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Innovate and solve problems to keep your business alive

December 6, 2020

Read the news, blog posts, many articles, from companies and investors; the whole world is talking about innovations. Why do we need Innovation, and how does it impact a business anyway? In this article, we analyzed a business’s functional structure and shown that consistent (not occasional) Innovation & Problem-solving must be in place to ensure business success. 

Business Functional Model

We have already shown an example of Functional Modeling in our blogs “Take a customer’s function away to satisfy the customer“, and “A problem solver is the main roadblock in problem solving processes“.

Functional Modeling is an analytical tool built to help in problem-solving and innovation.

Before we start the analysis, allow me to remind you of the main principles of Functional Modeling (FM).

Purpose of Functional Modeling

  • Learn how the system works
  • Define functional and problematic components
  • Think in the right direction

Functional Modeling Process

  • Define and map components of a system and related components
  • Define and map a functional relation between the components
  • Rank and find the most functional and the most problematic components
  • Think, think, and think…

The main definitions

Product – the purpose that the system was designed initially for
Components – the parts of the system
Supersystem components – the parts that do not belong to the system but interact with it
Function – the interaction between Subject and Object changing a parameter of an Object (if no parameter change there is no function)

The characteristics of a function

  • Useful or Harmful
  • Insufficient or Excessive

Below, are the components’ and functions’ symbols used in functional modeling:

The analysis

According to the law of completeness of part of the system by Genrikh Altshuller, any technical system should include four basic parts: an engine, a transmission, a working organ, and an organ of steering (G.S. Altshuller “Creativity as an exact science”, CRC Press, 1984, p. 223)

For our analysis, we incorporate an engine, a transmission, and a working organ into the “Production Unit.”

The FM of the typical stagnating business can be shown as follows:

Fig.1 FM of a typical stagnating business

Energy feeds a Production Unit which creates the Product. A Customer is buying and using the Product. The Sustaining Control Unit analyzes customer’s feedback and provides relevant information to the Production Unit to ensure the sustainability of the process.

The sequence Production Unit → Product → Customer → Sustaining Control Unit → Production Unit forms a sustaining feedback loop.

In real business, Sustaining Control Unit provides insufficient function. Besides, a Production Unit generates Harm in addition to the Product.

Harm reduces the profit of the business. However, we can treat the “Harm” as an opportunity to develop the business.

We should introduce the “Innovation and Problem-solving Unit” to investigate the Harm. The information has to be forwarded to the Development Control Unit that is responsible for the improvements in the business production process.

Functional Model of Developing Business

Fig.2 FM of a typical developing business

By investigating and reducing the “Harm” we provide an opportunity to advance the business.

Here, the sequence Production Unit → Harm → Innovation & Problem-solving Unit → Development Control Unit → Production Unit forms the development loop.

The activity of two alternative loops: Sustaining and Developing that support alternative functions ensure the health and success of a business.

The results of the functional and problematic ranking

Fig.3 FM ranking of business components: Functional and Problem Ranks

The ranking of the later Functional Model indicates the following:

  • Innovation & Problem-solving Unit received the highest Problem rank – it means that this unit is responsible for the business success. An improvement of this Unit’s performance will result in business success.
  • Production Unit received the highest Functional rank that seems reasonable but also has a significant Problem rank due to the fact that it creates Harm.
  • Steering alternative (contradicting) Units – Sustaining and Developing got the same ranking that indicates the equal contribution to business success.
  • Harm has the only Functional rank because it is the source of advancements and improvements.


Innovation and problem-solving should be a continuous process and should be an inseparable part of any business activity. The Innovation and Problem-solving Unit should be an integrated part of any business.

Suppose the management is requesting urgent actions to improve yield, reduce cost, or search for new customers. What this really means is that the Innovation & Problem-solving Unit either doesn’t work properly or does not even exist in the business.

Contact us if training, coaching, or consulting is needed.

Keep in mind that Innovation is a Solution of Somebody’s Problem.

PRIZ Guru is an online platform for continuous innovation. The platform integrates project management flow with creative thinking tools. PRIZ Guru Platform supports both personal and remote teamwork.

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Leave A Comment

  • Sharique
    December 9, 2020

    Well defined please keep sending such innovative articles

  • Mengistu Gosalo
    December 15, 2020

    I’m very interested in business favoring posts!! Please include scope and future of industrial engineering!!

  • Aleksei
    June 15, 2021

    Too far-fetched, too subjective, far away from reality. Work in automotive or fmcg for a month and you will realise why TRIZ, XTRIZ, PRIZ, SHMIZ are not very popular to say the least.


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