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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 September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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