Category Archives: SIT

Should Innovators Reveal How Much They Let Technology Make Creative Choices?

BrainIs it true? Do the most creative people generate ideas straight out of their heads without any outside help? That's what most people would tell you. But the reality is that the best innovators boost their creative output with the help of structured tools like patterns and even technology.

David Pogue wrote a brilliant article in Scientific American titled, "Should Artists Reveal How Much They Let Technology Make Creative Choices?" He cites numerous examples of how artists and entertainers use various types of aides to create their masterpieces. From the article:

Apple's GarageBand program for Mac computers lets you create fully orchestrated “compositions” just by dragging tiles into a grid. Everything sounds great, whether or not you know anything about rhythm, pitch or harmony. At the time of GarageBand's introduction, its product manager told me that even if the program semiautomates the composition process, it still gives people a taste of the real thing. It could inspire a novice to learn music, maybe take up an instrument.

Agreed. But how can we gauge artists' talent without knowing how much of the work was theirs? Should it affect how much we pay for their output? And what about when commercial musicians use GarageBand to produce their tracks—as Oasis and many indie bands have done?

Everyone knows that technology assists almost every creative endeavor these days, from the moment a four-year-old drips paint onto a turntable to make spin art. We also are aware that Hollywood uses computers for its special effects and that most pop songs are Auto-Tuned and pitch-corrected. But in those cases, the audience is in on the fact that machinery has helped out.

It's not the same thing when technology's assistance is concealed from us and is credited to the human. That's why lip-synching at live concerts is still controversial and why athletes are disqualified for secretly using drugs or other performance enhancements. Disclosing when our creative works have come from canned parts isn't just important for intellectual honesty; it would also make a better barometer for the rising tide of robots entering creative fields. (If you hadn't heard, robots are now capable of composing chorales and painting portraits.)

These days even professional musicians, artists and performers can substitute an on/off switch for human talent. Shouldn't the public know which is which?”

David's point about whether the public should know is well-taken. But in the grand scheme things, what matters most is how humans can elevate their creative output. Extensive research has shown structured approaches do more to boost creative output than to limit it. For thousands of years, inventors have embedded five simple patterns into their inventions, usually without knowing it. These patterns are the "DNA" of products that can be extracted and applied to any product or service to create new-to-the-world innovations. Using these patterns is no different than using a human-engineered technology. The technology has within it the wisdom of its creator that is then transferred to others to boost their creativity.

Humans have evolved to create. Stepping on the shoulders of others, be it through a technology or a pattern, is our next evolutionary path.

 

 

Innovation Sighting: LG’s New Smart Vacuum Doubles as a Home Security System

LG VacuumThe rush to put new technology in the home is heating up like never before. Challengers include Amazon (Echo), Google (Home), and soon we'll have Apple's Siri device. Microsoft can't be far behind.

Now here's a completely different take on home technology, and it's a perfect example of the Task Unification Technique, one of five in the S.I.T. innovation method. Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it's taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job. The new LG Hom-Bot robotic vacuum does just that. Here's a report from Architectural Digest:

Looking to buy a security system for your home? Consider a vacuum.

LG's newest Hom-Bot robotic vacuum, available this month, merges cleaning and home security into one smartphone-controlled system.

In addition to sweeping up dust and crumbs, the Hom-Bot has front and top-facing cameras that can be accessed through its app at any time. In a true representation of the "smart" vacuum, once it's become accustomed to your home, the Hom-Bot will also automatically snap photos and message them to you if it detects movement in an area of the home or at a time of the day when activity is unusual.

A square-ish rather than rounded shape allows it to edge into tighter corners, and its cameras not only act as a safety measure but also help it more accurately map the room to achieve an efficient cleaning route. Its final feature is a sure appeal to a millennial audience: The vacuum is a rose-hued shade of "metallic gold."

LG's Hom-Bot Turbo+ costs $999 but additional models without cameras retail for $799 and $699.

 To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

  1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.
  2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:
  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function
  1. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.
  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 the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?

Innovation Sighting: LG’s New Smart Vacuum Doubles as a Home Security System

LG VacuumThe rush to put new technology in the home is heating up like never before. Challengers include Amazon (Echo), Google (Home), and soon we'll have Apple's Siri device. Microsoft can't be far behind.

Now here's a completely different take on home technology, and it's a perfect example of the Task Unification Technique, one of five in the S.I.T. innovation method. Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it's taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job. The new LG Hom-Bot robotic vacuum does just that. Here's a report from Architectural Digest:

Looking to buy a security system for your home? Consider a vacuum.

LG's newest Hom-Bot robotic vacuum, available this month, merges cleaning and home security into one smartphone-controlled system.

In addition to sweeping up dust and crumbs, the Hom-Bot has front and top-facing cameras that can be accessed through its app at any time. In a true representation of the "smart" vacuum, once it's become accustomed to your home, the Hom-Bot will also automatically snap photos and message them to you if it detects movement in an area of the home or at a time of the day when activity is unusual.

A square-ish rather than rounded shape allows it to edge into tighter corners, and its cameras not only act as a safety measure but also help it more accurately map the room to achieve an efficient cleaning route. Its final feature is a sure appeal to a millennial audience: The vacuum is a rose-hued shade of "metallic gold."

LG's Hom-Bot Turbo+ costs $999 but additional models without cameras retail for $799 and $699.

 To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

  1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.
  2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:
  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function
  1. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.
  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 the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?

Solution-to-Problem Innovation

FFFInnovation is the process of taking an idea and putting it into practice. Creativity, on the other hand, is what you do in your head to generate the idea, an idea that meets three criteria. An innovative idea must be new, useful, and surprising.

New means that no one else has done it before. Useful means that it delivers some new value for you or your customers. And surprising? It means that the market will be delighted with your latest innovation.

Most people think the way you create an idea is to start with a well formed problem and then brainstorm a solution to it. What if you turned that around 180 degrees - It sounds counterintuitive, but you really can innovate by starting with a solution and then work backwards to the problem. In the Systematic Inventive Thinking method, we call it the Function Follows Form principle. Here’s how it works.

First, you start with an existing situation. That situation can be a product. It can be a service, or perhaps a process. You take that item and you make a list of its components and attributes. Then, you apply one of the five thinking tools - They’re called Subtraction, Division, Multiplication, Task Unification, and Attribute Dependency. I know some of these sound mathematical, but they’re really not as you’ll see when you start applying them.

When you apply one of the five tools to the existing situation, you artificially change it. It morphs into something that, at first, might seem really weird or absurd. That’s perfectly normal. In fact, as you get more comfortable with this method, you’ll come to expect it. We consider this strange thing a Virtual Product. It doesn't really exist except in one place – right up here in your mind.

This step is really important. Take your time. You have to mentally define and visualize the virtual product. I like to close my eyes at this step and mentally see an image of the item once it’s be manipulated. As you practice the method more, this will get a lot easier.

At this next stage, you ask yourself two questions, and you do it in this specific order. First question is, should we do it? Does this new configuration create any advantage or solve some problem? Is there a target audience who would find this beneficial? Does it deliver an unmet need? We call this step the market filter. It’s a filter because if you cannot identify even the tiniest benefit at this step, you throw the concept out the window. You don’t waste anymore time on it. This is very different than other ideation techniques like Brainstorming where “there’s no bad idea.” Trust me! There are plenty of bad ideas, and if you realize one here, you eject it and you go back and re-apply the tool to generate a different concept.

If you do identify some benefit, then and only then do you ask yourself the second question: Can we do it? Do we have the technical know-how to make this concept? Is it feasible? Do we have the intellectual property? Are there regulatory or legal barriers? This step is the Implementation Filter, because, once again, if you have a great idea in theory but you have no way to make it, don't waste anymore time on it.

If you pass through both filters, you move to the Adaptations step where you allow yourself some degree of freedom to modify the concept to make it even stronger and deliver even more value. You may have to iterate through these steps several times before you end up with what I would consider an idea.

The Principle of Function Follows Form - innovating from the Solution to the Problem.

Innovation Leadership: Managing Your Resources

BudgetAs an innovation leader, you are now responsible for a bundle of resources that you’ll need to get the job done. Those resources include human resources - your team - and also include financial resources in the form of a budget.

But a good leader thinks about resources beyond just human and financial. You may have tangible resources like physical products and distribution outlets. You may have intangible resources like brand reputations. And you have resources in the form of relationships. You have internal relationships like with your peers, and you have plenty of external relationships, with your customers, your suppliers, and your marketing services firms.

So, start your new role by taking a careful inventory of your resources and commit to being a responsible steward of them. Ask yourself, what exactly do I have on hand? What condition are they in? Do I have the right resources and enough to accomplish my goals?

Now, you may not be able to answer those questions right away, but you have to keep them in mind now so you don’t lose sight of them later. Let’s explore some issues you may face when managing your marketing resources.

In terms of human resources, you need to build a competent team. So keep these guiding principles in mind. Ask yourself, who are my A players, who are my B players that can developed into A players, and who are my C players that need to be moved off the team...as soon as possible? You’ll want to work closely with your HR partner, beginning Day One.

Now look at financial resources. You probably got some direction from your boss, but now it’s time to dig a little deeper. Meet with your financial partners and learn as much as you can about your budget. What is the process to set the budget? What is the process to spend it? How is it allocated? What have been the trends in spending? What areas of spending are getting the most bang for the buck?

Now, take a close look at your products and services. How are old are they, and when were they last updated? How do they perform, feature by feature, versus the competition? What needs to be improved? And, which ones may need to be retired to free up resources for new opportunities?

How do you sell your products and services? Examine your channels of distribution. What assets are there like warehouses and distribution centers? What channel partners do you have, and what role do they play? Most importantly, what information about your customers is being collected and who has it? How is that information being used?

Finally, what is your brand equity? Are customers loyal? What is your rate of retention? How satisfied are your customers?

This resource - your base of customers - may be your most important. You need to understand what gives you the right to win in the marketplace. THAT is your golden egg as we call it, and you want to take very good care of it.

 

Learn more about Leading a Marketing Team.

Breaking the Barriers to Creative Thinking

Intro-erase-boardWhat holds people back from being creative? Is it a lack of time? Do you not have a budget for doing creative work? Perhaps you work in an industry where there are lots of regulatory or legal barriers that seem to make it hard to generate novel ideas.

For many people, these types of constraints seem frustrating and overwhelming. They appear to be strict boundaries that seem to limit your ability to be creative.

But guess what? Surprisingly, constraints are not a barrier to creativity. In fact, constraints are a necessary condition for creativity to occur. Your brain works harder and smarter when given tight boundaries. The more constrained you are, the more creative you’ll be.

So what is it that seems to limit our creativity? The answer is a condition known as fixedness. Fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits our ability to see the world around us differently than what we’re used to. There are at least three types.

First is functional fixedness. Functional fixedness makes it hard for you to consider an object doing a job other than what it you know it to do. When you see a dry erase marker, for example, you instantly relegate it to the job of...well...marking. If you could force it in your mind to be available to do another job, you end up with a creative idea.

One of my pet peeves is when someone takes a permanent marker and writes on a white board. Okay, maybe I’ve done it once or twice. When that happens, take a regular dry erase marker and write over it. Voila! Permanent marks are gone! Now that’s creative.

The second type is structural fixedness. This type makes it really hard to imagine objects having a different structure than what we’re used to. Let’s go back to our dry erase marker. Why are these markers always straight? That’s fixedness. What if we could imagine a curved marker or perhaps one with a grip. Instead of holding it like a pencil, we can bend it so it fits in our hand better. Again, that’s creative.

Finally is what we call relational fixedness. This type of fixedness makes it very hard to imagine two objects having a relationship that wasn’t there before. As one object changes, the other object changes. Our mind doesn’t form these connections naturally because of relational fixedness.

Let’s go back to our marker example. What if it could change colors automatically when writing on different areas of the white board? Are there certain applications where that would be more convenient. When we find that application, we’ve generated a creative idea. We’ve broken through our fixedness to create new value.

We all have all three types of fixedness, and they hold back our ability to generate new possibilities. The good news is that you can break all three types. Learn more here.

 

 

Breaking the Barriers to Creative Thinking

Intro-erase-boardWhat holds people back from being creative? Is it a lack of time? Do you not have a budget for doing creative work? Perhaps you work in an industry where there are lots of regulatory or legal barriers that seem to make it hard to generate novel ideas.

For many people, these types of constraints seem frustrating and overwhelming. They appear to be strict boundaries that seem to limit your ability to be creative.

But guess what? Surprisingly, constraints are not a barrier to creativity. In fact, constraints are a necessary condition for creativity to occur. Your brain works harder and smarter when given tight boundaries. The more constrained you are, the more creative you’ll be.

So what is it that seems to limit our creativity? The answer is a condition known as fixedness. Fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits our ability to see the world around us differently than what we’re used to. There are at least three types.

First is functional fixedness. Functional fixedness makes it hard for you to consider an object doing a job other than what it you know it to do. When you see a dry erase marker, for example, you instantly relegate it to the job of...well...marking. If you could force it in your mind to be available to do another job, you end up with a creative idea.

One of my pet peeves is when someone takes a permanent marker and writes on a white board. Okay, maybe I’ve done it once or twice. When that happens, take a regular dry erase marker and write over it. Voila! Permanent marks are gone! Now that’s creative.

The second type is structural fixedness. This type makes it really hard to imagine objects having a different structure than what we’re used to. Let’s go back to our dry erase marker. Why are these markers always straight? That’s fixedness. What if we could imagine a curved marker or perhaps one with a grip. Instead of holding it like a pencil, we can bend it so it fits in our hand better. Again, that’s creative.

Finally is what we call relational fixedness. This type of fixedness makes it very hard to imagine two objects having a relationship that wasn’t there before. As one object changes, the other object changes. Our mind doesn’t form these connections naturally because of relational fixedness.

Let’s go back to our marker example. What if it could change colors automatically when writing on different areas of the white board? Are there certain applications where that would be more convenient. When we find that application, we’ve generated a creative idea. We’ve broken through our fixedness to create new value.

We all have all three types of fixedness, and they hold back our ability to generate new possibilities. The good news is that you can break all three types. Learn more here.

 

 

Innovation Sighting: Pearl RearVision Backup Camera and Alert System

RearVision how it worksBacking up your car in those crammed, hard-to-see spaces just got safer and easier, thanks to Pearl Automation’s innovative use of the Task Unification Technique. Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it's taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job.

RearVision provides a great example of this SIT technique at work. By adding a solar powered HD camera to the standard license plate frame, Pearl turned this humdrum car accessory into a rear-viewing camera. The theft resistant camera frame installs securely around your license plate and connects wirelessly to a car adapter in your ODP port. The adapter pairs with your mounted smart phone, transforming it into a rear-viewing screen.

TechCrunch shares:

Once connected, the RearVision app in landscape will show you a full-screen view of what the cameras in the license plate holder is seeing, with a 175-degree viewing angle. You can toggle between the full fish-eye experience, or a warp-corrected view that fills the display corner-to-corner with the space behind your car. You can also pivot the view up or down to get a better look at more of the sky, or more of the ground as needed.

RearVision mounted phoneYou also can utilize this technique to innovate helpful products.

To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

  1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.
  2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:
  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function
  1. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.
  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 the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?

Innovation Sighting: Samsung’s Activewash Keeps It Clean Using Task Unification

Samsung Activewash PicThe washing machine is a vital component to every modern-day household. And top-loaders often get lost in today’s sea of front-loading appliances. Using the Task Unification pattern, Samsung’s Activewash with built-in sink holds its own among newly innovated appliances.

Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it’s taking something that is already around you and giving it an additional job.

The Samsung Activewash is designed with a two-part lid, the bottom portion serving as a sink. This new sink equipped with jets allows you to pre-soak clothing and then slide it in the wash.

Digital Trends comments:

“According to Samsung’s research, 70 percent of the consumers it surveyed pretreat their laundry on top of their washing machines. To the company, a logical step was to make this process easier by adding a sink, complete with water jet and a surface for scrubbing away stains, right into the top of the machine. Enter the Activewash, a new top-loading washer unveiled at CES 2015 with a sink built into the top.  Instead of having to schlep soiled shirts and unwashed unmentionables from the bathroom to the basement, people can now just dunk their dirty clothes into the washer, let them soak, then drop them into the basin via a slot. The water used in the pretreating step isn’t wasted; it goes into the machine, too.”

To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

  1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.
  2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:
  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function
  1. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.
  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 the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?