Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Book Review: Information Technology System Cookbook: Introducing TrizIT
There is a lot that is wrong with David Lady’s new book Information Technology System Cookbook. So why am I excited about it? It is NEW—it is not a compilation of other TRIZ teachers’ favorite stories. It is not general TRIZ re-cast for information technology. It is not the 40 principles re-written with IT examples. It is fresh, it is new, and it is thought provoking. So, I will forgive the grievous errors (Altshuller’s personal history, claiming that a formula constitutes a “proof”) and the editing errors (a figure on page 25 that is explained at length starting at page 90, missing apostrophes, spelling and grammar errors) and the just plain weird (whole pages of hand-drawn figures that don’t add anything to the understanding of the concepts) in order to read the fresh, new and thought provoking elements.
For brevity in the review let’s call it “ITS Cookbook” –but it isn’t a “how to use these tools” cookbook. There is an extensive introduction that focuses on the nature of systems, starting with all of human experience and eventually getting to IT systems. There are parallels to the Complete Technical System of classical TRIZ, but Lady only introduces those parallels after his exploration of systems in general. The ideal final result is a key concept of Lady’s TrizIT, but the definition is somewhat different from standard TRIZ definitions. He has some very useful guidance on formulating the contradiction that is at the core of the problem, and recognizing chains of contradictions.
There are 30 concepts with recognizable roots in the 40 Principles, presented with simple examples. The 39 features of information systems are recognizably related to the 39 features of Altshuller’s contradiction matrix, but are redefined with some care, and the matrix itself is not used, since there is not yet a body of research to link specific contradictions to specific sets of solutions. Instead, the features are used to refine the definitions of the contradictions, in a model that might be useful in “classical” TRIZ. Examples are very hard in all TRIZ books, since what is an exciting innovation today may look hopelessly out of date in only a few months, and books are intended to last years (decades?) Lady didn’t resolve this perpetual contradiction of TRIZ books, but his examples are nicely focused in the IT world.
Lady links the ideal final result to Christensen’s concept of disruptive innovation, but does not show how to use that linkage outside the consumer product/service area. This is one of Lady’s innovations that would be worth extending to other levels of IT, and pursuing into other TRIZ applications, to look for new ways to stimulate thinking about the ideal final result.
The last chapter, on strategic planning, seems disconnected from the rest of the book. It is not explicitly related to either IT issues or to the application of TRIZ to strategy issues, although the potential is there. Expanding this chapter to show how each of the strategic planning constructs that he defines could be improved by application of TRIZ would be a useful improvement in future editions.
Conclusion: “ITS Cookbook” is imperfect. But it is useful to hear a new voice, from a different background, dealing with old concepts from both IT and TRIZ a new way.