Mankind has used patterns for thousands of years to solve everyday problems. Those patterns are now embedded into the products and services you see around you every day. These patterns are like the DNA of a product or service. They form the basis of a method called Systematic Inventive Thinking or SIT for short.
Task unification is one of the five pattern-based techniques of the SIT method. This technique forces you to take a component, something in the immediate vicinity of your problem, and assign it an additional job.
Fixedness refers to the cognitive bias that we all have that prohibits us from seeing configurations and opportunities that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Task unification helps you identify some new value that no one is delivering in the market. Or it helps you identify an existing value delivered in a new way. Both of these ideas allow you to increase the value of your offering in the marketplace.
The task unification technique is so powerful, especially in resource-constrained environments in which we all live. It forces you to think about components doing additional work that you really wouldn’t have thought of before.
Task unification would force the engineers to think about what they can do with a resource and create something that delivers new value. And this is where the innovative mindset really takes over.
Components for a product refer to the physical parts of the product. Imagine taking the product apart and laying them out on your desk or on the floor. A product happens to everything stuck together. Whereas a service just happens to everything spread apart, spread around, and adhered to. If you’re applying task unification to a service, you list the components of the service.
That virtual product might seem very strange at first, it’ll feel very weird. It’ll feel strange because of fixedness. You’re having a hard time imagining this new configuration. And when the component does this additional job, the fun starts.
At this point, the Function Follows Form process forces us to ask two questions, but always in this order.
Should we do it? What would be the benefit? Who would get some new advantage or some new value? What customer benefit could we deliver now?
Can we do it? Do we have the know-how? Do we have the materials, the science? Are there any barriers to doing it this way?
You might have a great idea but if there’s no technical way to do it, then don’t waste our time on it. Allow yourself some modifications. Allow yourself to change, adapt, or modify to improve that idea. And if you do this in a systematic and disciplined way, you will end up with something that delivers new value.
To hear more on how to generate ideas in systematic and creative ways, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 002: Task Unification – The Go-To Innovation Tool to Break Functional Fixedness.