TRIZ: Universal Principles of Innovation

In our quest to be become great agile guides for our organization, I often find facilitation techniques as a place we could all spend more time developing. There are great coaching certifications out there that elaborate on some of these, but we don't necessarily need a certification course to explore tools that allow us to facilitate larger groups managing knowledge they already have to arrive at a consensus for a decision or fostering new ideas to tackle a problem.

In this session, I want to explore a technique knew to me, so decided to deep dive into a bit more and share my thoughts with you. Perhaps it will help you implement facilitation techniques that help with fostering creativity and innovation.

TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving)

TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is a systematic approach to solving engineering problems. Developed by Genrich Altshuller and his colleagues in the former USSR, TRIZ offers a structured methodology and a set of tools to drive innovative solutions.

While the phases provide a general framework, TRIZ is flexible, and the actual procedure may vary based on the nature of the problem, the specific tools employed, and the practitioner's skill. The primary advantage of TRIZ is its methodical approach to creativity and its collection of tools designed to address a wide range of challenges.

Let's explore a general breakdown of the key steps involved in the TRIZ process:

Problem Definition

Understand the problem in its full context. Identify the ideal end result (often referred to as the "Ideal Final Result" or IFR in TRIZ). This means envisioning the perfect solution without the constraints of current reality.

Problem Analysis

Express the problem in terms of a contradiction, if possible. A contradiction in TRIZ terms refers to a situation where improving one parameter inadvertently worsens another. Utilize the TRIZ contradiction matrix to identify potential inventive principles that can address the contradiction.


Apply the 40 inventive principles of TRIZ (listed at the end of this bog). These are general solutions or approaches that can be adapted to specific problems. Use the "Separation Principles" to see if the contradiction can be solved by separating the conflicting parameters in time, space, condition, or upon some other parameter. Consider the system and its subsystems. Examine how they interact and how changes can be made at different levels (using tools like the "9 Windows" or System Operator).

Evaluation and Selection

Assess the proposed solutions for feasibility, potential impact, and alignment with the project's objectives. Prioritize solutions based on a balance of effort versus impact.

Prototype and Testing

Create prototypes or models of the chosen solution.
Test to validate that the solution effectively addresses the original problem and to ensure that no new problems have been introduced


Deploy the solution in the actual context. Monitor and measure its effectiveness.

Iterative Improvement

Use feedback from the implemented solution to identify areas for further enhancement or refinement. Return to earlier TRIZ steps if new problems or contradictions arise


Record the problem-solving process, the identified contradictions, and the applied solutions. This can be useful for future reference and for sharing knowledge.

Product Development Processes and TRIZ

Given that I spend most of my time in agile practices, I find that I would probably use the following principles to help organizations align teams and backlogs to help minimize dependencies and bottlenecks. There are plenty of innovative opportunities around designing a system to build products around the skills of the people and tools we have available.


This principle involves dividing a system or product into smaller parts or components to identify areas where improvements can be made. By breaking down the system into smaller pieces, it is easier to identify areas that can be optimized, streamlined, or removed altogether.

Taking out

This principle involves removing a component or part of a system to eliminate a problem or improve performance. This principle can be used to simplify a system, reduce complexity, and improve efficiency.

Local quality

This principle involves improving the quality or effectiveness of a specific component or part of a system. By improving the quality of a specific component or part, the overall performance of the system can be improved.


This principle involves introducing asymmetry to a system or component to improve its performance. By introducing asymmetry, it is possible to optimize the performance of a component or system without adding complexity.


This principle involves combining or merging two or more components or parts of a system to improve performance or eliminate problems. By combining components or parts, it is possible to create new solutions and improve the overall performance of a system.

Using TRIZ and Agile

We can see that TRIZ and Agile are methodologies from two distinct disciplines (engineering problem solving and software development, respectively). However, when thoughtfully integrated, they can create a synergistic approach to innovation and product development.

  • Understanding the Problem: Start with the basic Agile principle of understanding user needs. This involves gathering requirements, creating user stories, and defining acceptance criteria. Then, use TRIZ to understand the root cause of any problems or challenges the users face.
  • Ideation and Prioritization: Use TRIZ's problem-solving tools and techniques like the 40 principles of innovation, the contradiction matrix, and the ideality concept to generate innovative solutions to the identified problems. In Agile, the product backlog is then prioritized. Using insights from TRIZ, prioritize items that address both the root cause and offer innovative solutions.
  • Sprint Planning with TRIZ:
    When planning sprints, incorporate TRIZ techniques to ensure you are solving problems in the most innovative and efficient way. It might also help to identify any potential conflicts or contradictions that might arise during development and use TRIZ to find potential solutions or ways around them.
  • Incorporate Feedback Loop: Agile emphasizes feedback after every sprint. Use this feedback combined with TRIZ's analytical tools to understand if the root problem was indeed addressed and to identify any new problems or challenges that might have arisen.
  • Retrospectives with TRIZ: After every sprint, conduct a retrospective. Instead of just looking at what went well and what didn’t, use TRIZ to dive deeper into understanding why certain problems occurred and how they might be innovatively avoided in the future.
  • Continuous Improvement: Both TRIZ and Agile believe in iterative improvement. While Agile focuses on delivering incremental value, TRIZ provides tools to continuously find and address contradictions or conflicts, ensuring innovative solutions.
  • Problem-Solving During the Sprint: During the sprint, whenever the team faces an obstacle or contradiction, instead of relying only on their existing knowledge, they can use TRIZ techniques to find a potential innovative solution.
  • Education and Training: To ensure everyone is on the same page, provide training on TRIZ techniques to all team members. This way, the entire team is equipped with the same problem-solving toolkit and can contribute more effectively.
  • Documentation: In Agile, there's a focus on working solutions over comprehensive documentation. However, when integrating TRIZ, it might be helpful to document key contradictions identified, solutions applied, and results obtained. This can serve as a knowledge base for future projects.


Although TRIZ and Agile each have their own history and area of concentration, when combined they provide a powerful blend of systematic creativity and adaptive progress.

By combining them, teams can more reliably provide innovative, user-centric, and optimized solutions. Bringing together the flexibility and user-focused approach of Agile with the systematic innovative processes of TRIZ can be a game-changer for businesses looking to improve their problem-solving and product creation prowess.

After my research with TRIZ, I can tell its a well though-out and deep framework. We have only scratched the surface here, but my goal was more just introducing it as you may not have heard of it before. Now if it interests you, you can learn more about how to use this in your agile teams.

To me, the following are benefits of using TRIZ and agile methods:

  • Enhanced Problem-Solving: By framing challenges in terms of contradictions, TRIZ provides a structured approach to identifying root problems and innovative solutions. This complements the Agile focus on delivering value and addressing user needs.
  • Innovation in Agile: Agile methodologies primarily emphasize delivering incremental value and responding to change. Introducing TRIZ enriches this process by systematically fostering innovation, ensuring not just the delivery of features but their optimization.
  • Efficient Resource Utilization: TRIZ's focus on the Ideal Final Result (IFR) aligns with Agile's aim to maximize work not done, promoting efficiency and streamlining efforts to deliver optimal results with minimal resources.
  • Iterative Improvement: Both TRIZ and Agile believe in iterative refinement. While Agile iteratively refines product features based on feedback, TRIZ iteratively tackles problems to converge on the best solution.
  • Shared Understanding and Collaboration: Incorporating TRIZ techniques in Agile ceremonies (like Sprint Planning and Retrospectives) can enhance team collaboration, enabling a shared understanding of problems and a unified approach to solving them.
  • Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Just as Agile promotes a growth mindset and continuous learning, TRIZ equips teams with tools to consistently tackle new challenges. This shared ethos of learning makes their integration seamless.
  • Versatility in Application: While TRIZ originated in the domain of mechanical engineering, its principles are universal. Coupled with Agile, which is now applied beyond software development, the duo can be utilized in diverse domains for problem-solving and product/service development.

All 40 TRIZ Principles Listed

  • Segmentation: Divide a system into smaller parts or components.
    Taking out: Remove a component or part of a system to eliminate a problem.
  • Local quality: Increase the quality or effectiveness of a specific component or part of a system.
  • Asymmetry: Introduce asymmetry to a system or component to improve its performance.
  • Merging: Combine or merge two or more components or parts of a system.
  • Universality: Use a component or part of a system for multiple purposes or applications.
  • Nesting: Place one component or system inside another to reduce complexity.
  • Counterweight: Introduce a balancing force or component to counteract an undesired effect.
  • Preliminary anti-action: Introduce a preventive measure or action to avoid problems before they occur.
  • Prior action: Introduce an action or measure to address a problem before it occurs.
  • Cushioning: Introduce a cushioning or damping effect to reduce the impact of a problem.
  • Equipotentiality: Ensure that all parts or components of a system have equal potential or performance.
  • Feedback: Introduce a feedback loop or mechanism to improve system performance or stability.
  • Spheroidality: Change the shape or form of a system or component to improve its performance.
  • Dynamics: Introduce a dynamic or moving component to a system to improve its performance.
  • Partial or excessive actions: Introduce a partial or excessive action to solve a problem.
  • Transition to a new dimension: Introduce a new dimension or variable to a system to solve a problem.
  • Mechanical vibration: Introduce mechanical vibration to a system to improve its performance.
  • Periodic action: Introduce a periodic action or process to a system to improve its performance.
  • Continuity of useful action: Ensure that a system or component performs a useful action throughout its operation.
  • Skipping: Skip a step or component in a process to simplify or improve the process.
  • "Blessing in disguise": Use a problem or negative effect as an opportunity to introduce a positive change.
  • Feedback to the second degree: Use feedback from a feedback loop to improve system performance.
  • Intermediary: Introduce an intermediary component or step in a process to simplify or improve the process.
  • Self-service: Introduce a self-service or self-operating component to a system to improve its performance.
  • Copying: Use a successful solution from another domain or system to solve a problem.
  • Cheap short-lived objects: Introduce a short-lived or disposable component or solution to solve a problem.
  • Mechanics substitution: Replace a mechanical component with a non-mechanical one to simplify or improve the system.
  • Pneumatics and hydraulics: Introduce a pneumatic or hydraulic component to a system to improve its performance.
  • Flexible membranes or films: Introduce a flexible membrane or film to a system to improve its performance.
  • Porous materials: Introduce a porous material to a system to improve its performance.
  • Color changes: Introduce a color change to a system to improve its performance.
  • Homogeneity: Ensure that all parts or components of a system are homogenous in their performance or properties.
  • Discarding and recovering: Introduce a process or component that allows for discarding or recovering resources to improve efficiency.
    Parameter change
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