"Divide and Conquer" is: a. classic military strategy, b. a computer algorithm design paradigm, c. a collaborative problem solving approach, d. an innovation tool, or e. ALL THE ABOVE
The answer, of course, is all the above. Division is one of the five templates of innovation in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method. The others are Subtraction, Task Unification, Multiplication, and Attribute Dependency. Templates were developed by recognizing the same consistent pattern over many products so that the pattern could be applied to create innovative new products. The method works by taking a product, concept, situation, service, process, or other seed construct, and breaking it into its basic component parts or attributes. The templates manipulate the components, one at a time, to create new-to-the-world constructs for which the innovator finds a valuable use. The notion of taking the solution and finding a problem that it can solve is called "function follows form" and is at the heart of the systematic inventive thinking process. It is innovation by working backwards.
If you want innovation in your company, hire innovative people. But how do you know if someone is innovative? What do you look for? What telltale evidence might suggest that a person has superior innovation skills? What is the telltale of innovation? I think I know the answer. But, just as with the youth hockey experience, I will need to collect data to be sure. My hypothesis is mental searching speed, an idea that Yoni Stern at S.I.T. taught me. This is a measure of how well you "Google" your own mind and memory for information or experiences when given a task. The task in the case of innovation is to take a Virtual Product (a mental abstract produced through the S.I.T. method), and mentally search your mind to find many productive, innovative uses for it. Whoever can find the most ideas for a given task is more innovative in my view. They make the team. My task now is to select a different team - a team of research collaborators to find and validate the Innovation Telltale, something the Fortune 100 will surely value.
A corporate innovation method should be robust enough to produce incremental as well as disruptive ideas. One of my favorite templates in the S.I.T. method is called Division because it does just that. The Division template takes a product or service, divides it or its components, and rearranges them to form a new product or service. It is a particularly useful template to help people see their product or service in completely new ways. It helps people get unstuck from the "fixed" frame that we all have naturally about our products or services. My favorite example of Division happened during an innovation training session. One of the participants was a bit cynical about the method and using patterns to innovate anything. To help him overcome this, I let him select any product or service that he was convinced could not be innovated further. He chose the refrigerator, a concept that has been with us since 1000 BC. What follows is how we used Division in this spontaneous exercise to change his mind.
Teaching people how to innovate is rewarding. It empowers them. It unlocks their minds to believe that innovation can happen "on command." People realize there is no excuse for not having enough ideas or being innovative once they have been trained.
This month's LAB features the output of one of my students, Michael Sanders, in my class, "Applied Marketing Innovation." For the final exam, students were assigned a product at random. They had three hours to apply all five templates in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method to come up with true new-to-the-world innovations. They were graded on how correctly they applied each template as well as the novelty of their inventions. Michael's assignment: Garage Door Opener. Here is what he did.
Credit card companies must innovate to overcome the financial and public relations consequences of recent government legislation. The Credit Card Reform Act of 2009 is a "bill to protect consumers, and especially young consumers, from skyrocketing credit card debt, unfair credit card practices, and deceptive credit offers." These changes go into effect in 2010, and they will undoubtedly reduce the financial performance of card issuers.
“We put the ‘no’ in innovation!” The good people at Post Cereal have a new twist on innovation…NOT innovating as a statement of the products ubiquity and staying power. “Some things just weren’t meant to be innovated." How could I resist? It was just too tempting to use systematic innovation on this simple product, especially in light of the perception that it should not be innovated. Though the ad campaign is a spoof, I wonder just how much the people at Post really believe this. What if shredded wheat could be innovated to create new growth potential for this sixty year old product?
Health Care Reform, as the U.S. government sees it, promises lower costs, better access, and improved quality for all. Let's apply a structured innovation method to health care to see if we can achieve some of these goals. For this month's LAB, we will apply Systematic Inventive Thinking to the hospital discharge process.
What is the first thing you do when you step into an elevator? Push the button of the floor you are going to. Not so with a new breed of elevators manufactured by Schindler North America. These elevators have the buttons on the outside, not inside. The buttons for selecting your floor are on each floor. Instead of just pushing a single up or down button to hail an elevator, you push the button for the floor you want as though you were inside.
The Division Template is the culprit here. In this innovation sighting, the elevator floor button panel was divided out and placed back into the system...outside the elevator cab. Very novel, useful, and surprising. To use Division, make a list of the components, then divide out a component. Divide functionally or physically and place it back somewhere in the system. Use Function Follows Form to identify potential benefits, feasibility, challenges, and adaptations.
Mobility is a good thing. As mobility increases, so does our standard of living. Mobility expands job opportunities, enriches our personal life, and boosts prosperity. For nations, mobility expands trade, creates wealth, and makes countries more competitive. Mobility even helps us live longer. For hundreds of years, life expectancies hovered around 40 years. During the 1800s they began to shoot up when road transport improved. Today life expectancies in many advanced societies approach 80 years thanks to improved mobility in transportation, communications, and network computing.
How can we use structured innovation to create more of it? How can we make the products and services we use every day more mobile? For this month's LAB, we will use the Division Template. We begin by listing the product's (or service's) internal components. Then we divide one or more of the components in one of three ways:
Innovation puts cash in your wallet. But what about the wallet itself? For this month's LAB, we will apply the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., to create new and useful concepts for the wallet.
Wallets are the most personal items we own. They carry our money, credit cards, identification, licenses, photographs, and other memorabilia. Your wallet says a lot about you. As with food, we try to stuff more inside while staying thin. Wallets have been around a long time. Today, the wallet industry is a multi-billion dollar market fueled by new designs and innovation. Here are six unique wallet concepts invented using the five templates in the S.I.T. method. They were created by graduate students at the University of Cincinnati as part of their course requirements in "Applied Marketing Innovation."