Umbrellas have been around a very long time dating back to the time of the ancient Egyptians. Yet, little has changed to the basic concept…until recently. Here are five examples of innovative umbrellas that could have been invented with one of the techniques of Systematic Inventive Thinking.
1. Subtraction: The Subtraction Technique is defined as: the elimination of core components rather than an addition of new systems and functions. Here is an example of a partial subtraction. A part of the umbrella is transparent to allow the user to see where they are going.
2. Multiplication: The Multiplication Technique is defined as: a multiplication of elements already existing in the product along with a required change. Here is an example where the cover has been multiplied and changed in its location – an umbrella for two.
3. Task Unification: The Task Unification Technique is defined as: the assignment of new tasks to an existing resource (i.e. any element of the product or its vicinity within the manufacturer’s control). In this example, the handle has been given the additional job of providing theft protection. The handle acts like a hand cuff. It closes and locks around something to prevent the umbrella from being stolen.
4. Division: The Division Technique is defined as: dividing a product and/or its components functionally or physically and then rearranging them in space or time. Here is a clever innovation from designer, Hiroshi Kajimoto. He calls it the Unbrella. The stretchers that support the cover have been divided out and placed on top. The new location delivers a whole host of benefits as described here:
5. Attribute Dependency: The Attribute Dependency Technique is defined as: the creation/removal of symmetries or dependencies between existing product properties. Here is an example of the Senz umbrella that “breaks symmetry” by having a different shape to provide new benefits, as described here:
But my favorite umbrella innovation of all time comes from fourth grader named Sam. I taught Sam and his schoolmates the SIT method a few years ago. Sam followed my instructions to the letter. I had given him my bright red University of Cincinnati umbrella and asked him to apply the Multiplication Technique. Dutifully, he created an umbrella with two handles: one in the usual place, and one on top of the umbrella, at the tip . As the standard part of the SIT methodology, I asked Sam, “Now, who in the world would want an umbrella with a handle at the bottom and another handle at the top? Why would that be beneficial?”
He thought about it for a minute. Then he jutted his arm into the air, screaming wildly, “Ooh, Ooh, I know! I know exactly why you would want it!”
I held my breath.
Sam said, “If the wind blows your umbrella inside out, all you have to do is turn it around, grab the other handle, and start using it again!”