Using the Ideal Final Result to Define the Problem to Be Solved

Ellen Domb, Ph.D.
The TRIZ Institute, 190 N. Mountain Ave., Upland, CA 91786 USA
+1(909)949-0857 FAX +1(909)949-2968 ellendomb@compuserve.com

In the first tutorial on the Ideal Final Result (Ref. 1) we stopped at the point where the Ideal Final result has been defined. That is, the result is stated in technology-independent terms that meet the four test criteria:

  1. Eliminates the deficiencies of the original system
  2. Preserves the advantages of the original system
  3. Does not make the system more complicated (uses free or available resources.)
  4. Does not introduce new disadvantages

In terms of the value equation, the Ideal Final Result has all the benefits that the customer requires, and none of the harm caused by the original system. In many cases, developing a clear statement of the Ideal Final Result will lead directly to a solution to the problem, and frequently leads to a solution at a very high level, since the technology-independent definition of the Ideal Final Result will lead the problem solver away from traditional means of solving the problem. (See Ref. 2.)

For example, in Altshuller’s classic problem about the candy factory (Ref. 3) small chocolate bottles are filled with a gooey liqueur/sugar syrup mixture. To increase the factory’s productivity, the filling is heated, to make it run faster. But, the hot filling melts the chocolate. (This is also an excellent problem for practicing identifying technical contradictions and physical contradictions.)

TRIZ students frequently struggle to identify the Ideal Final Result. As long as they use the word “fill” in their statement, they will concentrate on finding ways to pour the liquid into the bottle. But, if they choose a technology-independent formulation, such as

  • “The goo is on the inside and the chocolate is on the outside.”
  • “The chocolate encloses the goo.”

they then see solutions that are not dependent on pouring, such as the classic one of freezing the goo in the final shape, then dipping it in melted chocolate, and not-so-classic ones like blown injection molding, where the pressurized goo provides the propulsive force to shape the chocolate in a mold.

Other cases are more resistant to solution at the stage of formulation of the Ideal Final Result. In these cases, a procedure is required to guide the TRIZ student from the statement of the Ideal Final Result to a redefinition of the problem to be solved, to the solutions to the problem. This piece of ARIZ (the Algorithm for Creative Problem Solving) is outlined in the following steps (Ref. 4)

  1. What is the final aim?
  2. What is the ideal final result?
  3. What is the obstacle to this?
  4. Why does this interfere?
  5. Under what conditions would the interference disappear? What resources are available to create these conditions?

Gasanov, et al., (Ref. 4) use a charming story to illustrate this methodology. Consider the problem of raising rabbits. The rabbits need fresh food constantly, but they cannot be allowed to roam free, because they will pursue the fresh food, and not be where the farmer can find them. The farmer does not want to spend all his (or her?) time bringing fresh food to the rabbits. Using the 5 steps above, the TRIZ student formulates the problem as follows:

  1. What is the final aim? The rabbits can feed on fresh grass
  2. What is the ideal final result? The rabbits feed themselves fresh grass.
  3. What is the obstacle to this? The walls of the cage are immobile.
  4. Why does this interfere? Since the walls don’t move, the area of grass available to the rabbits doesn’t change.
  5. Under what conditions would the interference disappear? When the enclosure moves to fresh grass whenever the rabbits have eaten the grass inside it. What resources are available to create these conditions?

The solution is frequently obvious from step 5. (Put the enclosure on wheels, so that the rabbits themselves can push it to a fresh grazing area.)

If the solution is not obvious, re-examine all the resources available in the problem. Elegant, high-level solutions to technical problems are frequently found by using resources in multiple ways. To continue the problem of the rabbits, the solution is to move the enclosure to fresh grass, but it might not be obvious how to move it. The only energy resources in the problem are the rabbits and the farmer. Since the objective of the problem was to find a way that the farmer could avoid using his own time and energy, we should look at the rabbits as the source of energy for moving the enclosure. The general list of possible energy sources is

  • use “harmful” energy, force
  • use free energy, force
  • look for an engine standing idle nearby
  • lessen the loss of energy, force
  • put together a very simple machine

In this case, the rabbits are a source of free energy already present in the problem.

Dr. Jack Jacklich recently provided a creative example of the analysis of available resources in a discussion on the Internet Dental Forum. Air abrasion is a dental technique that uses fine abrasive powder propelled by compressed gas to remove old fillings or decayed tooth material. (Students of the TRIZ patterns of evolution will recognize this as the pattern of a segmented material, the abrasive powder, replacing a solid tool, the “drill.”) The dentists protect the patient from breathing the powder, mixed with pieces of decayed tooth or old filling material, through the mouth by placing a thin rubber membrane across the mouth, but they still worry that the patient could inhale the harmful matter through the nose.

When he examined the available resources in a typical dentist’s office, Jack quickly identified compressed air (used to drive the instruments) in all offices, and rubber masks that fit over the nose (used to deliver nitrous oxide and oxygen) in many offices. It was easy to adapt the rubber mask to deliver clean compressed air, isolating the patient’s breathing air from the particles generated by the air abrasion system. Although Jack went straight from the problem to the examination of resources, to the solution, we can fill in the answers to the questions for the purpose of illustration:

  1. What is the final aim? The patient has the dental procedure performed, without breathing undesirable material
  2. What is the ideal final result? The patient breathes clean air
  3. What is the obstacle to this? The abrasive particles and the cut material are carried by the compressed air stream all around the area of the work
  4. Why does this interfere? The nose is near the mouth! So some of the particles will be inhaled.
  5. Under what conditions would the interference disappear? Separate the air around the nose from the particles. What resources are available to create these conditions?

Try this method whenever you have formulated the Ideal Final Result and need help moving to the next step of defining the problem to be solved.

References:

  1. Ellen Domb. “The Ideal Final Result: A Tutorial.” February 1997. The TRIZ Journal.
  2. James Kowalick. “Human Functions, Languages and Creativity” May, 1998. The TRIZ Journal.
  3. H. Altov (Altshuller pseudonym.) And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared. Translated by Lev Shulyak. 1994. Technical Innovation Center. Waltham, MA USA
  4. A.M. Gasanov, B. M. Gochman, A. P. Yefimochkin, S. M. Kokin, A. G. Sopelnyak. BIRTH OF AN INVENTION: A Strategy and Tactic For Solving Inventive Problems. Moscow: Interpraks, 1995

About the Author: Ellen Domb, Ph.D., is the co-editor of The TRIZ Journal. She is a consultant and instructor in TRIZ and Quality Function Deployment, and is the developer of popular training programs that enable new TRIZ students to quickly start applying the methods of TRIZ to solving significant technical problems in their own industries. Her classes and public appearances are listed in The TRIZ Journal Calendar, or you can e-mail her at ellendomb@compuserve.com