Innovation Sighting: Attribute Dependency in Swiss Trains

From a distance this newest railway revolution might look like a string of large barrels tied together. But the Stoos Bahn is now the world’s steepest funicular railway which just opened to the public. Taking over 14 years to build, and climbing at 110% gradient, the Stoos Bahn provides another transportation option for children traveling to school in mountainous Switzerland. And, tourists traveling to car-free Stoos now have another transportation option.

This newest innovation was made possible by using the Attribute Dependency Technique. Attribute Dependency is one of the five innovation methods called Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). It works by creating (or breaking) a dependency between two attributes of a product or its environment. The Stoos Bahn utilizes this technique by building rotating cabins which allow the floor of the cabins to tilt as the rail incline increases, leaving the passengers on level footing.

As CNN states,

The cabins on the 52 million-Swiss franc ($52.6 million) funicular in the Swiss alpine resort of Stoos resemble rotating drums that keep passengers level as the gradient changes. The 1,720-meter track will run from the valley floor near Schwyz to car-free Stoos, which sits on a lofty plateau beneath the Fronalpstock mountain at 1,300 meters (4,300 feet) near Lake Lucerne. The track, which travels through the mountainside for part of its journey, rises 743 meters along gradients as steep as 110%.

The Stoos Bahn is just one example of innovating by using a template. It’s true that anyone can learn to create by utilizing the SIT methods. If you would like to get the most out of the Attribute Dependency Technique, follow these steps:

  1. List internal/external variables.
  2. Pair variables (using a 2 x 2 matrix)
  • Internal/internal
  • Internal/external
  1. Create (or break) a dependency between the variables.
  2. Visualize the resulting virtual product.
  3. Identify potential user needs.

Modify the product to improve it.