How to solve a problem inventively without being aware of any inventive principle
In this session, two daily life examples of application of Other way round inventive principle are highlighted. One of the two is analyzed in detail to arrive at the inventive solution just by Question, analysis, answer technique without applying any inventive principle directly.
Goal is to show how a common person can reach an inventive solution without being aware of inventive principle used and thus become conscious about the inventive possibilities.
The inventive TRIZ principle of Other way round is,
Opposite way of acting.
Simply speaking, Other way round is the attempt to approach object of interest from opposite direction.
Please stop here and try to recall where have you seen this idea being used for getting desired result that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Inventive principle Other way round approach
This concept is one of the abstract 40 inventive principles identified by Dr. Genrich Altshuller on the way to creating the extensive and systematic TRIZ innovation system.
Dr. Altshuller emphasized that the 40 inventive principles were, are and will remain to be the principles behind all human innovations - nothing less.
Let's look at an example in everyday life where the Other way round principle has been used with astonishing results.
Example 1: Use of Other way round principle in everyday life - upside down bottle of honey
Tukai purchased the bottle of honey only recently. I was thoroughly taken aback to see it placed upside down on the tray. Then I noticed the printed label on the bottle. The printing is on the upward direction only. That must mean that the bottle has been designed just that way to be placed bottom up, I concluded.
What would be the advantage?
Very simple. It has always been a problem that you couldn't get the last few drops of a thick liquid in the bottle however much you try.
Upside down, there is no visible trace of honey at the empty top. Honey being heavy, it finally accumulates over the cap at the bottom.
The cap is specially designed to release controlled drops of honey with each squeeze.
The novel design using the inventive principle of Other way round serves two purposes:
It is a great attention grabber, and so this upside down property aids selling.
And surely the design is not just for show, it solves a long ignored irritating problem with full satisfaction.
At what cost?
That's the beauty of inventive design, additional cost is nearly nil.
We'll now examine in details how a designer might finally arrive at the inventive solution to a problem on the basis of not one but two inventive principles, the main one being Other way round principle.
This is an observed application, not a case where I have personally solved a problem using the inventive principle.
Example 2: Solving a real life problem inventively without being aware of the inventive principles used: Piercing cap on a tube of cream
Years back when I screwed open the cap on a tube of cream medicine, I found that the mouth of the tube is protected by a thin metal cover.
Well then, I need something sharp to pierce a hole in the protective metal cover, I thought.
Then accidentally I noticed the cap. What is this protrusion at the back of the cap?
Can I make the hole with it?
Turning the cap around I tried to screw the cap using its opposite end. It fitted perfectly on the mouth of the tube and better still it had screw threads on its head end also. I screwed the cap tight using its head end.
Yes, the protrusion had made a perfectly round hole at the center of the metal cover just as I expected.
What an innovative idea I thought!
The production of the extra bit of perforating notch added practically no cost to the cost of the tube and served its purpose perfectly.
Resource used was not the sharp protrusion only
Can you spot the actual resources used in the innovation?
Trying to answer this question, let us imagine to be the designer of the tube of cream who is bent upon increasing customer satisfaction.
He must have identified the problem of piercing the protective cover on the mouth of a tube of cream,
For using a tube of cream with a protecting thin metal cover on the mouth of the tube, the user must search for and use a sharp instrument to pierce the metal cover.
It has been a niggling problem always.
With this observation, the designer formed his clear objective:
Can we supply a small piercing instrument with the tube to increase customer satisfaction?
He could immediately visualize the obvious constraint,
Producing an additional item would have its additional cost that too for something that is to be used once only.
Supplying an additional piercing small instrument with the tube is not a cost effective feasible idea at all.
Can there be any other way?
This is the gap between the objective and the innovative solution.
One has to make a jump from the objective to the innovative solution in mind. Perfect solution is not easily visible at all.
Would you, as the designer, start thinking without any strategy for solving the problem hoping that a brilliant idea would pop up surely in your head? Or, would you go ahead and try to break the bottleneck!
Covering the gap between the objective and the inventive solution by Question, analysis and answer technique
Instead of waiting for the brilliant idea to strike, we would start by asking ourselves the most important revealing question at the point, analyzing the problem and getting the answer. And then repeating this process again.
This is the potent QAA technique of real life problem solving.
Let's see how we can reach the solution of the piercing cap just by QAA technique without knowing the use of inventive principles at all.
Question 1. What is the most important or critical constraint?
Answer 1. Cost of production and management of an additional instrument to be used only once is the most critical constraint.
Question 2. How to minimize the cost of production and management of a piercing instrument to nearly zero?
This time it is a small gap to jump across to the answer.
The piercing instrument must be produced as a part of producing the tube.
In fact, there cannot be any other possibility you were sure.
Question 3. Which part of the tube can be used as the piercing instrument?
Analysis and answer,
The tube itself cannot perforate itself. The cap must act as the piercing instrument.
Question 4. But how can the cap be used as the piercing instrument?
In answering this last question, you as the designer now examine the possibilities by inspecting the cap minutely. This is deeper analysis of the problem.
It takes a short while before you focus on the head of the cap.
And you realize,
The flat head of the cap is the resource waiting to be used.
This must provide the solution. There is no other way.
A piercing projection on the flat cap head would not only be awkward, piercing the metal cover with it would also be not a smooth, easy and controlled process.
The question now shifts to make the process of piercing as easy and smooth as possible,
Question 5: How can the piercing be done smoothly and easily with a projection on the cap head?
It is a question of making a jump across an unknown gap again.
Whenever the problem solver confronts such an unknown gap to jump across, essentially out-of-the-box thinking is needed to make the jump.
Not used to random thinking, you try to actually imagine the action of turned around cap head with its newly added projection for piercing the metal cover. By habit you always screwed the cap tight in the normal case, but the turned around cap you can't screw in.
Or can't you really?
Realization: There is surely a clear space between the tube mouth and the cap head when the cap is screwed tight in the normal way. What if the flat head is embedded in a cavity?
The gap to cross is a short one and with persistent efforts to find a way out by examining closely all the elements involved, it is not before the perfect solution you could see in your mind's eye,
Making a cavity with screw threads, and adding the sharp projection while matching the depth of the metal cover and the head of the cap properly were just a few formalities to be completed.
The threaded cavity ensured fail-safe piercing without any chance of the needle head sliding off the metal cover, and it actually needs to be blunt, not sharp.
While the projection is screwed in, it applies continuously increasing pressure on the metal cover at a single point and can break through a stronger cover. No need for it to be sharp at all.
Production becomes easy as well as the blunt needle head eliminates any chance of breaking the needle head while piercing. Bluntness makes it strong and sturdy. All these goodness because of the threaded cavity.
This is the second inventive idea for the solution to fulfill the demands of a really simple to use and least cost inventive solution taking care of all foreseen problems and not so easily perceived problems.
Examining the inventive properties of the threaded cavity
The threaded cavity ensured the cap head to be screwed tight thus breaking the metal cover uniformly without any jagged edge as well as without any chance of the blunt needle head breaking off.
The process is smooth without any need for extra force.
Isn't it an inventive idea?
Surely you would agree that this must be so. But which one among the 40 principles?
This inventive action cannot readily be found among the list.
This again is a truth that you must know,
The 40 inventive principles are not the all inventive principles that can be and are used knowingly or unknowingly.
Without making an extra effort to locate this principle among the TRIZ 40 principles, let us examine in a little more detail, what the action of screwing in really means.
The screw motion is basically a rotating motion along with a forward movement, it is not a simple one.
All the hundreds of different types of drills boring through a thin plank, the wall of your house or through a mountain to make a tunnel use this compound rotation plus forward motion.
How can we express this motion in its simplest and most abstract form? It can simply be,
Still we would be missing the valuable property of the screwing motion,
In addition to rotating motion with a forward movement, the threads provide no other path than the threads and keep the compound motion under full control. The screwing motion of the cap is a rotating, forward and controlled motion.
We'll name it in a more abstract manner as Principle of combined multiple actions.
It is a powerful innovation no doubt about it. But let's stop here. It needs more time to understand its use and effects of use more clearly.
Let's continue our discussion.
How to use the protrusion? You already know it,
Just use other way around principle finally.
Turn the cap around and screw it tight the opposite way.
Did we use only the Other way round inventive principle to achieve the inventive solution?
No worthwhile innovation in real life happens based on only one inventive principle.
Always a number of inventive principles are used together to achieve an inventive solution.
What are the other inventive principles used?
Remember what we said,
The flat head of the cap is the resource waiting to be used.
The cap head and a spare, still invisible, space below it provided the free resources where only the threaded cavity with the piercing projection could be added.
Free resource use principle is behind most of the innovations.
When in a problem situation, look around for a useful free resource, and if you find one, you would have your inventive solution assured.
On the whole three inventive principles supposed to have been used in the solution,
- Other way round, the main principle,
- Inventive action provided by the screw thread - Principle of combined multiple actions, and,
- Free resource use principle.
Any other problem solved by the piercing cap?
As the size of the pierced hole could be precisely controlled by the protrusion and the depth it would go in, you would get just the amount of cream needed with each squeeze. No more accidental splotches of wasted cream and discomfort.
This is value addition.
Getting additional benefits out of the main solution
In the process of solving the main problem every opportunity is to be used for extracting as many benefits as possible without any extra cost of course.
So we are now well-aware of what the Other way round inventive principle is, and how it can be applied for inventive solutions.
Being aware, it is time to actually apply this powerful inventive principle in real life of ourselves.
In the next session, we will analyze two case stories where I happened to solve both the problems by using the concept of other way round. Being aware of its use made it easy for me to sort of discover the inventive possibilities.
The idea of any inventive principle needs out of the way thinking, it doesn't come naturally.
And being aware of the possibility takes the load off the always sought after but uncertain path of out of the way thinking.
I will now introduce you to the 1st of the two inventive solutions that could be reached by me. I leave you with the picture of the object and a brief idea on what its use is.
You might be tempted to think ahead and define the problem and the inventive solution yourself.
Example 3: The story of the classic basalt stone mortar and pestle
After a rather longish research, Tukai purchased the solid basalt 25.5 cm by 17.5 cm mortar along with the heavy imposing pestle. Such a beauty of a mortar and pestle I had never seen. Any hard nut can be cracked and ground to dust with this surely and effortlessly, by now I know.
Suggestions for you
- Click open the list of 40 inventive principles with examples.
- Go through the full list with examples just once at first.
- Choose a few principles that you find interesting. All principles are not used with the same frequency.
- And look for objects and ideas around you where at least one of the 40 principles has been used.
- Finally when in a problem situation, try to use an inventive principle first in the process of solving the problem.
Make it a habit of examining the objects around you that you have taken for granted all these years. Put yourself in the position of the person who first created the object from scratch. Ask revealing questions and analyze to get answers.
In the process identify which inventive principle is acting as a basis for solution.
This drill is not boring rather it is highly creative and learning without any dependency on anything.
What would be my gain - you might be thinking.
Think it out. You would perceive the gains if you actually go through a few of the above steps suggested.