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TRIZ is a Russian abbreviation for "Theory of Inventive Problem Solving". It was developed in the former Soviet Union over the span of 50 years. It was used in Soviet military and space programs, and, after the collapse of the USSR, began migrating to the West. Its creator, Genrikh Altshuller, discovered that there are certain laws that govern evolution of all technologies. These laws of evolution can be (and are) used to predict (with no subjectivity) the most likely next-generation technologies (as well as products and manufacturing processes). TRIZ also has an arsenal of smaller principles and algorithms used for developing specific conceptual design solutions. These principles and algorithms are especially effective when engineers get stuck using traditional approaches. In such situations, the use of TRIZ by a knowledgeable practitioner can dramatically influence product and process development in any field. Results of TRIZ application are concepts (usually compromise-free and breakthrough ones) that later need to be engineered (designed, calculated, etc) in a conventional way. Modern TRIZ has both a theory of technology evolution and a methodology for systematic development of incremental and breakthrough technologies and products. Now, how a SE could use TRIZ? In the opinion of Alex Shoshiev, it is most useful in System Architecture / Concept Design activities. Shoshiev believes that, for customer-driven/mandated ("scenarios - functions - requirements - concepts") type of projects application of TRIZ helps to innovate on a smaller scale: Problem definition - a problem as perceived by the user, is often not the real problem, but an ill-defined situation (often a cluster of several. sub-problems). Attempts to resolve such a situation often lead nowhere. Use of TRIZ at this stage may help a SE to understand what that the problem really is. If some requirements collide (e.g., a part has to be heavy AND it has to be weightless) Shoshiev believes that TRIZ can help generate a breakthrough solution (that may be beyond the area of the system designer's competence). If the project allows the freedom to generate several concepts for the system components, Shoshiev believes that the laws of evolution will allow for objective selection and evaluation of the most promising prototype. When the design team needs to come up with a new product/product improvement on their own, without the customer guidelines, Shoshiev believes that TRIZ can be used on a bigger scale to its full potential. Shoshiev states that Technology forecasting part of TRIZ does not have a matching power in any other methods that he knows. For existing products it allows one to evaluate whether the existing product is on its "last leg" of evolution or if there is a room for further improvement. Then it can show what direction the development should go (either how to improve the present technology or what new technology should the new product be built on). For new products, it also provides so-called "lines of evolution" thus allowing the company to improve its products ahead of competition, according to Shoshiev. As a related application, TRIZ is often used to create patent fences around a promising technology or, conversely, to go around competitors' blocking patents. There are several books on TRIZ available in English. In the view of Shoshiev, the best overview of TRIZ is a slim book entitled "The Science of Innovation" by Victor Fey and Eugene Rivin (they are among the best TRIZ experts and trainers). Another good intro book is "TRIZ: The Right Solution at the Right Time" by Yuri Salamatov. Also good are books by Althshuller himself, although those may be a bit heavier reads.