20 to 30 minutes walking around your block.

    When you make these things a habit, you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel. You’ll have less stress — and more energy.

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    7. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

    How often do you stop, think and appreciate the “here and now”? I’m guessing not very often. But, I understand why. Modern life is demanding and fast-paced. There’s precious little time to appreciate the small things. 

    But, if you want to live a healthy and happy life, you must break out of this trap. You can do this by allocating 15 to 30 minutes each day for mindful meditation. This could be in a park, in your garden, or even in your lounge. The trick is to focus 100% on your surroundings. 

    For example, if you’re outside, watch how the leaves on the trees blow around in the wind. By keeping your focus on this movement, you’ll clear your mind from your usual stresses and strains. This will give you brain a much-needed break. And, as well as improving your mental health; you’ll find your creativity gets a boost, too.

    8. Ask for Help When You Need It 

    No one can know or do everything. Which is why you shouldn’t be embarrassed to delegate tasks to others when needed, ask questions when you don’t have the answers, and work with partners and colleagues to clarify intentions. 

    When I first set up Lifehack, I tried to do everything myself: blog writing, website creation, marketing, financial planning, etc. However, I quickly learned that it was much better to hire some help. Not only did this inject some fresh ideas and inspiration into Lifehack — it also made the whole operation way more enjoyable!

    9. Practice Self Care 

    Are you looking after yourself as well as you should? If not, then take steps to improve your diet, exercise more, and to speak to yourself with encouraging words and thoughts. 

    The latter suggestion is often overlooked. But how you speak to yourself determines how you feel, what you believe, and what you achieve.

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    10. Embrace Learning 

    You cannot transform your life without learning something new. That’s because the process of change forces you to adapt. But, many people stop learning as they get older, as they find the learning process boring and bothersome. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be fun and rewarding. 

    Whether you decide to learn to play guitar or study the basics of accounting — embrace learning, and begin changing your world for the better.

    I’m sure you’ll agree that these 10 strategies are simple enough for you to start putting them into action in your life. (I suggest you begin today!) 

    Nevertheless, you’ll probably need to use some extra willpower for the first 30 days or so, as this is the typical length of time it takes to create a new habit. After that, these strategies will be part of your day-to-day life, and you won’t need to think about having to do them. In other words, they’ll have become habitual actions.

    If you need any further encouragement to get started with the 10 strategies, then consider this:

    Even just adopting one of the strategies can turn the tide in your favor. But, when you implement all 10, you’ll create an unstoppable trend towards success, health and happiness.

    So start making your life better — today!

    Featured photo credit: Javier Garcia via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Deborah R. Tindell and Robert W. Bohlander, Wilkes University: The Use and Abuse of Cell Phones and Text Messaging in the Classroom: A Survey of College Students

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