Most people are surprised to hear that five simple patterns explain the majority of innovative products and services. Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues discovered this surprising insight. It is similar to the notion of TRIZ which is a set of patterns for solving problems. Innovative products share common patterns because their inventors unknowingly followed them when generating new product ideas. These patterns become the DNA of products. You can extract the DNA and implant it into other products and services to create new innovations. We call it The Voice of the Product.
Are there more than five patterns? Most certainly. Highly creative people like musicians and artists use templates in their creations. Even products invented serendipitously have a pattern embedded in them. Many products are invented accidentally. Serendipity led to the microwave oven, corn flakes, Teflon®, penicillin, fireworks, Viagra®, chocolate chip cookies, and the most famous of all accidents…the Post-it® note. The problem with serendipity is it’s not predictable. It is not an innovation method one would count on for corporate growth. But there is value in serendipity if you can unlock its hidden secrets. Every serendipitous invention can be reduced to a heuristic and ultimately to an algorithm or pattern. We call it The Voice of Serendipity.
What other voices are out there? Take brands, for example. A well-developed brand has a unique personality, sort of a code of attributes. That code is a pattern that could be reapplied to products and services to help discover new benefits and opportunities. Like the other voices, The Voice of the Brand can be leveraged for innovative thinking.
Consider the following brand attribute model:
Imagine selecting one attribute from each quadrant to form the basis of a brand character. We then force these attributes to become a pattern that can be applied to a product or service to yield a new configuration. We take that configuration and work backwards (Function Follows Form) to imagine new benefits and potential markets.
Now take this “brand pattern” and apply it to a product or service. A manufacturer of flashlights, for example, might apply this pattern to an ordinary flashlight and yield a new product that looks like the one on the right.
The Voice of the Brand has much more to convey than just a promise.