Since the origin and basis of TRIZ is from the study of the global patent literature, we would expect the methodology to have significant use in its ability to be used in this area. That's exactly the case.
One of key items in the TRIZ tool kit is the collection of Lines of Evolution. It turns out that the advancement of technology is not all that random and the study of the global patent literature establishes a number of patters and lines of technological evolution that can be used to do a better job of planning new product development, forecasting and planning technological activities, and improving the quality of intellectual property. In a unique way, they can also be used to circumvent existing intellectual property. The actual number of TRIZ Lines of Evolution is debated by TRIZ scholars endlessly, but for the purposes of this section, we will use seven commonly used lines:
- Systems and products become more ideal over time
- Parts of systems (sub-systems) evolve non-uniformly, creating constantly changing opportunities for innovation (ex: the automobile)
- Systems and products become more dynamic and controllable over time
- Systems and products tend to become more complex over time, then become simplified (ex: eyeglass products)
- Systems and products evolve with matching and mismatching of components (ex: adhesive tape systems, components fitting in only one direction)
- Systems and products evolve toward the use of higher frequency energy and use of fields (ex: cooking systems, communication systems)
- Systems evolve in the direction of decreased human involvement
These lines can be applied against any existing product or service and will suggest ways that the product or system will evolve over time, suggesting fertile areas for research and technological development. These same lines can be used to analyze intellectual property for potential improvement areas or for potential 'skipped' steps in the evolutionary process which may provide new commercial opportunities.
One of the ways of using these principles is to graphically show both the completeness and incompleteness of a technical system or invention against a list of Lines of Evolution. This diagram illustrates how this was done for a home use product which as assessed against a more complete list of 35 lines of evolution. (click for a larger image)
The further the color extends to the outer radius, the more the product idea has advanced toward its ultimate potential. Large gaps indicate areas for technological improvement. Expertise is required to evaluate this as well as to choose which lines of evolution are relevant.