The readership of this blog has steadily grown, and it's time to start demonstrating how innovation works...in real time. Once each month, I will post The LAB. This is where we will use a specified innovation tool on a product or service that is suggested by one of you, the readers of this blog.
Once I have received a suggested product or service (posted in Comments) from one of you, I will use a specified innovation tool to create a new-to-the-world innovation. I will show results in a subsequent post with a description of how I applied the tool and used each step of the process to create the innovation. In some LABS, I may be able to include a drawing or rendering of the innovation.
For those people interested in the innovation space, my firm belief is that we need to make a regular habit of innovating so we can perfect the craft and set the pace for others. It is not enough to talk about and read about innovation. It is essential that we all do it.
Welcome to The LAB. This month, we will focus on Task Unification. This tool is one of five templates in the S.I.T. method of innovation. The tool works by taking a component of a product or service and assigning it an additional task or job.
What I need from one of our readers is: a suggested product or service. I will use this suggestion to apply Task Unification to innovate new embodiments. Please post your suggestion in Comments below. Innovation results will be posted shortly!
The suggestion from one of our readers (thanks, Erez!) is to use Task Unification on a guitar. His comment suggests that players have trouble keeping their guitars in tune when playing in a band. They need to reduce the time it takes to re-tune between songs. I liked this assignment because I play guitar, and I have a small collection of electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, and a banjo. This will be the first time I have applied a systematic innovation process to invent new guitar concepts. Let's see what happens.
The Multiplication tool is one of the five powerful thinking tools taught to me by the folks at Systematic Inventive Thinking. I like this tool because it is simple and yields great results. Even children can learn it.
Multiplication works by taking a component of the product, service, strategy, etc, and then making one or several copies of it. But the copy must be changed in some way from the original component. The original component is still intact, unchanged. Now using Function Follows Form, we work backwards to take this hypothetical solution and find a problem that it solves.
Here are ten innovations for the iPhone that I would love to see. I created these using the Attribute Dependency tool. It is the most powerful of the five tools of Systematic Inventive Thinking, but also the most difficult to learn.
To use Attribute Dependency, we start by making two lists. The first is a list of internal attributes of the iPhone. The second is a list of external attributes - those factors that are not under the control of the manufacturer (Apple, in this case), but that vary in the context of how the product or service is used. Then we create a matrix with the internal and external attributes on one axis, and the internal attributes only on the other axis. This matrix forces the combinations of internal-to-internal and internal-to-external attributes that we will use to innovate.
Do systematic methods of innovation work on services and processes? This may be the most common question from corporate executives who want to learn innovation methods. This month's LAB will focus on a familiar corporate process: employee recruiting. The tool we'll use is Subtraction.
To use Subtraction, we make a list of the components. With a process or service, the components are simply the steps to deliver the process or service. We remove a step one at a time to create the Virtual Product/Process. Working backwards with Function Follows Form, we innovate what the potential value or benefits would be without the component. What would the new process do? Who would use it? Why would they use it?
Can you innovate a mature product? Consider the fishing pole which dates back to the ancient Egyptians - it certainly qualifies as a mature product. This month's LAB will innovate it by using the systematic innovation methodl called Multiplication.
Fishing is the largest sporting activity in the U.S. with 40 million participants, far more than golf or tennis combined, the next two on the list. Recreational fishing generates more than $125 billion in economic output and more than one million American jobs. If sportfishing were a corporation, it would rank above Bank of America or IBM on the Fortune 100 list of largest American companies. The pathway to growth for any large, mature industry is: innovation!
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.
As we await the arrival of Amazon's Kindle 2.0, it is a perfect time to begin innovating their next generation device. Anytime is a good time to innovate, but it is especially meaningful to innovate just as you launch your latest innovation. It tells the world you are serious about creating a sustainable pipeline of new growth opportunities.
This month's LAB uses the Task Unification tool of Systematic Inventive Thinking to create new concepts for the Kindle. The definition of Task Unification is: assigning an additional job to an existing resource. The general idea is to break the current product down into components and then sytematically give each component a new task or activity. This creates an abstract "pre-inventive" form that we then take and discover potential benefits, target markets, and adaptations that would make the innovation very useful and unique. This is what I call "Solution-To-Problem" innovation.
This month's LAB uses the Task Unification tool of Systematic Inventive Thinking to create some new concepts for the Kindle. The definition of Task Unification is: assigning an additional job to an existing resource. The general idea is to break the current product down into components and then sytematically give each component some new task or activity. This creates an abstract "pre-inventive" form that we then take and discover potential benefits, target markets, and adaptations that would make the innovation very useful and unique.
Venture capitalists could increase the value of their investments by applying a corporate innovation method to those investments. Take Twitter for example. It just received its third round of funding - $35 million. Yet it has no revenue, no business model...just the promise of such. It is the perfect time to innovate.
I decided to take the challenge to create new concepts for the Twitter platform that have the potential to earn money. Others are chasing this, too, including the Twitter management team. It reminds me of the early days of Amazon when many (including me) wondered if the company would turn a profit. The difference between Twitter and Amazon is an important one. Amazon started with a business model in mind. From there, it had to achieve economies of scale. Twitter started with none. Economies of scale do not matter until it can define a viable business model.
Let's see how innovation can help.