TRIZ in its classical form was developed by the Soviet inventor and science fiction writer Genrich Altshuller and his associates. He started developing TRIZ in 1946 while working in the "Inventions Inspection" department of the Caspian Sea flotilla of the Soviet Navy. His job was to help with the initiation of invention proposals, to rectify and document them and prepare applications to the patent office. During this time he realised that a problem requires an inventive solution if there is a unresolved contradiction in the sense that improving one parameter impacts negatively on another. He later called these “technical contradictions".

His work on what later resulted in TRIZ was interrupted in 1950 by his arrest and sentencing to 25 years in the Gulag. According to one source the arrest was partially triggered by letters which he and Raphael Shapiro sent to Stalin, ministers and newspapers about certain decisions made by the Soviet Government, which they believed were erroneous.[4] Altshuller and Shapiro were freed following Stalin's death in 1953[5] and returned to Baku.

The first paper on TRIZ titled "On the psychology of inventive creation" was published in 1956 in "Issues in Psychology" (Voprosi Psichologii) journal.[6]

By 1969 Altshuller had reviewed about 40,000 patent abstracts in order to find out in what way the innovation had taken place and developed the concept of technical contradictions, the concept of Ideality of a system, contradiction matrix, and 40 Principles of Invention. In the years that followed he developed the concept of physical contradictions, SuField Analysis, Standard Solutions, and several Laws of Technical Systems Evolution, and numerous other theoretical and practical approaches.

In 1971 Altshuller convinced The Inventors Society to establish in Baku the first TRIZ teaching facility called the Azerbaijan Public Institute for Inventive Creation and the first TRIZ research lab called The Public Lab for Inventive Creation. Altshuller was appointed the head of the lab by the Society. The lab incubated the TRIZ movement and in the years that followed other TRIZ teaching institutes were established in all major cities of the USSR. In 1989 the TRIZ Association was formed, with Altshuller chosen as President.

Following the end of the cold war, the waves of emigrants from the former Soviet Union brought TRIZ to other countries and drew attention to it overseas.[7] In 1995 the Altshuller Institute for TRIZ Studies was established in Boston, USA.

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