From metal to billboards, Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto aka Vhils is regarded for his work across a variety of mediums. However, his “Scratching the Surface” style (which we first noticed here) is particularly remarkable. Using decrepit city walls as his canvas, the artist carved faces from the concrete, unmasking the beauty inherent to even the most neglected spaces.
To use Subtraction, start by listing the components of the situation, product, service, process, etc. (The method works with just about anything that can be conceptualized into components). In this case, the innovator (artist) would create a list like this:
The next step is to subtract a component, preferably something that seems to be essential to the original item. In this case, removing the paint creates our “virtual product” – an abstract, ambiguous configuration that results from applying one of the five S.I.T. patterns. Then we imagine the benefits, potential customers, and needs addressed by the virtual product.
The Subtraction tool is a great starting point for innovation sessions because it helps confront the fixedness we all have about the world around us. A painting without paint certainly fits that description.
To extend the idea, try using the other patterns. For example, Task Unification assigns an additional job to an existing resource. To use Task Unification, list both the internal and external components within the Closed World (an imaginary space and time around the situation). Then select a component randomly and give it a “job” related to your paining. In the works by Vihils, for example, we might take a component of the building and use it as a part of the facial features. Or, we might give people on the street the additional “job” of adding details to the picture.
To use Attribute Dependency, we imagine creating a correlation between internal attributes of the painting with external attributes of the environment around the painting. Simply said, as one thing changes, another thing changes. For example, when it rains, imagine how the Vihils painting might change. Perhaps it changes color, or shape, or theme. Perhaps the change is related to moisture such as wet tears flowing from the subject’s eyes. It is these additional innovations, especially ones that draw from the Closed World, that create that extra element of surprise – “Gee, I never would have thought of that!”