How can we use structured innovation to create more of it? How can we make the products and services we use every day more mobile? For this month’s LAB, we will use the Division Template. We begin by listing the product’s (or service’s) internal components. Then we divide one or more of the components in one of three ways:
- Functional (divide along functional roles)
- Physical (cut the product or component on any physical aspect)
- Preserving (each part preserves the characteristics of the whole)
To use Functional Division, we start by listing the functions alongside the component list. In some cases, multiple components may be needed to perform one function. We imagine the function “carved” out of the total system. Then we “mobilize” it. We create access to the function away from the original product. Cellphones are perhaps the best example of that. Cellphones give us access to telephone communications away from the home or office. Mobile banking is another example. Take a look at the apps on your iPhone and you will see many examples of Functional Division. My favorite is Chord Play, and app to play guitar chords while…mobile. But notice the app itself is not a mobile guitar. Rather, just the function of playing chords has been mobilized.
With Physical Division, we don’t just imagine carving out a component or its function. We actually cut something out along any physical dimension. For this exercise, I prefer to physically cut the function out of the original unit in a way that it can be taken with me in mobile fashion, but then returned back to the main unit at some point. Here is an example of such a product. It is from the Stout Tool Corporation. The STX-50 is a one-handed, cordless band saw. It is a mobile cutter. But snap it into place in the STX-50 Cutting Station and it becomes a traditional tabletop band saw. This product was invented by taking the core function of the original product (cutting) and making it mobile. Let’s look at another example: how would we make a mobile refrigerator using Physical Division? We would have a refrigerator that would allow you to remove a compartment and take it with you. Imagine having a portable beverage container or freezer unit that lifts out of the refrigerator, allows you to keep things cool while away, then is reattached back inside the main refrigerator. I like this approach to Division because it tends to create the most novel mobile applications.
A traditional way to make something mobile is to create a smaller version of the original. We make it portable. Many products fit into this category…portable chair, portable printer, portable music, portable disk drive. Without realizing it, we are using the Division Template. A six-pack of Coke Cola is a divided two litre bottle of Coke into smaller units that preserve the characteristics of the original. Going back to our refrigerator example, a small, portable cooler is a refrigerator that has been made mobile. Notice how this differs from the other refrigerator example above. In that example, we divided out an actual part of the main unit. Here, we just made a smaller main unit. This is perhaps the easiest method for creating mobile products.