Sunday, March 8, 2009

40 Principles for Business Model Innovation

The 40 principles for innovation, based on TRIZ adjusted for business problems, is the result of an analysis of close to three million successful inventive solutions from areas such as science, arts, politics, engineering and business. The principles, presented with some general business examples in the book Hands on Systematic Innovation(2004) by Darrell Mann, are good to use in brainstorming sessions on how to innovate business models and value propositions. All principles are of course not applicable to all situations, and there is some overlap between some of the principles. I use the different principles, together with the different business model components to generate 320 unique areas in The Business Model Innovation Matrix.

If this is too much for you, a short and simplified version with 4 inventive principles, presented in the book Blue Ocean Strategy(2005) by W Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, is presented in the end.

Principle 1. Segmentation
  • Divide a system or object into independent parts
  • Make a system or object easy to disassemble
  • Increase the degree of fragmentation or segmentation
Principle 2. Taking out
  • Separate an interfering part of property from a system or object, or single out the only necessary part (or property)
Principle 3. Local Quality
  • Change the structure of an object or system from uniform to non-uniform, change an external environment (or external influence) from uniform to non-uniform.
  • Make each part of an object or system function in conditions most suitable for its operation.
  • Make each part of an object or system fulfill a different and useful function
Principle 4. Asymmetry
  • Change the form of system or object from symmetrical to asymmetrical
  • If a system or object is asymmetrical, change its degree of asymmetry
Principle 5. Merging
  • Bring closer together or merge identical or similar systems or objects, assemble identical or similar parts to perform parallel operations
  • Make operations contiguous or parallel; bring them together in time
Principle 6. Universality
  • Make an object or structure perform multiple functions; eliminate the need for other parts
Principle 7. Nested Doll
  • Place one system or object inside another; place each, in turn, inside the other parts
  • Make one thing pass through another
Principle 8. Counter-Balance
  • To compensate for the tendency of a system or object to deviate from a desired path merge it with others that provide a re-stabilizing effect
  • To compensate for the deviation tendency of a system or object, make it interact with global/macro-scale phenomena
Principle 9. Prior Counter-Action
  • If it will be necessary to perform an action with both harmful and useful effects, this action could be replaced with anti-actions to control harmful effects in advance
  • Create beforehand stresses in a system or object that will oppose known undesirable working stresses later on
Principle 10. Prior Action
  • Perform the required change of a system or object (either fully or partially) before it is needed
  • Pre-arrange elements such that they can come into action from the most convenient place and without losing time for their delivery
Principle 11. Prior Cushioning
  • Prepare emergency means beforehand to compensate for the possible problems that might occur later
Principle 12. Remove Tension
  • Where harmful tensions may exist, create conditions to compensate, reduce or eliminate them
Principle 13. The Other Way Around
  • Invent the action(s) used to solve a problem
  • Make movable parts (or the external environment) fixed, and fixed parts movable
  • Turn the system, object or process upside down
Principle 14. Curvature
  • Turn flat or straight things into curved ones
  • Go from linear to rotary motion
Principle 15. Dynamization
  • Allow or design the characteristics of a system, object, external environment, or process to change to be optimal or to find an optimal operating condition
  • Divide a system or object into parts capable of movement relative to each other
  • If a system, object or process is rigid or inflexible, make it movable or adaptive
Principle 16. Slightly Less/Slightly More
  • If 100 percent of an objective is hard to achieve using a given solution method then, by using slighly less or slightly more of the same method, the problem may be considerable easier to solve
Principle 17. Another Dimension
  • If a system or object uses only one or two dimensions; make use of the unused dimensions
  • Use a multi-storey arrangement instead of a single-storey arrangement
  • Tilt or re-orient the system or object, lay it on its side
  • Use another side of a given system or object
Principle 18. Resonance
  • Find and use the resonant frequency of a system or object
Principle 19. Periodic Action
  • Instead of continuous action, use periodic or changing actions
  • If an action is already periodic, change the periodic magnitude or frequency
  • Use pauses between actions to perform a different action
Principle 20. Continuity of Useful Action
  • Make parts of a system or object work at optimal conditions continuously
  • Eliminate all idle or intermittent actions or work
Principle 21. Hurrying
  • Conduct a process, or certain stages (e.g. destructible, harmful or hazardous operations) at high speed
Principle 22. Turn Lemons into Lemonade
  • Use harmful factors to achieve a positive effect
  • Eliminate the primary harmful action by adding it to another harmful action to resolve a problem
  • Amplify a harmful factor to such a degree that it is no longer harmful
Principle 23. Feedback
  • Introduce feedback to improve a process or action
  • If feedback is already used, change its magnitude or influence
Principle 24. Intermediary
  • Use an intermediary carrier article or intermediary process
  • Merge one system or object temporarily with another which can be easily removed
Principle 25. Self-service
  • Make a system or object serve itself by performing auxiliary helpful functions
  • Use waste or lost resources, energy, or substances
Principle 26. Copying
  • Instead of an unavailable, expensive, or vulnerable object, use simpler and inexpensive copies
  • Replace a system, object, or process with optical or virtual copies
  • If copies are already used, move to an out of the ordinary illumination and viewing perspective
Principle 27. Cheap Disposable
  • Replace an expensive system or object with a multiple of inexpensive alternatives, comprising certain less-important qualities
Principle 28. Another Sense
  • Replace or supplement one sensory means with another (visible, touch, acoustic, taste or smell)
Principle 29. Fluidity
  • Make solid things into fluid things
Principle 30. Thin and Flexible
  • Use thin and flexible structures instead of large, three-dimensional ones
  • Isolate a system or object from a potentially harmful environment using thin and flexible structures
Principle 31. Holes
  • Add holes to a system or object
  • If a system or object already has holes, use them to introduce a useful substance or function
Principle 32. Color Changes
  • Change the colour of an object or its external environment
  • Change the transparency of a system, object or an external environment
Principle 33. Homogeneity
  • Make systems or object interact with others of a similar form or with similar properties
Principle 34. Discarding and Recovering
  • Make portions of a system or object that have fulfilled their functions go away or modify them directly during an operation
  • Conversely, restore consumable parts of a system or object directly in operation
Principle 35. Parameter Changes
  • Change an object's physical state
  • Change the concentration or consistency
  • Change the degree of flexibility
  • Change emotional and other parameters
Principle 36. Paradigm Shift
  • Use phenomena occurring during disruptive shifts in an economy
Principle 37. Relative Change
  • Use the relative difference that exist in an object or system to do something useful
  • Make different parts of a system act differently in response to changes
Principle 38. Enriched Atmosphere
  • Replace a normal atmosphere with an enriched one
  • Expose a highly enriched atmosphere with one containing potentially unstable elements
Principle 39. Calm Atmosphere
  • Replace a normal environment with an inert one
  • Add neutral parts or elements to a system or object
Principle 40. Composite Structures
  • Change from uniform to composite structures, be aware of and utilize combinations of different skills and capabilities

A short version on inventive principles
A short version with 4 inventive principles is presented in the book Blue Ocean Strategy (2005) called the four actions framework:
  • Eliminate - which of the factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated
  • Reduce - which factors should be reduced well below the industry's standard?
  • Create - Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?
  • Raise - Which factors should be raised well above the industry's standard?
Further reading:
The Business Model Innovation Matrix
What is a value proposition?
The Value Proposition Hierarchy Explorer

Further external reading:
Hands on Systematic Innovation: For Business and Management
by Darrell Mann
Blue Ocean Strategy
by W.Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Books on TRIZ at Amazon


  1. the TRIZ principles were derived from mechanical problems and are solutions to physical "contradictions".

    how much sense does it make to try to apply them to business situations. to me, they suffer from a lack of motivation. shouldn't solutions to business problems be derived from business experience and expertise, not mechanical engineering?

  2. Graham,
    Thank you for your comment. Experience and expertise is as important in business as it is in mechanical engineering and in both areas, tools for generating new ideas can be very helpful.

    If you spend some time thinking about the TRIZ principles, and business problems, you will realize that the same principles can be used to solve complex business problems.

    I have personal experience from using the principles successfully and if you are interested in the subject I recommend Darrell Mann's book Hands-On Systematic Innovation for Business & Management with some interesting examples applying the principles on business problems and business model innovation.


  3. Great use of TRIZ for business thinking.

  4. I have heard about TRIZ two years ago, but never followed up, until last week when I had the chance to invite an experienced TRIZer to my class.

    From my personal viewpoint the TRIZ methodology, contradictions, and inventive principles can (with a bit of creativity) easily be translated into business related contradictions and problems.

    I am happy to see that someone else in the world is having the same point of view which motivates me to dig deeper.

  5. I’m happy you like it. Some TRIZ practitioners are not sharing our point of view...