What is Systematic Inventive Thinking?

Image of a brain representing Systematic Inventive Thinking

A few years ago or so I discovered a different system to create ideas that had reinvented the wheel (sort of and I’ll get to that in a bit). Derived from Genrich Altshuller’s TRIZ engineering discipline Systematic Inventive Thinking was developed in the mid 1990s in Israel and is a practical approach to creativity, innovation and problem solving. Anything that can assist you in creating original ideas is useful in an age where repurposing seems to be the order of the day, although that is partly just what Systematic Inventive Thinking is.


What is Systematic Inventive Thinking exactly?

Systematic Inventive Thinking is essentially made up of five thinking tools:

1. Subtraction
Remove an essential component from a product and find uses for the newly envisioned arrangement of the existing components. This abstracted arrangement is known as a ‘virtual product’. Think of a bicycle (yes this is the bit that refers to the wheel). It normally has two wheels right? Well if you subtract one of those wheels you have a gym bike. A perfect example of the subtraction method.

2. Multiplication
Add to a product a component of the same type as an existing component. The added component should be changed in some way. The 2 keywords for this tool are: 1) more and 2) different. These represent the two stages for applying the tool: 1) add more copies of something that exists in the product and 2) change those copies according to some parameter.

3. Division
Divide the product and/or its components and rearrange them to form a new product. Using this tool forces consideration of different structures, either on the level of the product/service as a whole, or on the level of an individual component. Dividing a product to many pieces gives the freedom to reconstruct it in many new ways – it increases our Degrees of Freedom for working with the situation.

4. Task Unification
Assign a new and additional task to an existing resource. Less affluent cultures are more likely to adopt the Task Unification mindset. For example, the Bedouins use camels for a number of different tasks: transportation, currency, milk, skin for tents, shade, protection from the wind, burning feces for fuel. More affluent societies tend to jettison resources.

5. Attribute Dependency
Creating and dissolving dependencies between variables of a product. Attribute Dependency works with variables rather than components. Variables are easy to identify as those characteristics that can change within a product or component (e.g. color, size, material).

I realise this blog has just touched the surface on this great method but hopefully it has whet your appetite to learn more about the approach. For much more information on this I have found Drew Boyd to be a great advocate for Systematic Inventive Thinking and go to his website if you’d like to know more about Systematic Inventive Thinking.

Here are some additional resources in case you would like to learn more about Systematic Inventive Thinking:

Yours creatively