One way to develop stronger innovation skills is to practice pattern recognition…seeing an inherent pattern used to create innovative products and services. Pattern recognition "builds innovation muscle" and makes you more adept at applying patterns to other products and services. Here is an interesting example that uses the S.I.T. pattern called Attribute Dependency. This pattern creates new (or breaks existing) dependencies between attributes of a product or service. It can also create dependencies between attributes of the product or service and its external environment.
Do you see the Attribute Dependency pattern in this map?
This "new world order" map creates a dependency between a country's population size and its land mass. By correlating the two attributes, countries are located where their population is best matched to physical area. Take a moment to study it. It is worth the look.
While the map is interesting, one might question its value. It is hypothetical as no country is going to move its population to another location. If one defines innovation as NEW, USEFUL, and SURPRISING ("Gee, I never would have thought of that."), the map meets two out of three criteria.
To make it truly innovative, we use "Function Follows Form" and envision potential benefits of such a map. We take the form of the map as is, and we hypothesize new functions it can perform. Here are some potential uses:
1. Training Tool: I can imagine using this in my innovation course as a way to demonstrate Attribute Dependency. Rather than just show students this map, however, I would have them take an original world map and apply the pattern in a disciplined way. They might come up with this same configuration, but it is more likely they will create their own, even more novel "new world order." After the exercise, I would share this map as a way to reinforce the idea.
2. Research Tool: Perhaps this map could be used in political science research to see what it says about countries and their policies. Is there a difference between countries that have different population densities in terms of their economies, politics, and social norms? How would things change if their population density was normalized to the rest of the world?
3. Foreign Policy Tool: Perhaps this map could suggest new strategies for conducting foreign policy. What if Mexico and Iran really were next to each other? What would it do to each country in terms of trade or conflict? What if Germany had a lot of the oil-producing region? Would oil be distributed more equitably?
4. Trend Spotting Tool: Perhaps the map could help suggest new trends in cooperation and conflict. If India and the United States shared a border, what would the new relationship look like, and is it likely this could occur? What new languages might emerge in certain regions given the new locations. How would religion change?
5. Corporate Strategy Tool: Could this map suggest modifications to other types of maps that would help companies see new strategic opportunities? For example, what if a company created a different map of its customer's locations based on some attribute such as "cost to serve" or "future growth potential." Perhaps it would suggest new ways to service customers or target new customers.