40 Principles

Lateral strategies for innovation

This overpriced book contains a set of 40 design strategies for inventing. It is a summation of engineering design principles devised by a Soviet patent examiner in the 1960s who extracted these principles from a study of 200,000 patents. This guy, Altshuller, says that the 10% most innovative patents would use one of these 40 strategies for their novel solutions. Altshuller then went on to construct a system to help engineers consider these elemental strategies for the problems they were working on. His system is called TRIZ, and it has a cult following among process engineers. I like to think of it as Oblique Strategies for engineers.

To employ the system you apply a principle (from the list) at random to the problem, no matter how unlikely, in the hope that this lateral mode of thinking will hatch a novel solution. The best inventors combine these heuristics intuitively, and many veteran engineers have their own set which they have developed over the years. But if you are just starting out as an architect, tinkerer, engineer, hacker, designer, and do-it-yourselfer, you may find this a good place to start. I did, and have already added to the 40 some additional heuristics that work for me.

You can find the entire text of the 40 Principles posted on the TRIZ website; the only advantage of the book are some crude drawings and handy reference format. However I did find the small additional illustrations and real world examples helpful in grokking the often cryptic rules.

-- KK 07/18/05


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