TRIZ – Preliminary Counteraction


Preliminary Counteraction dictates that a person take steps to counteract a negative action before the negative action occurs. This lens is typically applied as follows:

1. If it will be necessary to do an action with both harmful and useful effects, this action should be replaced with anti-actions to control harmful effects.

a. i.e. Buffer a solution to prevent harm from pH extremes

2. Create beforehand stresses in an object that will oppose known undesirable working stresses later on.

a. i.e. Wearing a lead apron on the parts of the body not being exposed to X-rays

In other words, preliminary counteraction means that you should use anti-actions to control harmful effects.

Preheat Car Engines and Concrete Rebar

When a car is started in a very cold climate, the oil is sitting at the bottom of the pan in a near solid form. Obviously, the engine cannot run without oil. Cold starts increase engine wear and reduce battery life. In this scenario, the negative or harmful effect is the damage caused to the automobile by a cold start. The preliminary counteraction is in the form of a preheat car engine.

A preheat car engine solves the problem by heating the oil in the pan before the car is started. Implementing a preliminary counteraction solves the problem, reducing engine wear and extending the vehicle’s battery life.

In some cases, the preliminary counteraction involves leaving a seemingly negative effect in place. For example, conventional wisdom dictates that rust should be removed from the rebar before concrete is poured. That’s a bad idea. The rust actually makes the bond between the rebar and the concrete stronger; so the preliminary counteraction in this situation is to leave the rust intact.

Please the Negative Nicks

Preliminary counteraction can also be applied to standard business practices. For instance, if you are preparing a proposal or presentation and you know that there is a negative manager or employer who is certain to torpedo your presentation, involve that person beforehand. Try to identify what their reaction will be ahead of time so that you can adequately prepare and avoid a showdown in the meeting.

I use the Preliminary Counteraction lens to improve my proposals. When I write a proposal, I brainstorm for an hour from the viewpoint of my top competitor and then address the drawbacks in my proposal. Even though this section is normally not specified in the RFP (request for proposal), I include the negative aspects of the proposal beforehand.

If you know and understand your weaknesses beforehand, you will be better able to discuss how you can fix the problem and why your audience shouldn’t be concerned with the issue.

What negative or harmful effects exist in your product or service that you can rectify beforehand?

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