Book Review

Book Review

Title: Unified Structured Inventive Thinking - How to Invent

Author: E. N. Sickafus, Ph. D.

Details: 1998, 7" x 10", 488 pp, 3 lb., hard cover, US$44.50

Publisher: Ntelleck, P.O. Box 193, Grosse Ile, MI 48138

How to...

This textbook explains the theory of Unified Structured Inventive Thinking (USIT) and describes how to apply it to a variety of engineering problem situations. It includes examples taken from the automotive industry and industrial classes. The author has taught these classes in the Ford Motor Company - the first company to use this methodology in the USA. This is a "how-to" book for developing conceptual solutions to real-world problems, both inventive as well as mundane concepts.

USIT is not TRIZ

USIT, although having its early roots in the Russian methodology called TRIZ (pronounced "trees"), is quite different from TRIZ. It is related directly to the Israeli method called Systematic Inventive Thinking. The latter began as a variant of TRIZ and evolved into a distinct problem solving methodology. Chapter 2 covers this history and introduces the principals responsible for its development.

What USIT is

USIT is a problem solving methodology -- a structured process for starting with real-world problems, conceptualizing them, and then finding multiple conceptual solutions. Following a USIT analysis, the technologist uses engineering filters to cull the solution concepts found and selects the best ones. The author illustrates the use of USIT to find inventive solutions as well as multiple routine solution concepts. USIT is a methodology applicable in the pre-engineering phase of problem solving to find innovative concepts and in the actual engineering phase wherever problems are encountered.

Organization of the book

For the benefit of industrial managers, who must approve books and courses for industrial technologists, the author has devoted Chapter 3 to an overview of USIT. It goes through the theory only lightly, to introduce basic concepts, and illustrate each of the heuristic devices and solution techniques. The chapter ends with an explanation of what USIT is and is not.

Chapter 4 is an overview for everyone. Here, a single problem, how to remove blocks of ice from large molds, demonstrates the various analyses and solution techniques of USIT.

Chapters 3 and 4, introduce the reader to all the concepts of USIT but to little of its supporting theory.

Chapters 5 - 13 cover each of the parts of USIT with explanation of their theory and application. This completes Part I of the book.

In Part II, the author analyzes nine different real-world problems to illustrate USIT's application. These include a problem on case hardening (19 solution concepts), a design for a smart automotive head lamp (21 solution concepts), a toast detector (19 solution concepts), and a picture-hanging kit (a high school demonstration problem with 16 solution concepts).

Presented here, and at the beginning of Part I, is an unusual device for student reference and use especially by USIT instructors. It is a Guide to USIT Example Problems - a matrix having twenty-six problem entries in the rows and sixteen column entries of USIT features and a column citing page references. This table shows where to find an example problem that illustrates a particular USIT feature of interest. On examining the shaded intersections of rows and columns it becomes evident which problems have rather thorough treatments and which address only certain aspects of USIT. The uncompleted portions of the table show where an instructor can make problem assignments for classes to complete specific portions of selected example problems.

The last section, Part III, has a chapter with a brief discussion of the industrial experience with USIT, the author's first lecture, a first problem, some motivations for the book, and comments regarding reasons to use USIT. Four appendices, a bibliography, glossary, and index complete the book.

Two "Algorithms"

The USIT methodology includes two, so called, "algorithms" or structural procedures for analyzing problems. One named the "Closed-World Algorithm" and the other the "Particles Method"; both originated in the Israel SIT method. As found by the Israeli's, the former is the preferred starting point for problems that have solutions but need better ones, while the latter algorithm is preferred for problems having no solution.

A common situation is to give an industrial technologist a subsystem component that does not perform properly and require its improvement - a problem having a solution but needing a better one. He or she must then find a solution that enables the improved subsystem to be "dropped in place" in the original system without modification of the original system. The closed-world algorithm has been designed for this situation. A problem having no solution is representative of a situation more open to broader concepts.

Problems without numbers

USIT deals with problems at a conceptual level where numbers, equations, and specifications are not needed. This emphasizes an understanding of phenomenology of the sciences and engineering. Although equations play no major role, and are only discussed in one appendix, the book was written for college undergraduate and graduate technologists (that is, non-technically trained persons will have difficulty appreciating some of the methodology). It should be noted, on the other hand, that one of the author's examples is an expansion of a problem used to illustrate the methodology to a high-school audience.

The U of USIT

"Unified", the "U" of USIT, refers to the further development of the Israeli systematic inventive thinking methodology into structured inventive thinking and then to unified structured inventive thinking. The author's effort to develop a unified SIT is based on establishing clear, unique definitions for three fundamental elements - objects, attributes, and functions. All other features of USIT theory and application follow a self-consistent application of these fundamental elements and their logical links.

The original Israeli method, systematic inventive thinking, had four "solution tricks": increased dimensionality, multiplication, unification, and division. These represent a very successful development by the Israeli's to simplify the scores of techniques and standard solutions of TRIZ.

In USIT, increased dimensionality has been augmented with decreased dimensionality to produce simply dimensionality, multiplication and division have been combined to become pluralization, and "dis-unification" has been added to unification to become distribution. In addition, using the unification concepts, the author has developed a new solution technique called transduction. The solution techniques focus on the specific elements of USIT as follows: dimensionality focuses on attributes of objects, pluralization focuses on objects, distribution focuses on functions, and transduction focuses on attribute-function-attribute links. To these is added one more technique called uniqueness that focuses on the unusual temporal and spatial features of a problem situation.

This somewhat cumbersome terminology is, at first, a bit disconcerting and requires some adaptation time. However, on reading through several example problems, the terminology becomes clear and its intended function evident.

An additional expansion of the original SIT process includes object-attribute-function statements. The author added these to assist the analyst in early recognition of the three basic elements and how they bring new insight in a problem analysis.


Thoroughness of the discussions in the text, and the pedagogy used, give evidence of extensive teaching experience and a bent to clarify even subtle points. The scope of the examples, covering general engineering and physics, will be quite satisfying to most readers. Yet, on completing the book, some may wish for even broader coverage into such areas as chemistry, biology, and computer science. It is clear, however, that this will require some time to come about as a result of the newness of this methodology and the yet limited number of practitioners. This textbook could be the spark that ignites interests in other fields.


Ntelleck, L.L.C., P.O. Box 193, Grosse Ile, MI 48138 USA


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