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12.5.2. TRIZ: Function
The second step in the TRIZ sequence is to consider function. This means considering what things are really for. When this is a difficult question to answer, then finding the answer can be very illuminating!
Fig. 12.5 The TRIZ sequence
When you have something to improve or create, seek to make clear what is Primary Functionality (it delivers what you want) and Secondary Functionality (it supports the way in which Primary Functions are delivered). This may take some practice. Look at everyday things around you and list Primary and Secondary Functions.
A window functions primarily to transmit light, but it must also keep apart other elements. In hot countries this is to keep out insects and heat, whilst in cold countries it should to keep the heat in. How could you change the design to manage functions in these different places? For example, to keep insects out you may have a wire grid. Could you design the wire grid so that it helped lose the heat from the house? Think of shape: could you make it to radiate heat or to aid air flow?
Take time to consider functionality. There are many levels on which you can consider this. Play around on different levels, including very abstract levels. What is the functionality of light when I write? It helps me see, but daylight also creates vitamin D in the skin, and it just makes me happy!
Zoom in and out to see how what you are thinking about works with the things around it. How comfortably does it sit with them? Does it change the climate or mood? When you zoom in, you are moving into more direct functionality. You can ask yourself how to get the glass to let more light in, how to keep heat in, how to change the colour of the light, how to vary it over time.
If we define function as how one object changes some feature of another (or some parameter – like heat, colour, shape) then we can imagine zooming in on very local activity and ask what is happening between molecules or atoms and the surrounding fields of electromagnetic action.
Draw maps, showing how the parts and functions interact. Having drawn these maps you can then ask yourself, bit by bit, how much you like the way each part functions. Can you change it so it gives more functionality? Can you use some of your other resources to deliver the function you want–and would they do it better (cheaper, faster, less waste etc.)?
Draw and redraw these maps, playing around with different possibilities. If some of the functions are not clear then just guess (and make a note that this is a guess). There is no point in spending lots of time trying to see if this might or might not work when you may abandon the idea later for a better idea.
Think of the function maps as possibilities not plans.
Other parts of the TRIZ sequence are:
Other sections in this chapter are: