Would you be surprised to learn that the solution to your innovation problem has already been discovered? Welcome to TRIZ--a Russian acronym for "theory of inventive problem-solving"--a scientific methodology that trains you to search out the ways in which your problems have been solved in the past and modify those classic solutions for your current problems.
According to Jack Hipple, principal of Innovation-TRIZ, an innovation consulting firm in Tampa, Florida, entrepreneurs who want to embrace the innovative potential of TRIZ must rid themselves of ego and the belief that their problem is so unique that no one has ever faced something like it before. "Think about solving an algebraic equation," Hipple says. "If you generalized the problem you were trying to solve, a standard equation would solve it all the time." TRIZ is a science that works in much the same way.
To use TRIZ effectively, you must first define your business problem enough so you can generalize it. "Take a problem in society [or] one that exists in a technical area that has been unsolved for a long time, and look at what keeps it from being solved," says Hipple. "Usually there is some kind of a contradiction." For instance, in designing a car, an inventor might want it to be heavy but fuel-efficient at the same time. One could look at the TRIZ contradiction table, consider how people have previously solved that contradiction in general terms, and then apply it to a specific problem. To see how TRIZ can work for you, check out www.airtriz.org, www.innovationtriz.com and www.triz40.com.