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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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    Last Updated on January 2, 2020

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

    Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

    But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

    Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

    Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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    Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

    It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

    They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

    To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

    2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

    Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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    Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

    3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

    Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

    Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

    4. Be Who You Are

    It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

    You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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    You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

    Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

    5. Slow Down and Let Go

    Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

    Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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    So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

    When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

    The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

    Final Thoughts

    What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

    To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

    If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

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    Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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