Category Archives: Division

Innovation Sighting: The Mahabis Slipper and the Division Technique

We all know the endless kick-on, kick-off routine associated with that perfectly comfortable pair of house slippers. Our days are filled with quick trips to the market, impromptu lunches, and endless dog walks. And one of two scenarios are typically woven into the daily in-and-out saga of life -- either countless episodes of shoe swapping or foregoing those fabulous house shoes to spare extra minutes.

Mahabis slipper 2Mahabis, a shoe company based out of London, set their innovation sites on resolving this daily dilemma by creating the Mahabis slipper. Utilizing the Division Technique, Mahabis created an indoor-outdoor wool slipper made possible by a detachable sole.  According to Mahabis, these soles “flick-on and clip-down in seconds.” By offering convenience, Mahabis hasn’t overlooked quality as they aimed to make a sole that is light and comfortable and provides adequate heel support, grip, and relaxed comfort.

The Mahabis slipper is just one example of the Division technique at work. To get the most out of the Division technique, you follow five basic steps:

  1. List the product’s or service’s internal components.
  2. Divide the product or service in one of three ways:
  • Functional (take a component and rearrange its location or when it appears).
  • Physical (cut the product or one of its components along any physical line and rearrange it).
  • Preserving (divide the product or service into smaller pieces, where each piece still possesses all the characteristics of the whole).
  1. Visualize the new (or changed) product or service.
  2. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge?
  3. If you decide you have a new product or service that is indeed valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create this new product or perform this new service? Why or why not? Can you refine or adapt the idea to make it more viable?

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use all three forms of Division, but you boost your chance of scoring a breakthrough idea if you do.

The Division Technique: Cut Your Challenges Down to Size

The division technique works by dividing a product or its components functionally or physically and then rearranging them back into the product. Division is a powerful technique in the SIT Method because it forces you to break fixedness, especially structural fixedness. Division forces you to create configurations by rearranging components in ways you were not likely to have done on with on your own.

To apply the division technique, you start by listing the product’s internal components. Next, you divide the product or one of the components. There are three ways you can do this.

Ski boatFirst is functionally, where you rearrange along some functional role. Look at this example. A water sport company took the controls of the speed boat and then functionally divided them off and placed them into the handle of the waterski tow rope. Now, the water skier controls the movements of the boat without having a separate driver.

Next is physically, where you are cutting the product or component along any physical line. Physical division is different than functional in that we are actually making a cut along some physical line of the product itself or component.

RadioTake a look at this car radio. In this example, the faceplate has been physically cut away from the main radio. When you leave your car, you grab the faceplate by pulling it away from the main radio, and taking it with you. That makes the main radio completely worthless so thieves won’t break into your car to steal it.

And the third type is called preserving. That means you divide the product into smaller versions of itself. Each smaller unit preserves the characteristics of the whole. A real simple example of this is what you see here. Cupcakes are essentially smaller versions of a normal sized cake. Cupcakes

Many food manufacturers use this technique by taking a normal full-size product and then cutting it down into smaller individual portions. These smaller units have just the right amount of food needed by the customer. This saves them money, the product is easier to store, there’s less wasted food, and it gives the manufacturer more ways to sell its products.

So once you’ve rearranged the components, this now becomes your virtual product. Using function follows form, you visualize the virtual product. Then you identify potential benefits and target markets. Finally, you modify and adapt the concept to improve it.

The division technique cuts your biggest challenges down to size so you can see new innovative opportunities.

 

10 Valentine’s Day Surprises Created With S.I.T.

Valentines-dayToday is Valentine's Day, and to celebrate, here are ten creative ways to show how much you love your partner. I generated some of these for a TV interview yesterday on FOX19-WXIX morning news is Cincinnati. They wanted me to share how to use S.I.T. to be more creative on this special day. So here is my extended list:

1. Flowers are very common on Valentine's Day, with the most common gift being a dozen long-stem red roses. So to be more creative, apply the Division Technique. Divide the 12 roses into single versions, each in their own vase. Place them throughout your home. That way, you get twelve little surprises instead of one big one.  

2. Building on the first idea, place eleven of the roses throughout your home, but hide or hold on to the 12th rose (the Subtraction Technique). When your partner realizes there are only eleven, he or she will wonder where the 12th rose is. That's the time to place it somewhere strategically (hint: pillow) or give it to your partner directly. Nice touch!

3. I love the Task Unification Technique for challenges like this. I like to pick a component in the home randomly and force it to take on an additional job. These ideas that leverage a resource in the immediate environment (Closed World) tend to create surprising, forehead-slapping ideas that make you utter, "Gee, why didn't I think of that?" For example, take the garage door. Imagine taking your traditional Valentine's Day card and taping it to the bottom of the garage door so that when she opens it, the card will dangle invitingly from the bottom. Clever!

4. Here's another example of Task Unification. Take shaving cream and draw a big heart with the words, "I love you" somewhere fun like the inside of your shower (make sure it's on the inside or you'll be in big trouble.)

5. Food is another way to inspire love. Instead of making a plain old salad, try taking tomato and mozzarella cheese slices and make a heart shape on the plate. Easy, cheap, and one of those little touches your partner will appreciate.

6. I found this idea on the Internet, but I love it anyway because it demonstrates the Multiplication Technique so well. Take a bunch of different size envelopes or perhaps boxes and place them inside one another (like Russian nested figures). In the last one, place your favorite love poem. Maybe corny, but it works!

7. We have a computer in our kitchen, and I love to use the screensaver function to surprise my wife with fun and loving things (especially if I'm in trouble from something!!). Try this by placing a big heart shape on the screen, perhaps with an image of the two of you together (wedding photo?). It's a winner every time.

8. Building on that idea, change her screensaver or background photo on her smartphone to show an old, nostalgic photo of the two of you. (Be sure you have a way to get her previous image on there, though, or you'll have a problem).

9. Attribute Dependency is a great pattern seen in the majority of innovative products and services. As one thing changes, another thing changes. Here's how to use it. Create a special smartphone playlist of all love songs. Put it in her library (when she's not looking). Show it to her after she gets out of the shower where you placed the big shaving cream heart shape. Play it for her. You're gonna have a good day!

10. Perhaps because I use dry erase markers so often in my work (teaching, speaking, facilitating), that I just love them. You can use them to write on lots of surfaces, and they can be erased just like on a white board. So take a (red) marker, and place loving messages all around the house on glass surfaces - bathroom mirrors, microwave winder, car window - you get the idea.

Have fun and enjoy the day!

10 Valentine’s Day Surprises Created With S.I.T.

Valentines-dayToday is Valentine's Day, and to celebrate, here are ten creative ways to show how much you love your partner. I generated some of these for a TV interview yesterday on FOX19-WXIX morning news is Cincinnati. They wanted me to share how to use S.I.T. to be more creative on this special day. So here is my extended list:

1. Flowers are very common on Valentine's Day, with the most common gift being a dozen long-stem red roses. So to be more creative, apply the Division Technique. Divide the 12 roses into single versions, each in their own vase. Place them throughout your home. That way, you get twelve little surprises instead of one big one.  

2. Building on the first idea, place eleven of the roses throughout your home, but hide or hold on to the 12th rose (the Subtraction Technique). When your partner realizes there are only eleven, he or she will wonder where the 12th rose is. That's the time to place it somewhere strategically (hint: pillow) or give it to your partner directly. Nice touch!

3. I love the Task Unification Technique for challenges like this. I like to pick a component in the home randomly and force it to take on an additional job. These ideas that leverage a resource in the immediate environment (Closed World) tend to create surprising, forehead-slapping ideas that make you utter, "Gee, why didn't I think of that?" For example, take the garage door. Imagine taking your traditional Valentine's Day card and taping it to the bottom of the garage door so that when she opens it, the card will dangle invitingly from the bottom. Clever!

4. Here's another example of Task Unification. Take shaving cream and draw a big heart with the words, "I love you" somewhere fun like the inside of your shower (make sure it's on the inside or you'll be in big trouble.)

5. Food is another way to inspire love. Instead of making a plain old salad, try taking tomato and mozzarella cheese slices and make a heart shape on the plate. Easy, cheap, and one of those little touches your partner will appreciate.

6. I found this idea on the Internet, but I love it anyway because it demonstrates the Multiplication Technique so well. Take a bunch of different size envelopes or perhaps boxes and place them inside one another (like Russian nested figures). In the last one, place your favorite love poem. Maybe corny, but it works!

7. We have a computer in our kitchen, and I love to use the screensaver function to surprise my wife with fun and loving things (especially if I'm in trouble from something!!). Try this by placing a big heart shape on the screen, perhaps with an image of the two of you together (wedding photo?). It's a winner every time.

8. Building on that idea, change her screensaver or background photo on her smartphone to show an old, nostalgic photo of the two of you. (Be sure you have a way to get her previous image on there, though, or you'll have a problem).

9. Attribute Dependency is a great pattern seen in the majority of innovative products and services. As one thing changes, another thing changes. Here's how to use it. Create a special smartphone playlist of all love songs. Put it in her library (when she's not looking). Show it to her after she gets out of the shower where you placed the big shaving cream heart shape. Play it for her. You're gonna have a good day!

10. Perhaps because I use dry erase markers so often in my work (teaching, speaking, facilitating), that I just love them. You can use them to write on lots of surfaces, and they can be erased just like on a white board. So take a (red) marker, and place loving messages all around the house on glass surfaces - bathroom mirrors, microwave winder, car window - you get the idea.

Have fun and enjoy the day!

10 Valentine’s Day Surprises Created With S.I.T.

Valentines-dayToday is Valentine's Day, and to celebrate, here are ten creative ways to show how much you love your partner. I generated some of these for a TV interview yesterday on FOX19-WXIX morning news is Cincinnati. They wanted me to share how to use S.I.T. to be more creative on this special day. So here is my extended list:

1. Flowers are very common on Valentine's Day, with the most common gift being a dozen long-stem red roses. So to be more creative, apply the Division Technique. Divide the 12 roses into single versions, each in their own vase. Place them throughout your home. That way, you get twelve little surprises instead of one big one.  

2. Building on the first idea, place eleven of the roses throughout your home, but hide or hold on to the 12th rose (the Subtraction Technique). When your partner realizes there are only eleven, he or she will wonder where the 12th rose is. That's the time to place it somewhere strategically (hint: pillow) or give it to your partner directly. Nice touch!

3. I love the Task Unification Technique for challenges like this. I like to pick a component in the home randomly and force it to take on an additional job. These ideas that leverage a resource in the immediate environment (Closed World) tend to create surprising, forehead-slapping ideas that make you utter, "Gee, why didn't I think of that?" For example, take the garage door. Imagine taking your traditional Valentine's Day card and taping it to the bottom of the garage door so that when she opens it, the card will dangle invitingly from the bottom. Clever!

4. Here's another example of Task Unification. Take shaving cream and draw a big heart with the words, "I love you" somewhere fun like the inside of your shower (make sure it's on the inside or you'll be in big trouble.)

5. Food is another way to inspire love. Instead of making a plain old salad, try taking tomato and mozzarella cheese slices and make a heart shape on the plate. Easy, cheap, and one of those little touches your partner will appreciate.

6. I found this idea on the Internet, but I love it anyway because it demonstrates the Multiplication Technique so well. Take a bunch of different size envelopes or perhaps boxes and place them inside one another (like Russian nested figures). In the last one, place your favorite love poem. Maybe corny, but it works!

7. We have a computer in our kitchen, and I love to use the screensaver function to surprise my wife with fun and loving things (especially if I'm in trouble from something!!). Try this by placing a big heart shape on the screen, perhaps with an image of the two of you together (wedding photo?). It's a winner every time.

8. Building on that idea, change her screensaver or background photo on her smartphone to show an old, nostalgic photo of the two of you. (Be sure you have a way to get her previous image on there, though, or you'll have a problem).

9. Attribute Dependency is a great pattern seen in the majority of innovative products and services. As one thing changes, another thing changes. Here's how to use it. Create a special smartphone playlist of all love songs. Put it in her library (when she's not looking). Show it to her after she gets out of the shower where you placed the big shaving cream heart shape. Play it for her. You're gonna have a good day!

10. Perhaps because I use dry erase markers so often in my work (teaching, speaking, facilitating), that I just love them. You can use them to write on lots of surfaces, and they can be erased just like on a white board. So take a (red) marker, and place loving messages all around the house on glass surfaces - bathroom mirrors, microwave winder, car window - you get the idea.

Have fun and enjoy the day!

Structural Fixedness: A Barrier to Creativity

Us-flag-upside-downImagine you’re driving down the highway, and you notice a flag waving in the distance. But something’s not right. The flag is upside down. You’d notice it right away because it’s not in its usual position that you have seen hundreds of times before.

We all have this tendency to notice things that are out of order. We have an innate sense of how things are structured, and it helps us make sense of the world around us. But this sense of structure is also a barrier to creativity. Here's an example:

Take a look at this and tell me, which is the odd one out? Do you see it?

1) 17
2) 19
3) 13

If you're like most people, you selected one of the three numbers you see here: 17, 19, or 13.

But I want you to step back from the problem and see it in a different light. Now, I want you to consider all the numbers on the page, including the ones on the left side - 1, 2 and 3.

Now, out of these six numbers, which one is the odd one out? You should have no difficulty seeing that the number 2 is the only even number on the page. It’s truly the odd one out.

But why do people have such a difficult time seeing the number 2 as part of the set of numbers? It’s because we all have another type of fixedness called structural fixedness. Like functional fixedness, it’s a cognitive bias. It blocks us from considering other structures than what we’re used to.

Look back at our list of numbers. We’re so used to seeing a list with numbers and parenthesis that we treat the numbers behind the parenthesis differently. We have this structure so fixed in our mind, we don’t consider other configurations.

Structural fixedness makes it hard to imagine different configurations of a product or service that could deliver new benefits to the marketplace. This type of fixedness is a big concern with services and processes, because they tend to happen in a fixed sequence, one step after another. Without a way to break fixedness, we’re prevented from seeing new creative options.

The good news is that you can break structural fixedness just like you do functional fixedness. You do it with one of the five techniques of Systematic Inventive Thinking.

One in particular, the Division Technique, is your tool of choice.

 

 

Check out all of my courses.

Innovation Training and More From LinkedIn

LinkedinLearn innovation, group creativity, and much more at Lynda.com, a division of LinkedIn. Check out these courses with a 10 day free trial:

1. Business Innovation Fundamentals: Innovation propels companies forward. It's an unlimited source of new growth and can give businesses a distinct competitive advantage. Learn how to innovate at your own business using Systematic Inventive Thinking, a method based on five techniques that allow you to innovate on demand. Topics include:

  •     What is innovation?
  •     Understanding the myths about creativity and barriers to innovation
  •     Understanding the characteristics of innovative products and services
  •     Using the five techniques of Systematic Inventive Thinking
  •     Creating new services and processes at work
  •     Running innovation workshops
  •     Involving customers in innovation
  •     Mastering innovative thinking

2. Understanding Consumer Behavior: Consumer behavior is all about the way people buy and use products and services. Understanding consumer behavior can help you be more effective at marketing, design, product development, and every other initiative that impacts your customers. You'll learn how consumer behaviors such as motivation, appetite for risk, personality, attitude, and perception, as well as feedback from friends and family, impact buying decisions. It discusses how individual consumers as well as organizations buy products and services, and how you can connect with them after a purchase.

3. Managing Team Creativity: Do you ever think, "I'm just not that creative"? You're not alone. But companies increasingly expect their employees to think about problems in new ways and devise unexpected solutions. The good news is that creativity is not a gift, but a skill that can be developed over time. Learn nine simple tips to boost your creative output at work and learn how to think about the world in a different way, break problems down into manageable parts, divide and conquer a problem, and evaluate ideas systematically.

4. Marketing Fundamentals: Whether you're rebuilding your marketing program from the ground up or leading the first campaign of your career, this course will help you lay the foundation for a successful marketing endeavor. This course explains marketing's role in an organization; provides frameworks for analyzing a business, its customers, and its competitors; and shows how to develop a successful marketing strategy and use that strategy to inform everything from pricing to promotion.

You'll also learn to address tactical challenges and present the plan to get buy-in throughout an organization, from the C-suite to the sales team, as well as use the marketing plan to guide outside agencies and vendors. Finally, you'll learn how to launch the campaign and measure its performance. Topics include:

  •     Marketing in an organization
  •     Assembling the team
  •     Creating the marketing plan
  •     Analyzing your products, customers, and market
  •     Segmenting customers
  •     Creating a value proposition
  •     Developing a strategy
  •     Setting goals
  •     Setting prices
  •     Using social media
  •     Presenting your plan to leadership

5. Improving Your Judgement: Want to make better decisions at work? In this short course, you'll learn ways to confront your hardwired cognitive biases, in order to make good decisions and exercise more balanced, sound judgment. Topic include:

  • The base rate bias
  • The confirmation bias
  • The availability bias
  • The hindsight bias
  • The overconfidence bias
  • The sunk cost bias

6. Branding Fundamentals: Get a framework for branding, and learn how to develop and launch a brand and measure its success. This course explains how to define and position a brand and communicate the brand effectively internally, to employees, and externally, via social media, PR, advertising, packaging, and other channels. It explains how to measure brand performance in categories such as authenticity, relevance, differentiation, consistency, presence, and understanding. The course concludes with solid steps for periodically reviewing the brand and its effectiveness, especially when there are significant changes that could impact the brand. Topics include:

  •     Identifying your core values and drivers
  •     Linking your business model to the brand
  •     Identifying customers
  •     Developing your brand promise
  •     Expressing brand identity
  •     Creating a brand book
  •     Expressing brand in social channels, through advertising, and in packaging
  •     Measuring brand performance

7. Writing a Marketing Plan: A solid roadmap makes any marketing effort more successful. This course will help business professionals write and leverage great marketing plans. Learn how to assemble a team to create the plan, analyze an existing market, and break down the plan's components into focused sections. It offers advice on how best to present and leverage the plan throughout an organization. Topics include:

  •     Planning for a marketing campaign
  •     Writing the situation analysis
  •     Writing the strategic, tactical, and budget sections of the plan
  •     Leveraging your plan

 

Listen, Watch, Ask, and Involve Your Customers

Voice-of-the-CustomerWhen describing the SIT method, I sometimes say it’s like using the voice of the product. That’s because SIT is based on patterns that are embedded into the products and services you see around you. If products could talk to you, they would describe the five patterns of SIT.

But there’s another important voice in business innovation: the voice of the customer. After all, that’s why you do innovation - to create new value, directly or indirectly, for your customers. A good innovator understands their needs and wants.

One of the first things you should do is listen to what customers are saying about a particular product or brand. It’s especially important to hear what customers say to other customers. That’s when they’re the most truthful and objective, even when talking to complete strangers. If you had a way to eavesdrop on a conversation between two customers, you’ll get new insights about their attitudes.

A great way to do that is to use social media. Applications like Twitter and Facebook let you hear what’s being discussed, almost as if you were standing right there with them. It’s inexpensive and it’s easy. 

When you listen to customers on social media, pay close attention to the specific words or phrases they use. What emotions do they express? What beliefs do they have about a product and how it works? Whether those beliefs are true or untrue, you need to know what they’re thinking so you can design your products accordingly.

Another way to learn about your customers is to watch them. Using field research, you go into the customer’s natural setting where they use the product or service. You observe their behaviors as they do routine, ordinary activities. If you watch carefully, you’ll see things they could never have described for you in words. They’re not even aware they are doing them.

By watching them, you might learn about a new step in how they use the product. That could affect how you use the Division Technique. Or, you might become aware of a new component in their Closed World, and that might affect how you apply the Task Unification technique. Pay close attention to who else is involved, what information are they using or not using, how they prepare the product for use, and perhaps how they store it or maintain it.

A third way to get customer insights is to ask them. You’re probably familiar with marketing research tools like surveys and focus groups as a way to collect voice of the customer data. But there are two simple techniques you always want to be able to use at a moment’s notice in case you engage a customer.

The first is to use open-ended questions. An example of an open-ended question is: “What’s most important to you when using this feature of our product?”  A closed-ended question would be: “Do you like this feature of our product?” The open-ended question encourages a full, meaningful response as opposed to a closed-ended question, which encourages a short or single-word answer. You’ll get deeper insights with open-ended questions.

The second technique when talking to customers is to use laddering. Laddering means asking a series of questions, one after another, but you base the next question on the answer you received from the last one. Like climbing the rungs of a ladder, you first ask about the functional aspects of your product, then ladder up to the values the customers sees in those features.

Finally, a great way to learn about your customer’s needs is to involve them in the innovation process. Once you’ve created the virtual product using one of the five SIT techniques, you ask two specific questions. The first is should we do it? Does the new configuration deliver some new benefit? Who would want this? I can’t think of anyone better to help you answer these than your customers. After all, they stand the most to gain by a new innovation. When they see something they like, they’ll tell you or they’ll tell you how to modify the concept to make it even better.

Customers might also have new insights about the second question: Can we do it? Do we have the know how or the right material or the right processes to make this? Are there barriers that might prevent us from making this? Your customers might have some critical insight or skills about how to remove barriers or make the concept more feasible.

Listen, watch, ask, and involve. The Voice of the Customer, used along with the SIT Method, will help you become a more effective innovator.

The Creative Versatility of the Task Unification Technique

It's hard for me not to play favorites when it comes to the five creativity techniques of the SIT method. After all, they're just like children - each is unique with their own potential and personality. But when it comes to versatility, the one that may do it the best is Task Unification. It tends to produce ideas that are both clever and resourceful, often harnessing resources in the immediate vicinity of the problem in a unique. These ideas tend to make you slap your forehead and say, "Gee, why didn't I think of that?"

Task Unification is defined as "assigning an additional job to an existing resource." That resource could a component within the product or service, or something else nearby. Here are three very different examples, but each one clearly exhibits the Task Unification pattern.

The Aivvy Q is a pair of headphones that keeps your music within the unit itself. There's no need to plug into an external player or smartphone. Here's how it works:

The next is called Nerdalize. It works by taking heat from computer servers and using it to heat homes. Take a look at this short video.

And finally, here is Bioconcrete. It uses bacteria to heal itself in case it cracks. If that happens, the bacteria  germinate, multiply and feed on the lactate, and in doing so they combine the calcium with carbonate ions to form calcite, or limestone, which closes up the cracks. Take a look:

Now THAT is versatile!

Learn all five techniques at Lynda.com.