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The effective use of TRIZ with Brainstorming

The effective use of TRIZ with Brainstorming

| On 10, Feb 2001

Yoshiki Nakamura


TRIZ, being utilized for creating innovation scientifically, suggests us to think step by step excluding psychological approach. As a result, TRIZ is negative against Brainstorming (BS) that is thought as leap and try and error thinking. This is the reason why BS is considered as being in the opposite position of TRIZ. Considering TRIZ and BS from thinking skill perspective, however, it could be said that both are complementary to each other for creative problem solving and that this combination will possibly lead to more efficient thinking. In this paper, I try to describe feature of TRIZ and BS in comparison and explore more effective of TRIZ.

1, For more effective use of TRIZ

It is almost three years since TRIZ was introduced to Japan in full scale. Many manufacturing firms, universities and research organs pay attention to TRIZ at present, and examine it whether or not to introduce it to their firms. We, The SANNO Institute of Management TRIZ team, have held introduction seminars, trainings and consultations to them. Fortunately, all of our clients are satisfied with the results so far. However, there are still many firms which hesitate to adopt TRIZ or doubt the power of TRIZ even they have a TRIZ software. This, maybe, comes from lack of understanding and underestimation of TRIZ. From now on, we will engage in research effect use and spread TRIZ in Japan.

There are some points, which I am anxious about through my TRIZ trainings and consultations. In this article, I will discuss most interesting theme for me now. Some persons cannot associate a suggestion to an idea, while other members get an idea on same issue. It seems that the person who cannot open the final door to goal, even standing in front of the treasure room.

What is the difference between these two kinds of people; one can open the door and the other cannot open the door? Is this depending on their creativity? It may be right. However, is this question so simple? Is TRIZ the scientific methodology for invention, which does not depend on personality and occasions? In fact, some people who cannot reach the goal tend to insist that TRIZ is useless.

2, Anything to learn from Brainstorming?

For above question, it seems to me that some of creativity development tools such a Brainstorming (BS) has an answer. Many of TRIZ specialists including Altshuller are seemingly negative to BS and other psychological approaches as typical try and error methods. Though I agree with them in many points, there are a few important points to learn from BS. Because there is a fact that many creative results have been made using creative existent skills in Japan.

Table 1: A degree of use of the problem solution skill



Degree of use





KJ(Kawakita Jiro) method*



Osborn’s check list



Attribute listing method



NM (Nakayama Masakazu) method*



Defects listing method



SINWA drawing method. *



Work design



Gordon method



Focus method



Theory of equivalent transformation*



Morphology analysis



System combination method*



ZK (Katagata Zenji) method*



7X7 method 


* Originally developed in Japan

Table 1 is the result from a little over 400 companies answers, conducted a survey by SANNO using a questionnaire form, taken out against the Japanese listed manufacturing industry 2000 companies in August 1989. It shows that BS is especially ahead from other skills.

By the way, it is well known that Japanese economic development has been supported by high productivity and quality. And this high performance is supported by accumulation of small improvements, which is so called KAIZEN, by bottom-up approach such as Quality Control Circle and Small group activities. BS has been main idea generation tool in these activities. Therefore I limit myself to discuss BS in this article. Next chapter shows the comparison BS with TRIZ, and searched for the effective way of use of TRIZ.

3, A characteristics comparison of BS and TRIZ

TRIZ is the synthetic methodology of a creative problem solving, and BS is a just simple tool of idea generation. Therefore, the scale and depth are too different to compare both equally,I particularly try to compare them to explain difference in the concept and method of BS and TRIZ. Below is the table of comparison between BS and TRIZ.

(1) A difference in the target zone and a difference in the approach

These two are greatly different from the background. BS was born by A.F. Osborn who worked with the advertising agency and developed in the field of the marketing for merchandise, naming of goods and product planning etc. On the other hand, TRIZ was born as a main object, and it has been developed in the engineering field. The marketing works on the person, in other words, the idea is asked something new whether to create a good image, or strong impact in the market. The idea in the engineering field is seeked for following Mother Nature as object are in the natural science field. The quality of the idea looked for in this meaning is greatly different. Therefore, necessary knowledge is different to create an idea, too. As a result, the way of thinking in engineering should follow cause and effect of Mother Nature, the way of thinking in marketing should follow cause without effect directly. If it is thought as mentioned above, it could be explained that TRIZ suggests proceeding step by step and BS suggests leap and intuition thinking.

Table 2: The characteristics comparison of BS and TRIZ




Birth territory.

Marketing field.

Natural science, mainly engineering

Necessary knowledge

The knowledge (psychology, behavior science, an economy, organization etc.) of the social science.

The knowledge of natural science(physics, chemistry, mathematics etc.)

Fundamental idea creation premise

Quantity produces quality

The idea of high quality is produced securely in a small number.

Thinking pattern  mechanism

Leap in logic, intuition, free association, divergence thinking

Step by step, scientific, logic, analogy

Idea generator

Group thinking

Fundamentally individual

The material of the idea

The group covers personal knowledge

Proved in the invention principle from the analysis of the patent

The structure of the skill

Four rules

The methodology that synthesizes process, technique, data

The direction of thinking

Without a direction, 360 degrees whole direction

A search for the ideality

Time to learn 

Within one hour

Several hours

Failure often happens.

Knowledge inventory

Discouraged on the way

(2) A difference in the structure as problem solving

Psychologist Gilford has shown us elements of the person’s intellectual ability like a) recognition, b) memory, c) divergence thinking, d) convergence thinking and e) evaluation. When a problem is recognized and we try to search for a solution of a problem, two methods are chosen. One is the method which depends on a past knowledge and experience. A solution of a problem is completed if an appropriate answer can obtained. Of course, if his/her knowledge and experience are not sufficient, information is collected from the colleagues or books. At any rate, the power of a) and b) is almost used and the regeneration of the knowledge and experience can be accomplished. But, when an answer cannot be obtained from the knowledge and experience, or well-known method, because of patent infringement, cannot be used, it becomes necessary that an idea is created by themselves. Divergence and convergence thinking support creativity.

BS 4 rules are, strict prohibition of criticism, free thinking, big quantity required and improvement by combination. These rules show that BS is typical divergence thinking. In order to make divergence thinking more effective at BS, group thinking is held based on free association. An association is a response to a certain stimulus. By association group thinking rather than by individual thinking will bring a good results of quantity and variety. Therefore, BS can be said as the way of looking for an idea accidentally.So, quantity is required. It doesn’t try to look for high quality ideas from the beginning. It is good if a few effective ideas come out as a result by examining from every direction, the basis does not matter.So, quantity is sought for intensively, and it tries to change an accident into the necessity. It is thought that quantity brings quality. However, the knowledge that makes idea is limited because it depends on member’s knowledge and experience. As for the idea of the marketing field works on a human being, the person who generates idea can evaluate the idea. If it is an interesting idea, it can be estimated idea generator that it is interesting by.

As BS is the method of divergence thinking as stated above, BS is only one part of steps of the problem solving which requires comprehensive synthetic thinking. As a result, it should be define and analyze problem and estimate ideas. The method of the various use of BS has been searched and developed, and it is difficult to define BS strictly as it has been expanded so greatly. As for the utility, the idea of the various application of BS has been piled up so far.

So, let’s return to the improvement of quality and cost reduction through bottom-up activity. Smaller improvement ideas are asked for rather than the progressive idea because of the small range of authority of the work in this activity. Bottom-up is being supported mainly by the person in charge of the manufacturing work place. Generating a progressive idea is the work of the research and the development department. Bottom-up activities, which have been supported by work places, were QC circles, and VE activities in Japan. It was BS or Osbron’s checklist that was used in the idea generation step during such activities. Table 1 shows this.

On the other hand, TRIZ is equipped with technique, process, and knowledge-database as a comprehensive methodology of a creative solution of problem. TRIZ is the methodology of synthetic problem solving not seeing an example besides this.

Figure 1: The structure of TRIZ

Because TRIZ is the comprehensive methodology of problem solving, it make possible to get a progressive idea through the step-by-step process. Moreover, as for being fortunate, many scientific phenomena have already become known by the predecessors’ contribution. And, direction of invention is known including improvement of the ideality were made clear by the research of the technology evolution. Thanks to this research, TRIZ can get the progressive idea, without leap thinking.

(3) The weak point of BS and TRIZ

Difference between BS and TRIZ in the way of thinking has been discussed in the above chapters, these can become both a strong point and a weak point depending on user’s requirement. There are many complaints that BS can generate many ideas but most of them are not useful to solve problems. But, it will be well explained in the followings reason why this good idea didn’t come out.

  • Insufficient focusing on problems

  • Free association couldn’t be developed, and meeting ended in collection of the member’s knowledge only

  • Ideas drown were not refined

On the other hand, discontents with TRIZ are as follows, learning takes time, too many choices at each step, even if it gets suggestions, it is not easy to connect with the idea. As matter of fact, it takes 30 minutes to learn BS, while many hours to learn TRIZ. It can be expected improve considerably by understanding the fundamental way of thinking of TRIZ and how to use computer software, and so on. And an effort like this cannot be spared if you think about the result of a solution. As pointed out first, there still remains a problem. Even getting suggestions from TRIZ, they cannot be connected with the idea. Step by step proceeding adds sureness because an aim can be seen and finished by the little jump. But, a problem is that some people cannot connect suggestion with idea. Then, what will happen if this step is made more detailed? It becomes easier to connect the suggestion to the idea. But the choices increase further, and a process becomes long. Even if steps are dived into more small, directions still remain directions, and they can’t become answers. It falls into Achilles and tortoise competition paradox. But if we cannot get it over, some of the misunderstanding and underestimation against TRIZ won’t be avoided.

Can we obtain a good idea using step-by-step TRIZ with free association of BS? In other words, to get good idea, free associations which is guided by step-by-step thinking is used.

Figure2: A difference in the thinking process

4,TRIZ supplemented by BS

(1) Learn from the BS

  Altshuller was negative to BS. It is not known how BS was defined by him. For one reason, it seemed to him that it was the counter situation to step-by-step thinking.

Without knowledge as a material to generate idea, only a commonplace idea may come out certainly from the idea. If the rule of BS does not work effectively, it will be no use. Whether or not you know the natural law of the capillary action for moving water, the result will be different.

But, there are some points to learn in the BS as well when the above comparisons are taken into consideration. Take it for example, the rule , strict prohibition of criticism, is important. Divergence thinking is a type of thinking method to spread freely and convergence thinking is a type of thinking method to put together. To think something, both types of thinking are required. But to think effectively it should not be used together. The rule of BS tells us to distinguish and to use the thinking method properly. And the rule that ideas taken out is to be written down on a paper is very important and meaningful. Furthermore, imagination for free association is indispensable to creation. As mentioned earlier, TRIZ provides us many suggestions to generate ideas in inventive problem solving; it leads us to the front door of the solution plan but plan itself isn’t provided. It is left for us ourselves to change suggestions and knowledge into effective solution plan. The power of imagination becomes necessary by all means for the transformation here. Though BS expects a big jump in the free association, TRIZ proceeds logically, step by step, and at the end small jump is expected. The power which supports these jumps is imagination.

(1) Development imagination

There is a word to say “Imagination produces creation.” This means that the source of the creation is the imagination. For example please imagine how to make a cup. The methods are, a string of soil is piled up, the lump of soil is shaved, which it begins to shave it into shape form, people who know how to produce will be able to imagine variously. One who know the methods of manufacture regenerates that knowledge, but it means that the first step of the creation is really taken when he imagines “Can I make it if I do this way?” without knowing. Besides above, the way, the center of the lump is pushed, a little lump is piled up, some boards are made and combined are taken. If that method has never been tried, it could be called a kind of creation. An imagination and a daydream are driving force of creation, too. From the viewpoint of the creative power training, just to imagine a smart little people move around is good enough.

To transform imagination into creation, a series of imagination in our mind is necessary. First an image is to be drawn in our mind clearly, and then image is to be operated in a certain direction, finally the result is described clearly.

Figure 3: Controlled imagination process

It is knowledge database and the principle of the invention in TRIZ that lead the image drawn in our mind in to one direction. Though ability to judge is effective in choice of knowledge, imagination is necessary for changing a suggestion into the solution plan. TRIZ is led in the step by-step-process from problem recognition to concept making、but a goal is not connected in a straight line from the start. It is imagination to connect the step by step.

Figure 4: Variety of segmentations

I adopt the training of imagination to the member driving TRIZ application for the above reason. For example, an image doesn’t appear on “segmentation” of the invention principle as well to the persons of poor imagination. It is such a thing that it is taken to pieces at most. When “segmentation” is suggested, there will be two, three, and four, infinitely to molecule level. Take a cup for example, even if two are suggested, it varies with left and right, top and bottom, outside and inside of the body of the cup, the space of the inside. Can you draw a vivid figure freely in your mind? This kind of imagination brings you an idea.

(3) Improve insight

Insight is also a part of the association power. It can be described as reasoning power. As for insight, the word that came from the meaning “to understand what happens before you see”. TRIZ, the structure is analogical thinking, which tries to make use of the principle learned from the past patents and inventions are of great use for the future invention. When the commonness of the problem as an analogy and the principle of the solution are led, insight is needed.

Finding the solution plan not seen yet from the invention principle presented as a suggestion is a sequence of an invention principle, imagination and creation. The ability which ascertains the function and perceives commonness is required here.

For example, a success of present plate glass mass production system,so called floating production system, is the invention that lead from the oil dripped in the water by analogical thinking. The oil dripped in the water and the plate glass manufacturing process has commonness in principle. What is this commonness? It is the fact that film oil = board or a lump of oil dripped becomes a board. Current manufacturing of the plate glass, which is the main stream, is excellent for making flat sheets in mass production.

Figure 5: The manufacture method of the plate glass by analogy

To look for the condition from other phenomena, sharp insight is indispensable. TRIZ supports this most part. To understand the way of analogy thinking and examples, the way of taking a function. How to take a function? Though a function means the role of substance, it cannot be seen directly in the eyes. Main function of glass is to hold water, and bottom of glass is flat to stand itself as a secondary function. Form and material are chosen to attain a certain function. There are many cases in the technology field where analogical thinking is utilized in the light of function advanced. A functional point of view is very important. The training of the power which sees through the way of being functional and of catching it is necessary, as well as seeing common point which supports insight.

5, Conclusion

As a premise, for the fundamental training of TRIZ and use of software, I believe that effect is improved when the training shown above is carried out. The contents shown here are good results in some of my own experiments, it may be only a hypothesis in the point, that data are not sufficient enough. I apply this only at the preparation stage of TRIZ training. A strong tool of a methodology may be established. It still remains as theme for continuous study for me to verify this hypothesis by more trustworthy data and to enrich the methodology.


  1. STEP-by-STEP TRIZ, John Terninko, Alla Zusman, Bolis Zrotin, 1996.

  2. Applied imagination, A.F.Osborn, (Japanese edition)

  3. Creativity development as a thinking skill, Yoshiki Nakamura, Kaibundo, 1992.

  4. Research for creativity development, Akira Onda, Kouseisha-Kouseikaku, 1980,