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?
Facebook innovated its way to become the dominate social network with 600 million users in just six years since launch. What will it do for an encore? More importantly, how will it continue to innovate? For this month's LAB, we will apply the Attribute Dependency tool to demonstrate how Facebook might continue re-inventing itself.
To use Attribute Dependency, make two lists. The first is a list of internal attributes. The second is a list of external attributes - those factors that are not under your control, but that vary in the context of how the product or service is used. Then create a matrix with the internal and external attributes on one axis, and the internal attributes only on the other axis. The matrix creates combinations of internal-to-internal and internal-to-external attributes that we will use to innovate. We take these virtual combinations and envision them in two ways. If no dependency exists between the attributes, we create one. If a dependency exists, we break it. Using Function Follows Form, we envision what the benefit or potential value might be from the new (or broken) dependency between the two attributes.
Here are attributes of the Facebook experience:
Pro-Form's Le Tour de France Indoor Cycle lets users choose or create real-world routes, then adjusts the angle of the riding platform to replicate the experience of riding up and down those roads. This new product has three different features using the Attribute Dependency Tool of the corporate innovation method, SIT.
How do you know which SIT tool to use on your product? That is one of the most common questions from my students and workshop participants. One way to decide is to analyze the current products in the category. You look for SIT patterns that tend to dominate how the product emerged and evolved over the years. I look at recent innovations in the category to spot trends. I also try to identify where the industry might have some "fixedness" about the products and how they are used. The type of fixedness (functional, structural, or relational) can lend insight about which SIT tool to start with.
GPS technology is great at getting you from Point A to Point B. What if you had a system that alerted you to risk of crime, weather, points of interest, and cost savings tips along the way? Microsoft seems headed this way given a newly-awarded patent that ties GPS location to useful information for pedestrians. Here is a description:
"As a pedestrian travels, various difficulties can be encountered, such as traveling through an unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures. A route can be developed for a person taking into account factors that specifically affect a pedestrian. Moreover, the route can alter as a situation of a user changes; for instance, if a user wants to add a stop along a route."
This is a classic example of the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in Systematic Inventive Thinking. It creates a correlation (dependency) between a person's location and the type of information that is sent to the device. Microsoft's new concept gathers data, analyzes the data and user requirements, then generates suggested routes. It considers the user's preferences such as avoiding neighborhoods that exceed a certain threshold of violent crime statistics. The system might direct you to "take the subway" rather than walk if rain was expected. It even considers cost factors such as parking, extra traffic, and other situations that might make you vary your path.
Yahoo's recent patent filings suggest it is entering the e-Book market, a move that will pit it against Amazon, Apple, and other content providers. But given the nature of the patent filings, Yahoo seeks to leap over the competition with a potentially more innovative approach. Yahoo's concepts conform to the Attribute Dependency technique, one of five in the SIT Method. Research shows that new products that conform to one of the five SIT techniques tend to be more successful in the marketplace.
How do you attract new customers while retaining current ones? For many categories, you attract new customers by showing high satisfaction with current customers. Put the current customer first and you will increase your appeal to new customers.
The challenge is when you have to change your product to meet the different demands of new customers at the risk of alienating existing customers. For example, imagine you owned a prestigious, members-only dinner club with a strong following of older, traditional patrons. They are fiercely loyal and attached to the various details such as the glassware and the color of the table cloths. Any changes are seen with suspicion. You want to bring in new members, but need to change the club to appeal to younger potential members. Too much change will drive away current members.
For this month's LAB, we will apply Systematic Inventive Thinking to address this apparent conundrum.
Toyota is designing a new technology that will react to the driver's mood. It will adjust how the car behaves depending on whether the driver is sad, happy, angry or neutral. The technology uses a camera to identify facial emotions by taking readings from 238 points on the driver’s face.
A driver’s mood can affect performance on the road. Research has shown that people with negative (and sometimes positive) emotions are distracted even more than those using a cell phone while driving.
The Columbia Sportswear Company is launching a new line of clothing that keeps you...cooler. The Omni-Freeze® is a specialized fabric weave that increases the surface area of the fabric that contacts your bare skin. This transmits heat faster and feels cooler to the touch.
This is a great example of the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in the S.I.T. innovation method. Attribute Dependency differs from the other templates in that it uses attributes (variables) of the situation rather than components. Start with an attribute list, then construct a 2 x 2 matrix of these, pairing each against the others. Each cell represents a potential dependency that forms a Virtual Product. Using Function Follows Form, we work backwards and envision a potential benefit or problem that this hypothetical solution solves. In the case of Omni-Freeze®, the dependency is created between body temperature and layers of clothing.
When Joseph Gayetty invented commercially available toilet paper in 1857, he called it "The greatest necessity of the age!" Of course, he wasn't exaggerating. The use of paper for toileting dates back to the 6th century AD. Gayetty's Medicated Paper was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor's name. Since then, many companies have tried to innovate this product. Many innovations are simple gag gifts while others are quite useful.
For this month's LAB, let's apply the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., to create new concepts for toilet paper. S.I.T. is a collection of thinking tools, principles, facilitation methods, and organizational structures to help companies innovate products, processes, and services. We will use the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in S.I.T..