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Book Review: "Directed Evolution: Philosophy, Theory and Practice."

Book Review: “Directed Evolution: Philosophy, Theory and Practice.”

| On 26, May 2001

Reviewed by Ellen Domb,
Title: “Directed Evolution: Philosophy, Theory and Practice.”
Authors: Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman, edited by Victoria Roza
Details: 103 pages, some in color. Soft cover. US$70.
Published by Ideation International Inc.,

Alla Zusman and Boris Zlotin introduced their new book, Directed Evolution: Philosophy, Theory, and Practice, at TRIZCON2001, the March meeting of the Altshuller Institute. This book makes many of the concepts of directed evolution as taught by Zusman and Zlotin available for the first time to those who have not been able to attend the TRIZCON tutorials. Many of the concepts which were introduced conceptually in 1999 in their book TRIZ in Progress are presented in more didactic fashion here. The reader will need TRIZ in Progress to make effective use of Directed Evolution, since many of the assumptions and postulates that are used are listed in detail in the earlier book and not repeated here.

“Directed Evolution” is the name that Zlotin and Zusman have chosen for their extension of the TRIZ technology forecasting methodology, and it encompasses both the theory and the application of the theory to understanding the path by which any particular technology has developed to its present state, and the choices that can be made for the future path of that technology. The work presented in this book is based on nine completed full-scale projects, several “express” projects, and others that are underway.

The model of Alvin Toffler’s book The Third Wave, is used to view human history in terms of agricultural, industrial, and informational “waves” of civilization. Transitions between waves are diffuse, with characteristics of the predecessor and future waves intermingled. A basic premise of Directed Evolution is that many decisions have to be made to manage or control paths of technology evolution, and that in the present (third) wave, the necessary information for making those decisions is frequently lacking. In the past, creativity has been the act of making good decisions in the absence of complete information. Certain gifted individuals in business, the arts, and sciences, were seen as creative, since they frequently made good decisions based on their intuitive understanding of the situation. TRIZ provides the structure for creativity based on the knowledge of the patterns of evolution, and enhances everyone’s ability to contribute to creative progress.

The five stages of directed evolution are

Collection of historical data
Directed evolution diagnostics (which includes comparison of the historical data to the patterns and lines of evolution, developing the lines for this situation, finding missing steps and extrapolating to future steps.)
Synthesis of ideas
Decision making
Supporting the process evolution
Steps and sub-steps for each stage are explained. Although many of the Ideation International software tools are mentioned in the descriptions of the work of each stage, Directed Evolution shows how each concept can be applied without software. The explanation of the problem formulation method, for example, which is used in Stage 1 of directed evolution, is presented in Appendix 3. The Problem Formulator™ is a key part of Ideation’s software system, used in the Workbench, Anticipatory Failure Determination, Knowledge Wizard, and other products. This explanation generously makes it possible for anyone to use the formulator method with or without the software (although the software certainly makes it faster!)

Part one concludes with a section on teaching directed evolution to children, adults, and professional users, in which the authors claim (without showing the analysis) that directed evolution will become a widespread science and a key element in the advancement of human knowledge. These claims would be far more persuasive if the analysis and the data were presented as well.

Part 2 presents the patterns and lines of evolution, general methodologies for using the patterns, and specific methods for some of the patterns and lines of evolution. This material had previously appeared in Ideation International’s Tools of Classical TRIZ as lists of the patterns and lines of evolution. This presentation has much more detail on some of the lines of evolution, and an explanation of how to use the patterns and lines in directed evolution.

The nine appendices are used to present a variety of techniques, methods, and tables of information at a variety of levels of detail. For example, Appendix 4 is an extensive list of resources to be considered in both problem solving and technology development, and includes traditional TRIZ resources (substances, fields, time, energy, space) and others such as human resources, political resources, and financial resources. Appendix 8 is an article on the application of the S-Curve to whole organizations, not just to individual products or technologies. This is interesting speculation, but no data is provided to justify the model.

Alla Zusman and Boris Zlotin, and their editor Victoria Roza have done the TRIZ community a service by writing Directed Evolution: Philosophy, Theory, and Practice.

I look forward to getting readers’ reactions as this valuable new resource is used, and I look forward to publishing case studies in The TRIZ Journal as people use the methods of Directed Evolution: Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in their own work.