Category Archives: Subtraction

Innovation Sighting: The Subtraction Technique and the No-Huddle Offense

HuddleFew activities are more iconic to American football than the huddle. Bill Pennington, in his New York Times article, “Ready, Set, Gone! The N.F.L.’s Disappearing Huddle” thoughtfully fills out the history, the heritage, and the slow disappearance of this classic practice. And while innovation is often thought of in connection to a tangible product, the emerging use of the “no-huddle offense” in football is an excellent example of innovation through the use of the innovation template known as The Subtraction Technique.

The Subtraction Technique is one of the five innovation methods in Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). It works by removing an element of the system that seemed essential to identify a new value or benefit. When it comes to the no-huddle offense, teams are removing the essential component, the huddle, and replacing it with hand signals and code words. The benefit? More time on the clock to advance the ball and elevate a team’s chance for a win.

As Pennington explains,

Huddles remain the pervasive norm, but increasingly, many are condensed to several harried seconds, as quarterbacks bolt to the line of scrimmage and rely on hand signals and code words to communicate a new play to teammates as they line up.

This season, some offenses have spent nearly half a game — 25 plays — without stopping to huddle. Many teams’ defensive units huddle even less often. As a trend, it is viewed as inevitable innovation, and most in the N.F.L. expect the pace to quicken in coming seasons, a transformational jolt to an old-style league.

Time will tell whether this innovative strategy will outlive the infamous huddle. But it’s a perfect example of how innovation through templates knows no boundaries.

To get the most out of the Subtraction Technique, you follow five steps:

  1. List the product’s or service’s internal components.
  2. Select an essential component and imagine removing it. There are two ways: a. Full Subtraction. The entire component is removed. b. Partial Subtraction. Take one of the features or functions of the component away or diminish it in some way.
  3. Visualize the resulting concept(no matter how strange it seems).
  4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this new product or service, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge? After you’ve considered the concept“as is” (without that essential component), try replacing the function with something from the Closed World (but not with the original component). You can replace the component with either an internal or external component. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values of the revised concept?
  5. If you decide that this 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 more viable?

Learn how all five techniques can help you innovate – on demand.

Innovation Sighting: The Subtraction Technique in Amazon Go

by Darla Wilkinson

Amazon: it’s practically a household name in today’s world of online shopping. And their innovation efforts don’t stop short of brick-and-mortar retail. This week the online giant unveiled via video their newest creation called Amazon Go. Using what is called Just Walk Out Technology, Amazon has removed checkout lines and registers from the shopping experience. Utilizing the Amazon App, buyers walking into the beta store in Seattle simply check into the app, select the items they want off the shelf, and walk out. Amazon’s app detects what items were purchased and charges them to the customer’s Amazon account. It's that simple.
 
CNN Tech explains: By eliminating much of the staff needed to operate a store, Amazon keeps costs lower than traditional competitors. It's also in a strong position to bring together data on its customers shopping habits online and offline to make better suggestions in all situations.”
 
It’s a perfect example of the Subtraction Technique, one of five in the innovation method, Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). It’s also a great example of the Closed World Principle. Here’s how it works:

 
To get the most out of the Subtraction Technique, you follow five steps:
  1. List the product’s or service’s internal components.
  2. Select an essential component and imagine removing it. There are two ways: a. Full Subtraction. The entire component is removed. b. Partial Subtraction. Take one of the features or functions of the component away or diminish it in some way.
  3. Visualize the resulting concept (no matter how strange it seems).
  4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this new product or service, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge? After you’ve considered the concept as is” (without that essential component), try replacing the function with something from the Closed World (but not with the original component). You can replace the component with either an internal or external component. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values of the revised concept?
  5. If you decide that this 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 more viable?
Learn how all five techniques can help you innovate on demand.

The SIT Patterns in Thanksgiving Cooking Gadgets

by Darla Wilkinson (darla@drewboyd.com)

 

For many people this week’s Thanksgiving celebration will mean endless shopping, prepping, and cooking in anticipation of the big feast. The hours of slaving away in the kitchen usually seem worth it all once you sit and savor the joy shared by family and friends. And though every dish sprinkled with a pinch of love is the tastiest, none of us would slight a little help in the kitchen in order to make this one-day-a-year dinner a little less stressful for the chef.

So in the spirit of lending a helping hand, I’ve found 5 kitchen gadgets that can easily assist you this Thanksgiving holiday. And it just so happens they demonstrate the five patterns of the innovation method called Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT).

  1. Infrared thermometerSUBTRACTION: The Subtraction Technique works by removing a component, preferably an essential one, then working backwards to imagine what benefits are created by just the remaining components. By removing the standard probe from the thermometer and adding an infrared device, this tool will allow you to see if your turkey is, in fact, ready while keeping your fingertips unburned and agile for other culinary tasks. The thermometer featured is the ThermoHAWK 420 Touchless thermometer.
  1. Triple timerMULTIPLICATION: The Multiplication Technique works by taking a component of the system, copying it, but changing it in some qualitative way. Like Subtraction, you take this new configuration and imagine benefits that it could deliver. The OXO Good Grips Triple Timer has multiplied the time-keeping feature by displaying not one but three timers on the screen. Each timer works independently from the other enabling you to make sure the turkey, potatoes, and pumpkin pie all finish right on time.
  1. Fat separatorTASK UNIFICATION: The Task Unification Technique works by taking an existing component and assigning it an additional job (that of another component or some new task). Holiday gravy demands only the best turkey broth. And thanks to the fat separator a standard liquid measuring cup has been turned into so much more. By adding a stopper to the spout and a filter to the top of the cup, turkey drippings are not only measured, but the fat and skin are filtered, leaving only the luscious broth to be poured out. The OXO Good Grips Fat Separator is featured.
  1. Divided rackDIVISION: The Division Technique works by taking a component of the product or the product itself, then dividing it physically or functionally. You re-arrange the parts to seek new benefits. Nothing spells disaster quite like seeing the Thanksgiving bird tumble to the ground when transferring it from your roasting pan to the cutting board. Thanks to the application of the division technique to the roasting rack, such tragedy can be avoided. By dividing the roasting rack in half lengthwise and attaching them with a pin, a chef can now pull the pen and slip both halves out from under the bird. The rack featured is the Cuisipro Roasting Rack.
  1. Voice activiated listATTRIBUTE DEPENDENCY: The Attribute Dependency Technique works by creating (or breaking) a dependency between two attributes of the product or its environment. As one thing changes, another thing changes. This kitchen gadget can put an end to forgetting that one essential ingredient you remembered while washing the dishes. By pressing the button and speaking into your wall-mounted Smart Shopper, the gadget records each item on the display screen for you. You can later print out a list in a simple receipt form, saving you time from stopping to write down items or typing them in your phone.

Holiday meals will always be a labor of love. But thanks to the timeless templates used by innovators, these gadgets can be handy companions to preparing the best Thanksgiving feast yet.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!

 

 

The Subtraction Technique: When Less is More

UntitledTake a look at these four items and tell me – what do they have in common? Here, you see an exercise bicycle, a package of powdered soup, a contact lens, and a child’s high chair, the kind that slips over the edge of the table.

Do you see it? Most people would answer that they're all consumer goods, or that they all provide convenience to the consumer. And while that’s true, that’s not what I’m looking for. Take a look at how they were constructed? Compare them to an early form of the product. Now do you see it?

Each of the items has had something subtracted from an original form of a product. The exercise bike has had the rear wheel removed. The powdered soup has had the water removed. What about the contact lens? It’s had the frame removed. And the child’s highchair has had the legs removed. All four of these products are examples of what can be created using the Subtraction Technique. Let me show you how to use it.

First, we define Subtraction as the elimination of an essential component rather than an addition of new systems and functions. To use the technique, follow the steps of the Function Follows Form principle. First, list the internal components. The internal components are those that are directly on or connected to the product.

Then, apply Subtraction by removing a component. Don't be bashful here – pick something that you think is essential to the product or service. Next, you visualize the resulting virtual product. Remember that the virtual product is an abstract configuration at this point and it may seem rather odd, and even absurd.

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?

If you identify some benefit, then 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?

Once you complete this first round, the Subtraction Technique allows you to replace the function of the missing component. We first try to replace it with something from the Closed World, something in the immediate vicinity of the where the consumer uses the product. If not, we think of how we could import some technology or other component from outside the closed world.

Subtraction is a powerful technique because it breaks fixedness and forces you to mentally imagine all the remaining components delivering some new benefit.

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!

Innovative Thinking to Control Healthcare-Associated Infections

InfectionOn any given day, it’s estimated that 1 in 25 hospital patients in the U.S. has at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes pneumonia; gastrointestinal illness; or infections of the urinary tract, bloodstream or surgical site.

Sadly, despite enormous resources aimed at preventing the problem, HAIs continue to result in infection and even death. Moreover, HAIs cost the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $35 billion annually, making it one of the biggest challenges facing hospital chief executive officers. Clearly, a new way of thinking about HAIs is needed. 

Finding new, innovative ways to address a confounding problem like this is difficult, especially if hospitals continue to seek solutions using outdated, “think-outside-the-box” methods like brainstorming. Fifty years of research shows brainstorming doesn’t work. Not only does it actually kill good ideas, but it disproportionately eliminates the very best ones. 

Instead, hospitals need to employ more powerful, structured methods of innovating. One proven approach is Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). To use SIT, hospitals must retrain the way they look at the problem.

Most people believe innovation begins by establishing a well-defined problem and then thinking of ways to solve it. SIT works in the opposite way. Innovators use SIT to work backwards to take an abstract, hypothetical solution and find a problem that it can solve.

Psychologist Ronald Finke first reported this in 1992 when he recognized there are two directions of thinking: problem-to-solution and solution-to-problem. Finke discovered people are actually better at searching for benefits for given configurations (starting with a solution) than at finding the best configuration for a given benefit (starting with the problem).

To create hypothetical solutions that can lead to problem-solving, SIT follows a set of given patterns. In fact, for thousands of years, innovators have used these five simple patterns in their inventions, usually without even realizing it. 

The five patterns are: subtraction, task unification, division, attribute dependency and multiplication. These patterns are embedded into products and services almost like DNA. They regulate thinking and channel the ideation process in a structured way that makes people even more creative.

As an example, consider how to apply the task unification pattern to HAI prevention. Task unification is defined as assigning an additional job to an existing resource. It’s a useful technique to help break the natural tendency toward functional fixedness, a cognitive bias that prevents us from seeing opportunities outside what’s expected. 

To use task unification, make a list of components and resources within a hospital. The component
list would include things like:

• Board of trustees
• Hospital management team
• Doctors
• Nurses
• Technologists
• Radiology department
• Laboratory
• Rehabilitation
• Pharmacy
• Admissions
• Discharge
• Patient records
• Finance
• Marketing
• HR
• IT
• OR
• Patient rooms
• Nursing stations

Each component or resource should then be given the additional job of how it could break the chain
of infection associated with HAIs.

For example, imagine the admissions department has the additional job of eliminating infections through the portal of entry via the patient’s eyes. It sounds crazy at first, but at this stage, the job is to simply ask, what would the benefit be? Could the admissions team identify patients who might be more susceptible to eye infections? Could they administer eye drops at the time of admission to reduce infections? Could they give patients eye protectors or instructions on how to avoid eye
infections?

Given the admissions department is the first stop of a hospital visit, this idea might have value.

Creating hypothetical solutions may result in a seemingly ridiculous combination of possibilities. But don’t be dissuaded! SIT is intended to reveal a steady stream of plausible ideas.

Now try using the subtraction pattern. Subtraction is defined as removing an essential component and replacing it with something else. 

Like before, make a list of components of some aspect of HAI management, then systematically subtract one at a time to see the possibilities for unique and innovative replacements.

For this exercise, apply subtraction to ICU information monitoring. The components of this activity
include:

• Gathering infection data
• Recording data
• Analyzing data
• Reporting data
• Tracking patient locations
• Assessing impact of staff activity on infection outcomes
• Monitoring antibiotic resistance
• Monitoring antibiotic prescribing patterns

Select one of these components randomly from the list and consider the possibilities if that component were removed and replaced with something else. For example, imagine removing monitoring antibiotic prescribing patterns.

It may seem absurd at first. But what if another component of the hospital, such as the pharmacy or finance department, was responsible for this activity? Would that department be able to analyze it from an inventory or cost approach that added value to the overall program? What if drug companies monitored this for their antibiotic products as a value-added service? Would this reveal better practices and uses of their products?

Management and control of HAIs is an intensive, widespread activity for healthcare systems. By narrowing the scope of these activities and applying systematic creativity techniques to each one, hospitals can discover new, never-before-considered ideas to address this pervasive challenge.


(This article first appeared in Managed Healthcare Executive, September 1, 2015)

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:

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  •     What is innovation?
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  •     Identifying your core values and drivers
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