Learning the Powerful, Yet Abstract Method of Attribute Dependency

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November 2, 2020

Learning the Powerful, Yet Abstract Method of Attribute Dependency

Attribute Dependency is one of the five techniques of the SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking) method. 

Just to give you an idea, think of your home thermostat or your car’s windshield wipers that change speed. What do they have in common?

You see, while Attribute Dependency is arguably the most powerful and it accounts for most of the innovations out there – it’s also the most difficult and the most abstract of the techniques.


What is Attribute Dependency?


Attribute dependency is when you create a correlation or a dependency between two attributes, two characteristics, or two properties. One is typically the characteristic or property of a product or service (internal). And the other is a characteristic or property of the environment the product is in (external). 

Attribute dependency is a great creativity technique to break fixedness. It forces you to create these relationships so you can consider potential new benefits and new creative solutions to things you can innovate on demand. It forces you to create those combinations that you just won’t do on your own. 


How to Use The Attribute Dependency Technique


  1. Define your starting point.

Pick something in your mind that you want to work on.

Ex: coffee cup

  1. Have an idea of the variables or the attributes of that starting point. 

Remember, the other four techniques of the SIT method use components, but attribute dependency uses attributes. A component is typically something you can touch or see. An attribute is something that defines or characterizes that product.  


Using the coffee cup example:

  • Component: Handle of the coffee cup
  • Attributes: the coffee cup’s shape, color, size, height, diameter, weight
  1. Think of the attributes around the product.

Have a list of the attributes of the world around this product or service. This could also include the attributes of the user, the user’s gender, the user’s purpose, etc. 


Attributes of a coffee cup:

  • Type of liquid that goes inside
  • Type of person who is using the coffee cup
  • The time of day that the coffee cup is being used
  • The temperature of the liquid inside
  • Location of where the coffee cup is sitting
  1. Perform the creative act.

Create a correlation between one of the external attributes and one of the internal product-related attributes. The product is responding to something that’s going on around it. 

Here’s a phrase that is the hallmark of the attribute dependency: “As one thing changes, another thing changes.” 


As the temperature of the coffee changes, the coffee cup handle changes its color or it tells you what’s going on with that coffee. In other words, the handle, all of a sudden, becomes part of the coffee-drinking experience. 

To hear more on Attribute Dependency, listen to the full podcast episode here: 013: Attribute Dependency