"Divide and Conquer" is: a. classic military strategy, b. a computer algorithm design paradigm, c. a collaborative problem solving approach, d. an innovation tool, or e. ALL THE ABOVE
The answer, of course, is all the above. Division is one of the five templates of innovation in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method. The others are Subtraction, Task Unification, Multiplication, and Attribute Dependency. Templates were developed by recognizing the same consistent pattern over many products so that the pattern could be applied to create innovative new products. The method works by taking a product, concept, situation, service, process, or other seed construct, and breaking it into its basic component parts or attributes. The templates manipulate the components, one at a time, to create new-to-the-world constructs for which the innovator finds a valuable use. The notion of taking the solution and finding a problem that it can solve is called "function follows form" and is at the heart of the systematic inventive thinking process. It is innovation by working backwards.
A corporate innovation method should be robust enough to produce incremental as well as disruptive ideas. One of my favorite templates in the S.I.T. method is called Division because it does just that. The Division template takes a product or service, divides it or its components, and rearranges them to form a new product or service. It is a particularly useful template to help people see their product or service in completely new ways. It helps people get unstuck from the "fixed" frame that we all have naturally about our products or services. My favorite example of Division happened during an innovation training session. One of the participants was a bit cynical about the method and using patterns to innovate anything. To help him overcome this, I let him select any product or service that he was convinced could not be innovated further. He chose the refrigerator, a concept that has been with us since 1000 BC. What follows is how we used Division in this spontaneous exercise to change his mind.
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.
You can frequently make groundbreaking innovations simply by dividing a product into “chunks” to create many smaller versions of it. These smaller versions still function like the original product, but their reduced size delivers benefits that users wouldn’t get with the larger, “parent” product. This is “Preserving Division.”