"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.
Do systematic methods of innovation work on services and processes? This may be the most common question from corporate executives who want to learn innovation methods. This month's LAB will focus on a familiar corporate process: employee recruiting. The tool we'll use is Subtraction.
To use Subtraction, we make a list of the components. With a process or service, the components are simply the steps to deliver the process or service. We remove a step one at a time to create the Virtual Product/Process. Working backwards with Function Follows Form, we innovate what the potential value or benefits would be without the component. What would the new process do? Who would use it? Why would they use it?
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.
Most people think the way you create an idea is to start with a well-formed problem and then brainstorm a solution to it. What if you turned that around 180 degrees? It sounds counter-intuitive, but you really can innovate by starting with the solution and then work backwards to the problem.