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Is TRIZ the Magic Bullet Entrepreneurs Have Been Seeking?

Is TRIZ the Magic Bullet Entrepreneurs Have Been Seeking?

Can a Structured System Be Taught That Results in Innovative Success?

Recently I participated in a meeting to review a new product offering. The presenters were inventors and they had enjoyed a great deal of success as corporate employees working inside a highly structured environment. A number of their creations are currently successfully branded products that any aware consumer would recognize, and probably have in their home.
The presentation was unusual in a number of ways. These guys came off as mad scientist types. They had decided it was time for them to profit fully from their creativity and were now self-employed. The product was very well done, commercial, marketable. However, little interest was elicited from the Venture Capital group of which I am a member. I was not sure why I was so unexcited.

After the presentation, I spent time with the would-be entrepreneurs. As I discussed next steps they would need to undertake to improve their prospects, I was pulled into a spirited monologue about a process called TRIZ. They were TRIZ acolytes. I had heard of TRIZ over the years, but never had I seen so much passion being applied to this relatively abstract theory of innovation. They were full comrades in believing that their devotion to TRIZ was the way to fame and fortune as inventors.

TRIZ (translated from Russian Cyrillic) stands for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving. TRIZ was created in Russia by Genrich Altshuler. Boiled down to an elemental outline, TRIZ assumes that innovation can be achieved by a structured series of Technical Contrasts. No longer would inventors pursue “trial and error” to find answers to technical problems. Thomas Edison was a fool to waste so much time attempting 1000 tests in trying to perfect the electric light bulb according to the TRIZ enthusiasts. A series of advanced algorithms and applications could have been utilized to solve problems such as Edison so often faced and struggled mightily to overcome. If only Edison had known about TRIZ!

I was dubious but intrigued. My consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, works with entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses every day. We create guerrilla-marketing strategies, write business plans, fund and license a variety of offerings. It is exciting work, but there is no one size fits all process that I was ever aware of for short circuiting the invention process, until I researched TRIZ. I actually decided to attend a TRIZ seminar.

It was interesting and revealing. The attendees were very much like the “mad scientist” inventors I had met. Incredibly bright, totally immersed in TRIZ, and a bit around the bend in my humble opinion.

The discussion group was particularly interesting. The participants were slavish in their support for the TRIZ process, but they could not identify any successes they had enjoyed. In addition, when I commented that Russia had not exactly been a font of inventiveness in the 20th century, well, I had hit a nerve. Even worse, I was virtually ostracized when I commented that invention and entrepreneurial skills could not be learned from a process.

I lecture, mentor and coach in the area of entrepreneurial studies at several major university business schools. I can teach a student how to write a business plan, create a sales model, customize a marketing strategy, and construct financials. However, I, and I believe no one, can teach a person to become a successful entrepreneur for a simple reason: I can’t teach courage.

My brief dalliance with TRIZ was educational. I tried to keep an open mind. I want to believe that anyone can achieve success by following a structured how-to outline. But I know better. Entrepreneurs are not easy to come by. Most people are dreamers. Entrepreneurs are do-er’s. Most people can not accept rejection. Entrepreneurs pay no attention to rejection and keep pursuing their goal. Inevitable problems become roadblocks to dreamers. Entrepreneurs adjust and overcome these roadblocks. Dreamers quit. Successful entrepreneurs never quit, they have a laser focus on their task.

The pursuit of success is difficult for many reasons. It is like natural selection, survival of the fittest rules. TRIZ has a growing worldwide following. So did the Luddites and the Shakers in the 1850’s. I hope TRIZ avoids history’s dustbin unlike the Luddites and Shakers.

I encourage my clients and students to study an array of philosophy in order to increase their scope and knowledge. TRIZ is interesting in theory but flawed in its promise. We can follow a process to assemble widgets but no one has yet figured out how to manufacture the entrepreneur that invents the widgets.

Contact Geoff Ficke, [email protected] , 407 260 1127, to discuss this article or learn how to turn your idea into a product or commercial opportunity.