Course Overview


This course is aimed at discovering inventive solutions to some of medicine’s most difficult problems. It involves a theory of inventive problem solving known as “Triz” that teaches the student how to “invent on demand.”

Our definition of “problems” is not limited to “inventions” or devices, but encompasses virtually any type of challenge, be it technical, logistical, sociological, psychological, managerial, or none of the above. Although the focus is in the medical field, the principles you will learn are applicable to many different fields and scenarios.

The structure of the course follows a “flipped classroom” model: with reading assignments and pre-recorded lectures assigned before class and “homework” performed in-class. This allows you to learn the material at your own pace, and to translate theory into practice in a group setting with mentorship of the course instructors and the teamwork of your classmates.

In addition to Triz, the pedagogical (instructive) content of the course will include principles of improvisational acting (yes, Improv!) like spontaneity, listening, trust, “saying yes,” “accepting offers,” and “storytelling” The value of these principles are rapidly becoming recognized by many organizations to improve creativity and morale. In this class, the goal is to stimulate your inner “artist” by nudging you outside your “comfort zone.” We play games, have contests, and role-play to harvest your hidden talents to think and act creatively. (You are much more creative than you give yourself credit for.) It will be impossible to fall asleep in our class.

Throughout the semester, specific problems will be assigned to the entire class on topics emphasizing cost saving (affordable health care), medicine for under-resourced settings, rehabilitative medicine for children, global health, and other contemporary topics. Some projects might have an associated “client” from industry or healthcare who will serve as outside reviewer.

In summary, the goals of this course are to: develop formal skills in inventive problem solving, gain proficiency in teamwork and networking, to actually solve real-world problems in medicine, and last but not least… to have fun while learning.

Contradiction Diagram

The contradiction diagram is a vital part of this course. It allows us to chart out every aspect of a device, process, or problem. Each box in the chart having a harm and a benefit. Every aspect of the device, process, or problem can be classified as a harm or a benefit. The box where the harmful and beneficial aspects overlap are considered contradictions. Additionally, some aspects of the device, process, or problem can counteract other aspects, which is also noted in the diagram with a red line and a slash through the line. An example is provided below.

Inventive Principles

The Inventive Principles are 40 (that we focus on in this course) principles that can help solve contradictions and roadblocks in the inventing process. These principles are covered in lectures provided on this website.

Invention Reports

Throughout the semester there will be assigned a specific challenge problem that each student must solve using the techniques presented to-date. A report will be required in the form of a mini-patent disclosure, including background, prior art, drawings, and detailed description of invention. Bonus points will be given for addition of claims. The students will give a rapid-fire oral presentation (1 minute) in class. Further guidelines regarding the content, length and format will be available on Blackboard. Approximately 3-4 such challenges will be assigned during the semester. A few examples of previous invention reports are included below (these were all completed by students from Junior-Graduate level standing).

Multi Modal Diagnostic Tricorder Chamber