Task Unification is a hard working innovation tool. Task Unification assigns an additional task to an existing resource or component of the product or service. Here is a clever example from Springwise. It is a service called "Itizen." It allows you to physically tag a special item such as a gift or heirloom that links to a website where the collective history of that gift or heirloom is recorded and kept forever. Suppose your grandfather gives your son a hammer, for example, that he used to build the Brooklyn Bridge. Suppose grandpa then records in his own words the complete story about that hammer, where he got it (from his grandfather), how it was used, what else it has been used to build...well you get the picture.
Task Unification is a great tool when you have a general idea of the direction you want to go or business challenge you are dealing with. It is one of five templates in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method. Like all the templates, it helps regulate and channel the ideation process while creating unique and useful innovation possibilities. It works by taking a component list of the product, process, or service, and then assigning an additional "job" to that component. It helps break "fixedness" in how we see components and their traditional role, thus opening up potential growth opportunities. For this month's LAB, we will use this template to innovate new ways of in-store retailing.
Blackberry is taking a shellacking from iPhone and Android. It's market share has declined 4% in four months. Why? The company drifted from a strategy built around its core competency and is frantically chasing its app-crazed competitors. Though Blackberry defined the smart phone category, it will lose its lead unless it changes.
Blackberry needs innovation. This month's LAB outlines an approach for using the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., to Blackberry. The focus is how to disrupt iPhone and Droid and re-assert dominance in the smart phone category.
Crowdsourcing has a crowd of critics. Crowdsourcing is the notion of distributed problem-solving where problems are broadcast to large groups of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. The belief is that the "wisdom of the crowd" yields superior results over what individuals can do. The use of the term has spread to just about any activity that involves groups of people tackling an issue.
The critics have a point.
The Task Unification tool of the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., works by assigning a new task to an existing resource. There are three ways to do it: 1. allocate an internal task to an external component, 2. allocate an external task to an internal component, or 3. an internal component peforms the task of another internal component. It is a great tool to use when you have a general idea of what you are trying to accomplish. It helps you find innovative ways to do it using non-obvious resources.
Here is a unique example of Task Unification from the world of surgery:
Here is a nice example of the Subtraction tool of the corporate innovation method, S.I.T.. Imagine painting a picture without the paint. From PSFK:
From metal to billboards, Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto aka Vhils is regarded for his work across a variety of mediums. However, his “Scratching the Surface” style (which we first noticed here) is particularly remarkable. Using decrepit city walls as his canvas, the artist carved faces from the concrete, unmasking the beauty inherent to even the most neglected spaces. The pictures below are taken from Moscow, London, and all over Italy.
To use Subtraction, start by listing the components of the situation, product, service, process, etc. (The method works with just about anything that can be conceptualized into components). In this case, the innovator (artist) would create a list something like this:
On average, one of every three bites of food you put in your mouth depends on “animal pollination” – the movement of insects, particularly bees, between plants. They play a crucial role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of most fruits and vegetables. About 80% of all flowering plants and over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed humankind rely on animal pollinators like bees.
But bees are in trouble. Scientific studies have suggested that both honey bee and native bee populations are declining. Scientists fear this will harm pollination of garden plants, crops and wild plants. They could help bees if they could collect simple data about their presence at certain times in certain locations. With this data, they can devise ways to conserve and improve the bee population.
How do you track bees on such a large scale? By assigning the data collection task to an external resource – everyday gardeners.
Scott Amron is an inventor with a knack for using the Task Unification pattern, one of five in Systematic Inventive Thinking. His most recent is a sticker that turns into a soap under running water. It is called Fruitwash. Once dissolved, the Fruitwash removes wax, pesticides, and dirt from fruit and vegetables. The sticker has been "assigned an additional task" as it performs its primary task. Classic Task Unification.
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.
Look at this word, then see what mental picture you get: HAMMER. Like most people, you probably see a person's hand wrapped around a metal or wood stick with an object fixed on top. You may see this object being used to strike other objects. You may imagine the heaviness of the object. The word "hammer" is a mental shortcut that instantly conjures up all the memories and associations you have with that thing. Naming objects is useful.
But the names we give items also creates a barrier to innovative thinking. We have a difficult time seeing that object doing anything else than the task assigned to it. It is also difficult for us to imagine using other objects to do the job of a hammer. It is a condition called Functional Fixedness.