A problem to be solved can be formulated in different ways.
The description of a problem situation generally contains a lot of information so you can easily get lost in it. To avoid this, it is necessary “to separate the wheat from the chaff", understand what information is needed in the first place, and fix it.
The situation becomes a problem when we identify an undesirable effect that needs to be addressed. The work on the problem situation closely echoes the notion of administrative contradiction used in the classical TRIZ. That is, something must be done, but it is not clear how it can be done.
Manifestation of an undesirable effect
An undesirable effect manifests itself in that the product price does not provide adequate compensation for its production cost. For example, the production cost is too high. Or a factory manufactures a product of poor quality. Or a team of designers does not justify the costs allocated to it. Or the production process is efficient and the product is competitive, but environmental problems suddenly arise, which requires additional costs.
In brief, an undesirable effect occurs where we lose money or where some other disadvantage occurs.
An undesirable effect is always linked to a specific situation.
For example, your computer is now powered by electricity. If electricity is supplied from a power plant located far from your workplace, no undesirable effect occurs, but imagine that it comes from a diesel generator installed near your desk. Naturally, in this case, a serious undesirable effect arises.
Or consider fuel consumption by a car engine. Of course, this phenomenon in itself is undesirable, but it is not the biggest problem for a racing car whereas for a city car, high fuel consumption is a serious undesirable effect.
Clarifying a problem situation
The description of a problem situation can be very extensive and vague, therefore it is necessary to integrate the obtained information and clearly determine the following three components:
- what the undesirable effect of a problem situation consists in;
- what useful product causes a problem when produced;
- what the manufacturing process of the useful product consists in.
A problem often includes several interrelated undesirable effects that need to be eliminated. In this case, the following rule should be observed: "one effect - one problem". That is, when going through the algorithm, we each time focus on eliminating one undesirable effect only. To eliminate the next undesirable effect, it is necessary to repeat the entire process once again. It's much easier to work with a chain of problems, because we have managed to study the machine and the process it performs well enough.
About the work with TRIZ-trainer
The input of this stage is a free-form description of a problem situation. At the output, we must understand the following three things:
- what the undesirable effect consists in;
- what useful product we produce;
- the principle of obtaining that useful product.
This step is vitally important when solving real-life problems. The problems provided in TRIZ-trainer are formulated in such a way that the problem situation is fairly apparent and clear. However, it is recommended not to skip this step and to fill in respective cells of the template. After all, we are preparing to solve real-life problems where the problem situation is by no means always transparent and clear.
Running example. Pizza box
Pizza is stored and transported in a special box. Sometimes pizza sticks to the box. In this case, it is difficult to take it out of the box because the bottom can be torn. The user is dissatisfied and does not want to pay for the damaged pizza as much as for an undamaged one.
Question: How can pizza be preserved undamaged when taking it out of the box?
Clarifying the problem situation:
Undesirable effect: Pizza cannot be sold at the initial price.
Useful product: Pizza that is not damaged during transportation.
Process: Pizza is placed in a box and protected from the contact with other objects by its bottom, walls and cover.