Be Fruitful and Multiply: The Multiplication Technique

by | Jul 14, 2014 | Evaluation Ideas, Idea Generation, Jacob Goldenberg | 0 comments

A common problem in photography is the occurrence of red-eye, like you see here. Redeye happens when the flash of a camera goes into the eyeball. It hits the back of your eye which has a lot of tiny blood vessels. The light picks up the red color from the blood in these vessels, and then it bounces straight back into your camera lens. Your friends get that eerie, red-eye look.

But today’s cameras have a clever and simple way to defeat redeye. They have a dual flash. The first flash causes the person’s pupil to constrict enough so that very little light will get in. At that exact moment, the second flash goes off and lights up the subject matter. Voila! No redeye.

This innovation is a classic example of the multiplication technique. The Multiplication Technique is defined as copying an element already existing in the product or service but changing it in some counterintuitive way.

To use the technique, begin by listing the components of the product, process, or service. You pick one of those components, make a copy of it. You keep the original component as is, but the copied component is changed. That creates the virtual product. Using Function Follows Form, you look for potential benefits, and you modify or adapt the concept to improve it to yield an innovative idea.

NoticeableHere are some examples of multiplication. The consumer products company, Procter & Gamble, used the Multiplication Technique to create the Febreze Noticeable Air Freshener. It’s called Noticeable because it has a clever way to keep you smelling the scent. After a period of time, your nose becomes too accustomed to a smell, and the brain shuts it out. But this product gets around that. It has not one, but two different scents. The first scent pulses out into the room, but then stops right about the time your nose stops recognizing it. Just then, the second scent starts pulsing out into the room. Your nose picks up where the other one left off. Pretty clever.

Trac2Here’s another example. Gillette multiplied the razor blade of a straight edge razor to create the TRAC II Twin Blade Shaving System. The first blade gently lifts the whisker so that the second blade can cut off the whisker for a closer shave. The copied component is different in its location and function. By the way, you may have noticed Gillette and other companies have added even more blades to their razors. They have as many as five blades, but they don’t really do anything differently than the first one. I don’t consider that a creative idea, but rather just a way to improve performance.

Measuring cupLook at this measuring cup. It has two sets of measurements along the side. It has its original measurements, and a second set of measurements at an odd angle around the perimeter of the cup. Why would that be valuable? As you tilt the cup to pour liquid, the second set of measurements allows you to continue measuring the amount of liquid. That’s very convenient.

Multiplication accounts for many new products and services, and it’s straightforward to use. You want to make this powerful technique part of your innovation arsenal.