Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to top


Implementation Enhanced Through Values & Beliefs Part 1

By Dr. John Terninko and Mary Ann Kahl

Genrich Altshuller, the founder of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ), once wrote, “Sometimes a solution concept is presented before the public is able to accept it.” Though the statement is true, he was not recognizing the multitude of coping styles and world views held by different sectors of humanity. The first in this three-part series offers a perspective for identifying multiple aspects of the public point of view (customer organizations and individuals) in order to reduce or eliminate the frequency of the negative response to solution concepts. The application process of directed concept generation and introducing the results of the TRIZ methodology must also evolve to become flexible to the influence of all the value systems of the world in order to develop solution concepts that will be accepted and embraced.

A Small Experiment

Before going further, please answer the following question using the 1 through 7 scale below. How do you normally experience time?Choose a number.

How do you normally experience time?











This question is one of the few dimensions concerning time that was found to be significant in an earlier study.1 Data on values gathered during TRIZCON 2009 from attendees of this presentation will be referred to throughout the series. The attendee data on values gathered during TRIZCON 2009 is available with analysis on the Altshuller Institute website.2

In 1980, Toyota was taking an ever increasing percentage of U.S. auto sales. The U.S. big three automakers (Ford, GM and Chrysler) finally accepted that Toyota was doing something more effectively than they were. After the first study mission to Japan, Ford decided that it was the use of quality circles by the employees that made for quality vehicles. It turned out the cause of the problem was the suppliers, not the designers and engineers. A short time later, the root cause for the high quality Toyota was identified by Ford as the use of statistical quality control. Again, the root of the problem was identified with the suppliers. This was the environment of the automotive quality movement 25 years ago and the cause of this journey of learning.

Dr. Shigeru Mizuno, one of the founders of the quality movement in Japan, was invited to talk about the Japanese effort by one of the big three corporations for all of their vice presidents (then in Detroit). After his talk, Mizuno was asked by the moderator why he was willing to share such powerful information about their methodologies with the top management of a competitor. Dr. Mizuno gave two reasons:

  1. The Japanese want to be the best and to be best they must have strong competition.
  2. He expected that the audience would not use what had been offered to them.

Although it may appear that a Detroit automaker would have wanted a better methodology before Toyota beat them in the next round, Dr. Mizuno was correct in his second observation – he did not have much influence on improving U.S. competitors.

Building a Better Mouse Trap

Consider the expression: “Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Four questions to ponder:

  1. What is the definition of better?
  2. Who generates the definition?
  3. Do you want to kill the mouse?
  4. Do you want to send it someplace else?

Living on a farm with a field stone foundation, the author had mice moving into his (circa 1750) home every year as the weather cooled.3 It is not unusual to kill four or five a day with a VICTOR® trap. The author preferred to not empty and bait the traps everyday. He would rather not kill the little beasties and would like all this to happen without having to place a taller concrete foundation under his house. Needless to say, the author was happy when he saw an ad for a high frequency device claiming to keep mice out of a space of several hundred square feet.

In addition to the inaudible high-frequency signal, the state-of-the-art anti-mouse frequency shield produced a human-audible signal when a button was depressed. This allowed the customer to check that the device was working. A sound is emitted when the button is depressed, but the mice were still present. So next to the new gadget the author set a good old VICTOR® trap. Within a day, he caught a mouse. There were two possibilities for this:

  1. The device did not work or
  2. The mouse was defective.

Several years later the author told this story to a customer’s staff. One of the engineers present had previously worked for a manufacturer of the devices. The owner of the organization knew that the device was not effective. The frequency of the signal was correct, but the power output was too low. The power of the signal was sufficient to deter rodents; however, it caused house cats to cry and people to have headaches. The corporation was financially successful because they set the price of the item high enough to ensure a profit but low enough that most people did not demand their money back. It helped their cause that customers would have had to save the packaging since the name of the corporation was not on the devices.

In both of these examples, companies knowingly or unknowingly do not recognize the needs of the public and, consequently, jeopardize their long-term success. When a great solution is created, the concept’s effectiveness is not static in its environment. This is partly because the environment in which the system exists is neither homogeneous nor static. The customer base is a moving target, with overlaying attitudes and behaviors of great diversity. Understanding this dynamic between product/service and the customer/environment is critical, but not enough. To truly integrate a design solution into the environment of the customer, the TRIZ practitioner must be sensitive to the difference in values in different customer segments.

An Integrated Approach

TRIZ masters Alla Zusman and Boris Zlotin say, “Throughout history, only a limited number of technological systems have possessed the outstanding qualities that allowed them to enjoy enormous success over an unusually long life.”4 Examples from the last century include: the Ford Model-T automobile, the Douglas DC-3 airplane, the Kalashnikov machine gun, the Singer sewing machine and the squirrel cage electric motor. These systems cannot be called “ideal” in the TRIZ sense because they are actual systems rather than visionary concepts. Perhaps the best name for them is “consummate.” Why does one consider certain designs consummate or ingenious? Could a design’s ability to address not only the understood needs of the customer but also the values that underlie the customer’s world view play a significant part in both the customer’s appreciation and acceptance of the solution? Before addressing the customer’s world view in conjunction with the development of design solutions, it is important to come prepared with all the tools that may be needed.

During the mid 1980s Akira Fukuhara, former Toyota quality specialist, introduced quality function deployment (QFD) to North America as a rational process for translating the voice-of-the-customer into the voices of each activity of the design, manufacturing and delivery processes.

When the TRIZ first came to the U.S. in the 1990s it offered innovative solution concepts for technical systems. Like any viable system, TRIZ evolved as the system context (environment) and voice-of-the-customer change over time.

There is also a synergy between the trilogy of QFD-TRIZ-RD (quality function deployment, Theory of Innovative Problem Solving and Robust design/Taguchi methods, respectively).5 The trilogy is concerned with understanding the demanded qualities of the customer/client/stakeholder, creating innovative solution concepts and engineering the system such that it performs well despite all the chaos impacting performance. One goal of integrating these three methodologies is to develop good design solutions that the public will embrace.

The dimensions of this while defining dissatisfaction and how it all relates to TRIZ practitioners will be explored in part two of this three part series.


  1. John Terninko, unpublished paper: Cross Cultural Communications: The Role of Thought Systems, Case Western Reserve, June 1967.
  2. Altshuller Institute website.
  3. L. McTaggart, The Field, Harper Collins, 2002, ISBN 978-0-06-093117-9.
  4. B. Zlotin, Alla Zusman, Directed Evolution Instruments for Designing Consummate Systems, 2008, Altshuller Institute website.
  5. The QFD, TRIZ and Taguchi Connection.

About the Authors:

Dr. John Terninko has integrated his diverse experience (electrical engineering, operations research, organizational development, teaching, continuing education and management consultation) to develop a unique intervention style for organizations. He has been teaching and using TRIZ for 13 years. Consistent with his professional life the author was on the cutting edge in QFD and Taguchi for 23 and 27 years, respectively, Terninko has integrated TRIZ, QFD and Taguchi in his approach to design problems and facilitating. Organizations become more profitable by having innovative robust processes and products desired by their customers. He has published books and has presented many papers on each subject. His Step-by-Step QFD book was on’s top 50 Management book list and his Step-by-Step TRIZ book is used by universities and in the industry for training. With Dr. Edward Chaplin, Terninko also wrote Customer Driven Healthcare: QFD for Process Improvement and Cost Reduction.

Mary Ann Kahl brings to her writing an eclectic background which includes work and study in medical epidemiology and herbal medicine, architecture, psychics and world literature, the psychology of creativity and the various design methodologies of TRIZ, QFD and robust design. An 18-year working relationship as John Terninko’s editor has enriched her renaissance skills, even as it has facilitated her ability to finish his sentences. (Of course, a true understanding of this article may mean that she can finish yours, too.)