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Name Irina Sigalovsky, Ph.D.
Title Principal, GEN3 Partners, Inc.
Faculty Position Lecturer
Areas of Expertise Systematic Innovation, TRIZ
Education Ph.D., Health Sciences and Technology, MIT/Harvard Medical School; Bachelor of Science, BioMedical Engineering, Boston University

On explaining the innovation methodology of TRIZ:
“TRIZ (Russian acronym for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is the science of innovation. Traditionally, people think that innovation or invention always relies on creativity and inspiration, on that special spark that only a few selected individuals are capable of. TRIZ postulates that innovation can and should be a repeatable process and that anyone can be taught how to innovate successfully. Classical TRIZ offers a number of problem-solving tools (e.g., tools for resolving of contradictions), however more contemporary versions also include tools for system analysis (e.g., Function Analysis). Principles and tools of TRIZ are derived from the analysis of the world’s patent collection which showed that problems, solutions and patterns of technical evolution are repeated across industries. TRIZ was originally developed in the middle of 20th century by Genrich Altshuller in the Soviet Union but has since become a globally accepted approach for developing innovative solutions to complex technical problems.”

On becoming involved in TRIZ:
“Like so many other important events in my life, my involvement with TRIZ was completely incidental and circumstantial. I got a call from GEN3 when I was finishing a post-doc in neuroscience and still looking for “my place in life.” I was intrigued because I realized that this company does something special, something exciting, something I’ve never even heard about before. I guess I can credit myself with taking a risk, diving into the unknown and recognizing a unique opportunity to become a part of something special.”

On teaching Systematic Innovation at Tufts Gordon Institute:
“The Masters in Science in Engineering Management (MSEM) program is truly a perfect fit for TRIZ. The goal of the MSEM program is to grow a “technical leader who inspires and cultivates innovation in the workplace.”  The objective of my class is exactly that: provide students with tools – tools that they will not only be able to use themselves, but also teach others, inspire others, and change the culture of innovation inside their companies. Innovation is a team sport and the MSEM program is set up to learn in teams. The caliber of students is impressive and inspiring. The breadth of industries from which students come is enriching and it’s wonderful how they learn from each other’s experiences and view points.”

On teaching style:
“TRIZ is a fairly young science and, as such, is still evolving and changing. Its tools have been actively developed by TRIZ practitioners all over the world. It is therefore critical to keep a close connection between theory and practice, between the classroom and real applications in industry. It’s a two-way connection: on one hand, to test new theoretical developments on practice and, on the other hand, modify tools based on “feedback” from the industry. I think it would be impossible to teach TRIZ, at least at this point, without actively practicing it. And, of course, teaching greatly benefits from colorful real-life examples and I rely on my professional experience for that.”

On companies using TRIZ successfully:
“TRIZ has been and continues to be internalized by companies like General Electric, Intel, Siemens, Wrigley, Alcoa, FuelCell Energy, Cabot, P&G, Samsung, GM, POSCO and many others. TRIZ has also been instrumental in developing breakthrough technology innovations for a number of early stage ventures. One example is a wearable, non-invasive wristband device that provides continuous blood glucose monitoring.”

On the future of TRIZ:
“I strongly believe that, ultimately, TRIZ should be a part of the core curriculum of any engineering degree. It has gradually been adopted in the US at the corporate level but adaptation, unfortunately, is slow and the US lags behind many countries. There are a number of reasons why adaptation is slow: corporations are not eager to disclose what makes them better to keep a competitive advantage, the number of people who know TRIZ well is limited, and TRIZ hasn’t been integrated with other methods used by companies. I think TRIZ needs to go outside of the corporate world– it needs acceptance from universities and encouragement from the government.”