Technique 27

Separation Principles

Split your innovation problem in four ways.


Separation principles help when some physical contradiction stands between you and an innovation, and you need to resolve the conflict with minimal or no trade-off. For example, you need the water in the system to be hot for some functions but cold for others. Or you want all the information to make a good management decision, but you don't want all the information because you don't have time to sift through it.

Use the Separation Principles technique when you've identified a physical contradiction, and when other ideation techniques may have fallen short of resolving it. You may need the help of an expert to apply separation principles, depending on the nature of your innovation project and its difficulty level.

The separation principles come from the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ), and they are defined a little differently by different experts. For simplicity, we characterize the separation principles by separating contradictory properties in time, space, scale, and condition.


1. Identify the Physical Contradiction

The key action here is to figure out which variable, system, or part of a system conflicts with itself. If this is not readily apparent, identify what you want to maximize and why you also want to minimize or eliminate that factor as well. Here are some examples of physical contradictions:

  • We need tire rotation to provide steering and to avoid skidding under icy or ...

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