Everybody loves to play the game bags during the colorful Holi festival in India. Children especially like playing the game with water balloons since water balloons have the potential to hurt people. The government, however, put a ban on them and as a substitute low thickness plastic bags are used.
The national Indian festivity known as Holi takes place each year in March, where millions of children and teenagers with their colored faces, use plastic bags as water balloons, but the main problem is that after a game there are several plastic bags that cause contaminant litter. If not picked up and disposed of properly the plastic bags will choke the drainage systems.
What can be done to improve this situation with minimum cost?
Use the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) in Simple Stages
Step 1: An individual can see that the initial situations include:
How to make a bag that does not hurt and cause litter
How to clear the litter at no cost
How to have bags that do not block the drainage systems
Step 2: Choose a problem situation that can be solved with minimal changes and can be implemented quickly by solving the main problem of blockage. As in - how to clear the litter at no cost.
Step 3: Write the initial situation using problem number two.
There are several thin plastic bags littered all over the place that need to be cleared. Ask these questions:
Plastic bag: jargon?
Littered: means what?
Cleared: means what?
Plastic bag: thin solid material
Littered: means all over the place
Cleared: absent from the zone
Look at it from the initial situation: There is thin solid material all over the place that has to become absent at no cost with minimal changes to the system.
Figure 1: Bags on Ground After Holi Festival
Genrich Altshuller, the founder of TRIZ, introduced various models to be used in strong thinking and they are all present in the steps for identifying and resolving contradictions by using ARIZ-85C (ARIZ is the Algorithm for Inventive Problem Solving). Many people say that it is difficult. But this is an example of how ARIZ helps an individual have clear thinking about the problem definition making it easy to solve.
One of the primary purposes of TRIZ was based on how an individual can eliminate or reduce trials and errors in the thinking process so that inventors can reach strong solutions without having to sift through long lists of solutions. This is achieved by reducing development times but not compromising on the quality of solutions when faced with non-typical problems.
The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving evolved using various tools, concepts and theories. All were proposed, tested and eliminated, but individually these tools (when applied) would not be problem solving models, but they were small strategies to deploy in a problem solving model.
The proposal of ARIZ as the problem solving model deployed for a process that could be considered as a systems integrator for the whole of the classical TRIZ body of knowledge was difficult for people to understand.
The following is an example of how ARIZ helps an individual have clear thinking about the problem definition in order to solve it efficiently. Some parts of ARIZ-85C (the last ARIZ proposed by Altshuller) are used.
Using the Exaggeration Model
At a minimum use three levels of exaggeration toward plus and three toward less. Apply the exaggeration model to the situation and then apply the axiom of reflection to the step and re-correct.
Initial situation: There is thin solid material all over the place that has to become absent at no cost and with minimal changes to the system.
If an individual were to imagine that the whole earth would be covered by a thin sheet of solid material and if it were to be removed (think analogously it is equivalent to the removal of top soil over the earth) the only way would be by erosion with sunlight and wind. This leads in the direction of self-degradable material and while it is a good direction to pursue, would involve much more effort and cannot be done with minimal changes.
If an individual were to imagine a large layer of thin solids over an area then they would have people to collect it.
If an individual were to have a large layer of thin solids in a small concentrated area it would easily be solved by people collecting it.
If an individual were to imagine a small amount of thin solids over a large area then an individual would ignore the problem prompting them into a direction of how to have children not throw such bags.
Reflect on Thinking
The rules followed included:
No jargons and simplification
The initial situation contains no jargon and is simple, abstraction was also fine and exaggeration was okay, so what changed after exaggeration?
The use of biodegradable material and thin solids are not used.
People would easily clean up if the area of litter was small.
Initial situation: There is thin solid material all over the place that has to become absent at no cost by people picking it up for free and with minimal changes to the system.
What if an individual had a magic wand that could grant a wish to convert the initial situation to a most desirable result? What would be the answer for people picking up the thin solid material that is all over the place without any fuss?
Figure 2: Nikhil Phadnis
Investigate if all the people are picking up the solid material all over the place. What is the barrier? Why are people not fighting to pick up the thin solid material?
In order for people to fight and pick it up the thin solid material should be valuable, however, it is currently not valuable. This is the consequence of the exaggeration model, therefore, the contradiction is the thin solid material has to be extremely valuable.
Solve the Contradiction
In order to solve the contradiction first notice the application at each stage. What is considered extremely valuable? Gold or large quantities of money? Then solve the contradiction. The contradiction can be written as: The solid material has to be gold (or money) so that people will pick it up so that it serves the purpose of game play.
To resolve the contradiction think of when it should be gold or a large amount of money and when it should be just a plastic bag? The answer is it should be gold or large amounts of money later and not be gold or large amounts of money when playing the game.
What can be done? Acknowledge that TRIZ is a powerful way to solve a problem just like mathematics; TRIZ is more than a tool, it is a thinking model.
Write a Simple Solution
The key was a large amount of litter to be converted in millions of dollars. What is a method where people can get millions of dollars with nothing? The lottery is a simple and possible answer.
The new solution: People use plastic bags and after the Holi festival they participate in a lottery concourse because a lottery ticket is printed on the front of the bag.
The result? The situation has been improved with minimum cost.
Simple and Cost-effective
The two benefits of printing a lottery ticket on the bags include:
People will be hesitant to throw the bags and after they throw the bags they will be collected by people; therefore
The problem of choking drain systems will stop.
The exercise objective was to show how strong thinking works in a systematic way. The use of random brainstorming was not used. In the end a strong solution was developed with minimal changes to the system using ARIZ to help have clear thinking about the problem definition, therefore, making it easy to solve.
Note: A 13-year-old boy, Nikhil Phadnis (the author's son), developed this solution using TRIZ concepts.
About the Author:
Shree Phadnis is MA-TRIZ Level 3 certified and is also a directed evolution specialist from Ideation International and is the chairman of TRIZ Association of Asia (TAA). He is a Master Black Belt in Six Sigma and is the principal consultant with QAI Global an international innovation consulting firm. Contact Shree Phadnis at shreephadnis (at) usa.net.