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TRIZ Usage for Customer Needs Identification Part 2

By Anatoly Agulyansky, Alexander Talalaevski and Amir Roggel

Economic development and success depends on defining customer / supplier relationships based on customer needs. This series outlines a method for the service supplier to increase coordination of its actual solutions to customer expectations. This is achieved by combining complementary Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) tools. Including perception mapping (PMap) and action preventing action (APA) a tool developed by the authors to define customer needs.

Often, the problem formulated by the customer is resisted indirectly by a hidden network of problems derived from needs that the customer is not aware of. Analysis of the main customer’s needs helps formulate the problem correctly prior to solving it. Perception mapping provides hierarchical relationships with different customer inputs such as “what they think / feel,” to help identify and eliminate the hidden problems or blockers. Whereas, action preventing action is based on direct observations such as “what they do.”

Action preventing action offers a fundamental premise by preventing undesired customer activity. It enables a supplier to reach the highest level of customer satisfaction such as the: “customer does not want to do what he / she is currently doing.” Eliminating blockers enables the ability to fit solutions to actual problems and effectively satisfies the main requirements of the customer.This series aims to initiate development of TRIZ methodology for deployment and sustainability within high volume manufacturing corporations. It will also share the authors’ approach on possible definitions of TRIZ customer needs. The following is Part Two of the three-part series. Part One discussed customer needs and the evolution of TRIZ methods. PartThree examined a case study and conclusion.

Perception Mapping as a Tool for Corporate Needs Analysis

Perception mapping (PMap) is a tool for analysis of brainstorming or survey results. Multiple inputs (perceptions) are collected from different people in order to determine the root cause (RC) of the problem. Systematic logical approach is used for graphical analysis. Perception mapping plots the real picture of perceptions, its groups and its critical relationships to identify problematic relations.

The following are visualized:

  • Collectors (perceptions having more than one connection)
  • Loops of perceptions
  • Contradicting chains

Table 1 summarizes an example of perceptions via a matrix process (perception collection, designation and logic connection through “X leads to Y”). This is the opposite of “why-why” based on author Edward de Bono’s “Water Logic,” aimed to activate the right side of the brain.1

For instance, perception 1, designated as “A” leads to perception 12, designated as “L” meaning it was determined that the action described in the perception will lead to the action described in perception 12. Similarly, the action described in perception 2, designated as “B” was determined as leading to an action described in perception 7, designated with the letter “G”. Each should only have a single logic connection of “leads to” for its perception. The best fit is used in case more than one is considered.

Once all “leads to” connections are determined, conflicting perception pairs are identified. These represent mutually excluding actions such as “move faster” and “increase delay,” respectively. Conflicting pairs help identify conflicting chains with each perception ranked accordingly.

Perceptions “A” and “D” in the example were identified as forming a conflicting pair or contradiction (marked by light gray; perception “L” is a key matter according to customer scope (marked with dark gray).

Table 1: Example of the Perceptions Matrix
Perceptions Assignations Leads To
Perception 1 A L
Perception 2 B G
Perception 3 C H
Perception 4 D F
Perception 5 E B
Perception 6 F B
Perception 7 G C
Perception 8 H K
Perception 9 I J
Perception 10 J B
Perception 11 K E
Perception 12 L I

The image of the perception mapping is treated with the matrix per Table 1 and Figure 1.

Figure 1: Image of the Perception Map

The map displayed in Figure1 is the “typical map,” which contains the main connected components and indicates the problematic level of the system. Each arrow corresponds to “leads to” with a connection between perceptions “A” and “D” marked with gray since they form a conflicting pair. All perceptions located between conflicting perceptions belong to a conflicting chain (“A” – “L” – “I” – “J” – “B” – “F” – “D”). The map indicates that the system contains a closed loop (“B” – “G” – “C” – “H” – “K” – “E” – “B”) and “B” is a collector. The typical map addresses the key perceptions that block the main effort. For instance, perception “B” is a collector since it collects more than one connection. This means that if we try to improve “B” by changing perception “J” the impact may not be realized since perception “F” might have a stronger impact on perception “B”. Perceptions “B”, “G”, “C”, “H”, “K” and “E” form a closed loop indicating problematic areas. Actions forming a closed “self balancing loop” are typically stable and prevent changes. Loops should be broken in order to ensure effectiveness of a change. Conflicting chains also resist change. Contradictions, collectors and loops will resist or even block any change that may be addressing other perceptions.

Three questions are used for ranking each perception:

  • Does the perception belong to loops? If yes, assign four points for each component belonging to the loop.
  • Does the perception collect more than one connection? If yes, assign one point for each additional connection.
  • Does the perception belong to a conflicting chain? If yes, assign three points to each perception belonging to the chain.

The ranking matrix of the analyzed perceptions is illustrated in Table 2.

Table 2: Example of Perceptions Ranking Matrix
Perceptions Perception 1 Perception 2 Perception 3 Perception 4 Perception 5 Perception 6 Perception 7 Perception 8 Perception 9 Perception 10 Perception 11 Perception 12
Assignations A B C D E F G H I J K L
Collectors 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Loops 0 4 4 0 4 0 4 4 0 0 4 0
Conflict Chains 3 3 0 3 0 3 0 0 3 3 0 3
Sums 3 9 4 3 4 3 4 4 3 3 4 3
Blocking Ranks Low High Medium Low Medium Low Medium Medium Low Low Medium Low

The typical scenario could be described as follows. A customer wants to improve a specific parameter or indicator and believes that the improvement can be achieved by implementation of changes described in perception “L”. The customer asks the supplier to implement (or solve the problem) per the changes described in perception “L”. Based on the perception mapping analysis the supplier should clarify to the customer all change challenges. In the case of the direct “L” perception, the main realization is that the customer’s resources will be consumed by blockers (contradictions, collectors and loops). In particular, perception “B” may act as a strong blocker and should be addressed before the perception “L” solution is implemented. First, the customer needs to resolve the problem related to perception “B” in order to be able to perform effective changes related to perception “L”.

Highlighting existing blockers helps to identify the real needs of the customer. Accurate ranking is necessary for developing a strategy for problem solving. This approach effectively identifies the blocking or resisting components of the system. Perception mapping helps the supplier identify the customer’s needs as a set of blockers to be removed. Once blockers are removed, the main customer requirements can be effectively satisfied and the problem formulated by the customer can be successfully solved.

The perception mapping procedure to identify customer’s needs within a corporation can be formulated as follows:

Phase 1 – Collecting Perceptions

  • Define the scope of the area (corporate, division, site, department, group, etc.).
  • Define critical indicators to be improved.
  • Define the survey question as: “What is needed to achieve the improvement?”
  • Dispatch the question and collect perceptions.

Phase 2 – Analyzing Perceptions

  • Perform semantic analysis to identify similar perceptions and convert the perceptions to “subject-action-object” (SAO) form to be easily applied in the next steps.
  • Create a perceptions matrix to define and assign perception connections through logic: perception “X” leads to perception “Y” (illustrated in Table 1).
  • Map perceptions and define connectors, loops and contradicting pairs (shown in Figure 1).

Phase 3 – Identify Customer Needs

  • Create perceptions by ranking the matrix. Rank perceptions using perception mapping ranking rules.
  • Define top ranking perceptions such as blockers resisting achievement of the critical indicators.

Ranking of perceptions is needed to define actual needs and effectively perform improvements or solve problems. Rank points to priority of actions because a perception that is considered important by many may not be the one to be dealt with directly, but another one could, especially one that blocks it and gets a higher rank. For example, if “L” is considered the most important by many, other perceptions having higher blocking rank may resist or even prevent the effectiveness of the critical action described in perception “L”.

Definitions of main needs are used to formulate technical and non-technical problems for problem solving with classical TRIZ tools.2

Action Preventing Action (APA) Tool for Customer Needs Definition

If the perception mapping method is based on analysis of what customers think they need, then the action preventing action method helps to describe the needs based on people’s current activity. Action preventing action is based on the law of ideality (people always prefer to get the same results with less or no action). They do not like the current process. This law is the main driver of the Kaizen culture (the Japanese strategy for continuous improvement) where the current situation is the worst one to be at and improvement should be constantly driven.

To demonstrate this, if a customer assembles parts into a system the customer would prefer to get parts that are easier to assemble or parts that require fewer steps. The main needs of the system relate to the activity that is aiming to prevent the current activity of the system. This concept is embedded in evolution trends with increased trimming of a process and could be further elaborated into a specific sub-trend. Development of a system occurs in the direction of preventing current activity of the system. A short formulation is: future against current is just a particular case of a common dialectic law; negation of negation.

The action preventing action tool assumes that the highest level of customer satisfaction can be achieved if the supplier prevents the customer from its current activity. The action preventing action method contains three steps:

  1. Description of current activity (action)
  2. Definition of activity that can prevent the current activity (action preventing action)
  3. Definition of needs

Applying this would increase coordination of the solution and customer expectations. The action preventing action method includes data collection on the current activity, defining a new activity to prevent current activity and analysis to formulate needs.

The action preventing action procedure can be described as follows:

Phase 1 – Data Acquisition

  • Define scope of the area to be analyzed.
  • Dispatch query: “What keeps you busy now?”
  • Collect responses.

Phase 2 – Data Analysis

  • It is recommended to perform semantic analysis and to group responses according to the subject-action-object scheme to ease the following treatment of the responses.
  • Assign and describe a particular action preventing action situation (a particular action preventing a particular action that is described in each response or each group of responses).
  • Assign and describe a general action preventing action (generalized activity to be able to prevent the current activity).

Phase 3 – Needs Identification

  • Describe actual needs as activities aiming to completely prevent current activity in the future.

The flow of action preventing action is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Action Preventing Action (APA) Scheme

Next up: Part Three will explore a case study and conclusion.


  1. Edward De Bono, Water Logic, Viking Press, 1993.
  2. Darrell Mann, 40 Inventive Principles for Business from Hands on Innovation for Business and Management, Edward Gaskell Publishers (October 2004).

About the Authors:

Dr. Anatoly Agulyansky holds a M.Sc. in metallurgy and Ph.D. in chemistry. His main expertise is in chemistry and material science, materials for electronic application, microelectronics. He has published over 50 scientific papers and a book: “The Chemistry of Tantalum and Niobium Fluoride Compounds.” He currently works as a yield department engineer at the Intel Corporation. Contact Anatoly Agulyansky at anatoly.agulyansky (at)

Alexander Talalaevski holds an M.Sc. in mechanical engineering. His main expertise is in VLSI/MEMS Process development and material analysis. Talalaevski has published several scientific papers and owns five Intel patents. He is a yield department engineer for Intel Corporation. Contact Alexander Talalaevski at alex.talalyevsky (at)

Amir Roggel leads Systematic Innovation/TRIZ at Intel. He is a principal engineer at the Office of Technology. He lives in Israel and serves as a MA-TRIZ board member as an industries representative. Contact Amir Roggel at amir.roggel (at)