Problem Solving Innovators Club


Meeting in Palo Alto, next - Aug 23

This is a club for people who are interested in invention and innovation technologies, problem solving, dialectics, systems science, evolution of systems, TRIZ. We will research and learn creative methods of problem solving and construction of systems, systems thinking, and thinking out of the box. Engineers, creatives, investors, philosophers, patent lawyers, warriors, politicians, all others who meet crucial challenging problems can find it useful.



What is a Minimal Working System and Dual Contradiction

Invitation to the next Innovators Club at PA JCC meeting:
Thursday, Sept 13, 2018, 8-10pm. Change of Room! L111 near cafe, nearby of D129
3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303

What is the most challenging conflict in the work of a developer?
It is a contradiction between thoroughness of thinking about the project and time to start development.
The more you think, the better solution you may come to, but it delays the start of the development.
The sooner you start development, the more time you have, but you may run into other problems thereafter, like redoing and fixing what is already done (if ever).
What to do?
Prepare ( Principle 10: "Do things in advance").
You should learn how to broaden imagination, think faster, powerfully, in the right direction, and know what solution is better.
That is what we are learning to do.

At this Problem Solving meetup I'd like to introduce you to the Minimal Working System concept (MWS).
The MWS is expressed in the language of system description suitable for inventive problem solving.
There are Typical Solutions of Inventive Problems (TSIP) which tell how to create and change systems. There are 77 of them.
We are going to start with it, and, of course, use several interesting real-life problems as examples.
TSIP were discovered, just as the Principles of creating a new property, by researching patents. They are newer, more advanced tools for inventive problem solutions.
They are simple (but not very), and they are considered to be ready recipes for inventions.

The examples are from technology, but we want to discuss and learn how to reveal and use them in other areas, like mathematics, business, art, ideology.

Another thing which I'd like to introduce gradually is the Algorithm. It is the heuristic sequence of steps to analyze and solve inventive problems.
The step one is the problem formulation. Often people think without analyzing what they are thinking about. They just start throwing ideas. This is not productive. Firstly, we should formulate the problem, agree on what we are trying to solve, and continue. The most difficult problems contain conflicts. There is a pattern how to formulate such problems. To formulate a problem, one has to specify a Dual Contradiction...

In essence, what we study is practical dialectics. Made in the second half of XX century, it is a breakthrough from the dialectics which is known from ancient times as the most powerful way of thinking. Dialectics has been known under different names and flavors in ancient Greece, China, India, and Arabia. It is complex. Only most advanced minds were able to comprehend it till the level of usage with constant practice. That is what we are trying to do.

A note for the meetup registrants. A lot of you are from AI area. Inventive problems cannot be solved by "learning". And neural networks are useless here. The deeper knowledge and skills plays the effect. Does it mean it cannot be automated? I believe it can. We are making actual steps to it. Join.

* * *
At the beginning you can introduce yourself, tell us about your inventions, and propose problems.



Next meeting August 23, 2018 Palo Alto JCC, room E104, 8-10pm (Room changed. It is in the same building on another end)

Use an adequate language to describe a problem situation

Shelia Guberman, an inventor of hand-writing recognition methods used in most modern devices presents a topic "One general approach to problem solving". This approach was presented in the paper published in 1969 by Israel Gelfand (one of greatest mathematicians of XX century) and him. The main statement of this approach is “the key in resolving many problems is the use of the adequate language”. The main characteristics of an adequate language are: 1) it provides the shortest description of the phenomena, and 2) it resolves not only the targeted problem, but a number of connected problems in this area. An outstanding Russian AI scientist Michael Bongard in his book “Problems of recognition” pointed to the way of constructing adequate languages: “the description of objects under investigation has to be done as the way how the objects were created”. This use of the  principle is limited to the human communication problems (speech, writing, drawings and perception in general)

            The principle became the basis of the solution of the number of problems:

1.      Handwriting recognition.
2.      Speech recognition.
3.      Oil exploration
4.      Earthquake prediction
5.      Image understanding

The presentation will be followed by a discussion and the problem solving session.



Next meeting August 9, 2018 Palo Alto JCC, room D129, 8-10pm

Continuing study of heuristics for inventive problem solving

I'll present several problems illustrating 2-3 inventive principles. Through this we are going to sharpen the skill of using these principles.

What kind of problems we solve? They called "inventive problems", those kinds of problems when you want to do something and something else prevents you from doing it.

Dilemma, Contradiction, Conflict, Controversy, Trade-off, even Mess, "no win"-"no win", Zugzwang, that what it is. Is there a way from Zugzwang? Yes. We study this. On the lighter scale, these are problems which inventors meet during the development of their ideas. Practical situations present dozens of inventive problems, even hundreds, in order to achieve successful innovation.

Note for those who did not have chance to visit us yet. There is a theory of inventive problem solving based on knowledge contained in patents. All the problems we have were actually great ideas described in strong patents. Almost all principles, and there are 51 principles, 77 standards, 40 steps of the Algorithm, 7 laws of system development, UHFA, and other heuristics, methods and techniques, all that is described in dozens of books and practiced by 10000s around the world, except SF Bay Area, are derived by researching the actual patent databases. What can teach you how to solve inventive problems better then the inventors themselves? No frills, the principles do work! We deal with psychology of an inventor either. It is an important part. Thanking out of the box? How? That is what we learn.

Importance of recognizing and ability of solving inventive problems and seeing what solution is better is paramount. It is the essence of every business. It defines success or failure. I sincerely advise engineers, managers, patent lawyers, investors  carefully study what we do. You do not know what you do not know. That is a problem. Come and solve it!

But this is a practical side. The theoretical side is the qualitative systems theory: how systems are built, transformed (or transforming), and destroyed. One may argue on what intelligence is, but the most useful definition of it is that an intelligent agent changes the world around. That is what we are heading to.

At first, guests are proposed to have a 5-10 minutes speech, if they wish: a). Tell us about your experience with inventions and invention process, what is the best invention you have made; b). What inventive problem you can share with us; c). What advice you can give to inventors.


Next meeting July 26, 2018 Palo Alto JCC, room D129, 8-10pm

Some powerful heuristics of inventive problem solving

1. Guests are proposed to have a 5-10 minutes speech, if they wish: a). Tell us about your experience with inventions and invention process, what is the best invention you have made; b). What inventive problem you can share with us; c). What advice you can give to inventors.

2. The problem which will be offered at the solving session is trickier than before. It may require some powerful heuristics.

3. Q&A about UHFA ("Useful-Harmful" Functional Analysis of a System) if time allows.



Next meeting July 12, 2018, Palo Alto JCC, room D129, 8-10pm

1. Presentation. "Useful-Harmful" Functional Analysis of a System (UHFA)

2. Problem solving session;

"Useful-Harmful" Functional Analysis or UHFA reveals root-cause problems and directions of improvements. It prioritizes them for further creative and inventive work.

As the result of UHFA of a particular system, a graph of functions of elements and existing harmful effects is devised. The specific of it is that it is intended for use by inventors. The main idea is that some elements (natural or technical) perform useful functions as well as produce harmful side effects in addition to existing ones revealing conflicts in the system: the critical parts which require significant amount of creative work to improve.

How to make an invention? There are three paths: 1) by inventing a new function and trying to implement it; 2) by discovering a new property and making the use of it; 3) by improving existing technologies and products. UHFA deals with 3). UHFA can be applied to other systems, including the natural ones.

Nodes of the graphs represent functions. There are only 3 (three) relations among the nodes: "is required for", "causes", and "is introduced to eliminate". While building the functional graph, there are 8 (eight) questions helping in identification of the surrounding new nodes.

UHFA graph of even a simple system may contain hundreds of nodes. A number of inventive problems may be associated with one, two, or three nodes. There are 5 types of such problems. Common sense, business goals, and the trends of evolution (of natural and technical systems) may help in prioritization them. After the problems are identified and prioritized, there are numerous methods (we research them at our club meetings) helping to solve them. Even not coming to the creative stage, while building UHFA a deeper understanding comes as well as multitude of useful solutions.

Conventional designs, structural diagrams, and technological scheduling and recipes do not contain the information found in UHFA. UHFA can be applied as a tool for development as well as kept as a document to preserve and convey the knowledge of experts: why this or that element is there and why the history of the development took this or that course. A separate and important task is alignment of UHFA diagrams with structural ones, since functions and harmful effects may result from combinations of system elements and their interaction with environment. Note that conventional functional diagrams are not the same as UHFA. They do not answer the questions "Why?".

At our next meeting we will investigate how to build and use UHFA with examples of real-life inventive problems.



Next meeting: June 28, 2018, Palo Alto JCC, room D129

1. Presentation. Some less known methods of problem solving. A story involving  "provocation" method.

2. Problem solving session;

The presentation at the first meeting was not as attractive as the problem solving session which was driving creative emotions. This time we will enlarge the problem solving session. The book "Junctions" and the free principles listing will be available.

Remark. Please do not disclose problems offered at the meetings. Mostly, because there are not that many interesting problems suitable for wide audience to solve. And especially never disclose answers: Let other people have opportunity to practice the problem solving. Knowing an answer does not help as much as skills acquired while solving. It is not answers we are looking for, but the ability to solve problems in the most difficult situations.



The meeting went well! After the short introduction to the book, we solved two problems illustrating several inventive principles. One problem was on the level of a real strong invention. People were captivated and interested. "That was unexpected". Obviously! What else would you expect from an inventive situation!?

"I just wanted to thank you for last week's meeting.  It was informative, enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. I'm looking forward to the next meeting."

So far in our arsenal we have 52 inventive principles, 77 "standard" solutions to inventive problems, 40-steps heuristic algorithm of dialectical problem analysis and solution, 100s of problems to sharpen minds, methods of brainstorming and morphological analysis, etc. Our main goal is to learn it, use it, practice dialectics and systems science, social skills, and stability to psychological impact.

See you next time: June 28, 2018, Palo Alto JCC, room D129


The first meeting is on June 14, the next - June 28, 2018 at 8pm. Address: Room D129 at Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life
3921 Fabian Way | Palo Alto, CA 94303 (San Antonio exit from 101. Entrance from Fabian. Pass security and go into the garage. Mention the Innovators Club). We intend to meet twice a month for two hours. This is a club, we learn, practice, speak, and discuss.
Innovators Club at JCC Palo Alto.

Agenda of the first meeting:

  1. Presentation of the "Junctions. On How Worlds are Connected" book by Igor Polk, what it is about and what is inventive problem solving. Are there productive methods to help? A list of 51 inventive methods will be handed;
  2. Problem solving session;
  3. Organization will be discussed.