Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Solving dilemmas: Odysseus and the Sirens. [Separation in Action]

In two previous posts (1, 2) about the separation principles we considered the dilemma Odysseus encounters when he approaches the island where the three Sirens live:
[Odysseus]... faces a dilemma. On one hand, he wants to listen to the Sirens' song because it is the most beautiful song in the world. On the other hand, he doesn't want to hear the song because it will cause him to forget himself and run his ship into deadly rocks.
In Homer's poem, Odysseus resolves the dilemma in space and I propose another, more modern solution, using separation in time.

The third key TRIZ principle for solving dilemmas is Separation in Action [Interaction]. In the Odysseus dilemma we have two important incompatible interactions: a) listening to the song of the Sirens (Action 1); b) steering the ship away from the rocks (Action 2).

To get the best of both worlds, i.e. experience the song and not crash the ship on the rocks, the actions have to happen in the same space and in the same time, but independently from one another. In other words, the crew, including Odysseus, should be listening to the song (Action 1), and the ship,
independently from the crew, should be steering away from the rocks (Action 2).

A natural implementation of this concept would be a ship that steers itself. For example, the ship can be on auto-pilot or steered by a robot. This solution was not available to Odysseus, but is available to us. Further, a combination of separation in Action and Space can give us steering by remote control ( or by the will of gods.) You can think up other solutions as well.


To summarize all three posts: When solving dilemmas it is important to be patient, i.e. deploy slow deliberate thinking, and explore multiple potential solutions using all three separation principles as well as their combinations. Some of the ideas will be ripe for immediate implementation, others for future development. Since patents last 20 years, it usually makes sense to write up all of the ideas, not only the ones that are going to work immediately.

tags: triz, separation, problem, solution, example, strategy

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