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TRIZCON 2009 – Day 1

I spent the day at TRIZCON yesterday.  TRIZCON is the annual conference hosted by the Altschulller Institute for TRIZ Studies (AI) which draws an international audience of participants.

After some opening comment by Mansour Ashtiani, the current President of AI, Herbert Roberts of GE Energy gave a presention titled "TRIZ at GE: Edison, Altschuller, and Immagination at Work."  In his talk, Herbert explained the role innovation plays in GE, and how systematic innovation was finding a home within the organization.  Herbert discussed both the benefits of the structured innovation technique as well as the challenges to organizational adoption at GE.

After Herbert’s presentation, there was a surprise presention by Jeff Jensen of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR).  Jeff’s discussed in detail the evolution of PWR’s innovation and business development system.  He described PWR’s view of innovation as being something that needed to produce a tangible result in the form of revenue to be consider a successful innovation.  It was a refreshingly candid presentation on how a major corporation was coping with the challenges of transforming itself while growing its revenue generation capabilities.

There was also a panel discussion on "The Future of TRIZ".  The panel was loaded with some heavy weight experts from the international TRIZ community including: Ellen Domb, Isak Buhkman, Alla Zusman, Noel Leon, Zinovy Royzen, Sergei Ikovenko, Prof. Chechurin from St. Petersburg, and me.  Moderated by Mansour Ashtiani, the panel consider several key questions.

  • What is the state of TRIZ adoption?
  • What are the successes and drivers of TRIZ?
  • What are the barriers to TRIZ adoption?
  • What role does software play in TRIZ adoption?
  • What should the Altschuller Institute be doing to drive greater TRIZ adoption?

While I don’t have notes on all that was said, here are a couple of the key points I raised.

In assessing the state of TRIZ adoption, I took a more somber view than some of the panelists.  I suggested that TRIZ adoption should be rated as poor.  That was based on the fact that current practice of TRIZ is estimate as only reaching 1% of the global engineering population.

On the issue of barriers to adoption, I took the position that today’s climate represents a terrific opportunity for TRIZ as companies are pressured to drive new business opportunities through innovation.  However, we are at a crossroads, and there are other methods that people consider as surrogates for structured innovation. There was a very lively discussion about the strategies to change this.  I proposed that the TRIZ community need to look introspectively and apply TRIZ principles (such as segmentation and coordination) to align TRIZ teaching and practice more directly with the job that users go to TRIZ for.  In essence, we need to treat TRIZ as a disruptive technology in the Christensen model and find the pocket of opportunity from which it can supplant incumbent non-structured models of practice.

Ellen Domb suggest that the TRIZ community needed to get a little humble and find better ways to integrate and align itself with other communities of practice.  I have always liked the way Ellen thinks, and she was in great form on the panel.

After the panel, there some very good papers presented. I didn’t get to all of them, as there were loads of side meeting that I got pulled into.  (I don’t get to west coast as often as I like or should, so when I do my dance card fills up.)  But here are a few of the ones that I did catch.

Noel Leon-Rovira from the Monterey Institute of Technology always seems to come up with great case studies.  He did it again with an interesting paper on the design of a hybrid vehicle that uses solar-thermal technology.

Toru Nakagawa gave a report on his work with USIT in Japan.  Nakagawa-san is one of the most influential TRIZ advocates in Japan.

Jean-Marc LeLann talked about the use of TRIZ inventive principles to resolve problems in systems that contain multiple contradictions.

My friend, Jim Belfiore, wrapped up the afternoon with a provocative paper on a non-tradition application of TRIZ—driving basic research using TRIZ to identify key conceptual questions to be analyzed.

The quality of the presentations was high.  The evening culminated in a convivial dinner. 

All in all, it was a good day with lots of discussion and thinking about problem solving and innovation, and networking with some of the best minds in the TRIZ community.