Innovation Sighting: The Division Template on Music

by | Feb 21, 2011 | Design Thinking, Ideation | 0 comments

The power of the SIT method lies in the fact that inventors, for thousands of years, have embedded five simple patterns into their inventions, usually without knowing it. These patterns are the “DNA” of products that can be extracted and applied to any product or service to create new-to-the-world innovations.  Here is an example of an innovator working diligently to create a new innovation in the field of music – called “Music for Shuffle.”  The inventor, Matthew Irvine Brown, is using the Divison technique to create musical phrases that can be played together in any random order.  The phrases interlock with each other to create a continuous stream of music – a song.  Listen:

Music for Shuffle #01 from Matt Brown on Vimeo.

While this music may not make the Billboard top 50, it may open up a whole new way to think about song generation.  With this innovation, he introduces the idea of taking a song, physically dividing out parts of it, and rearranging it to create a better outcome.  Music exists because of patterns.  Blues music, for example, is a 12 bar I-IV-V progression. The Division technique works by dividing a product or service (or one of its component) either physically or functionally and then rearranging them to form a new product or service.  The technique is particulary useful to help break structural fixedness, the tendency to see objects as a whole.

To extend this idea, imagine taking the most popular phrases out of songs and “repacking” them together to create a new song.  For example, take a phrase from “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zepplin and a phrase from “Freebrird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and link them together at natural interlocking point to create a new phrase.  Now imagine taking tens of thousands of phrases from top selling songs and interlocking them randomly to find the most interesting sounding ideas.  These new phrases would create the starting point to make adjustments and improvements for better sounding music.

For some, the use of a template seems to defeat the creative purpose.  But in fact, most creative people used some form of pattern to “bootstrap” their innovations and get to a higher level.  The Beatles, for example, have sold more records in the US than anyone.  How?   They used templates.