Fixedness - Genrick Altshuller

It was Genrick Altshuller who first recognised the need to limit the effects of fixedness by using systematic thinking techniques to push thinking beyond the limits of what we already know and believe.

During the late 1940s, Altshuller was working in the patent department of the Soviet navy. His primary responsibility was to assist inventors in filing patents. However, because he was himself a gifted inventor (he received his first patent at the age of 14), he was often asked for help in solving problems encountered during the innovation process.

Genrick Altshuller

Altshuller was intrigued by the question of how inventions happened. Was it a matter of a light bulb suddenly being switched on, or the result of a specific way of thinking?

Altshuller screened more than 200,000 patents from all over the world. He identified 40,000 that constituted “inventive” achievements and began a rigorous analysis of them. The results of his efforts laid the groundwork for, and became the theoretical basis of the problem-solving theory that he would later develop, called TRIZ.

Altshuller developed a set of triggers or operators based on methods that had been successful in solving previous problems. Applying these operators to a new problem led much more quickly to a set of viable solutions.

TRIZ is a problem solving method based on logic and data, not intuition. It encompasses a large number of laws and principles. Knowledge of these laws and principles allows people to solve problems faster, without wasting time and valuable resources in a random search for solutions.

Altshuller also discovered that while innovation is apparently comprised of haphazard steps, in the long run it follows repeatable patterns. If you understood how the current innovation was created, you would be able to anticipate the conditions and actions needed to create the next evolution.

As the TRIZ methodology grew over the next four decades, the patent research continued. By the mid-1980s over two million patents had been investigated.

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