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So let's apply the attribute dependency technique to a common household appliance, a refrigerator. The first step is to create your matrix. You list the internal attributes of the product or service. You also list the external variables around the product or service, those things within the closed world that vary about how and why the product is used. Be sure to include both time and price somewhere in your list. You place these attributes in your matrix. Internal and external along the left side and internal attributes across the top.
Next you X out those cells of the matrix that are redundant or have only one variable. You're ready to go. Let's try a few of these. Let's start with two internal variables. How about cell C8? You have the variables shape and number of doors. The first question you ask yourself is this. Is there a dependency now in how refrigerators operate between its shape and the number of doors? In other words, as the shape of the refrigerator changes, the number of doors change.
I can't think of any refrigerators that have that property. So we artificially imagine one. Our virtual product becomes a refrigerator that has different shapes to accommodate different door configurations. Hmmm. Now why would that be useful? Today's refrigerators come in that familiar tall, boxy shape. This concept makes me wonder why refrigerators couldn't be custom shaped to make better use of your kitchen space. After all, a refrigerator takes up a lot of space the way they are designed today.
And why are the doors always on the front? Why couldn't refrigerators be top loading, for example? Why not have a kitchen counter top that has a series of small doors that open up to a refrigerated space below? It might make it a lot more convenient to load groceries, as well as to get things out. It might make it easier to clean. You could organize your food storage around the kitchen rather than all in one place. Notice how we let the two attributes give us a starting point for ideating, but then we quickly extended the idea to see different concepts that deliver new benefits or that deliver old, familiar benefits in a new way.
That is the beauty of the SIT method. It structures your thinking up to a point, to allow you to explore concepts inside the box, in a tightly constrained way. Let's try another one. This time with an internal and external variable. Look at cell F13. The attributes are function of the shelves and family food preferences. Now I don't know of any dependency that exists today between those attributes, so our virtual product becomes this.
As the family's food preferences change, the functions of the shelves change. It seems odd of course and that's what we're always hoping for, a combination that we were not likely to have thought of on our own. So with this combination, the shelves will now do something related to how the family will store or consume food. Sounds interesting. What would be the potential benefit? And how would it work? What if the shelves could keep track of how much food is in the refrigerator? Perhaps when you're in the grocery store, you could find out just how much food is left of certain items so you would know what to buy.
Your refrigerator communicates this through your smart phone. Perhaps the refrigerator stores the family's favorite recipes and it let's you know what else is needed to prepare dinner that night. The refrigerator becomes a family meal planner. It knows what's inside and it knows what the family likes. It could do a lot more to help you carry the load of feeding a family. And that is one of the great things about the attribute dependency technique. It tends to yield new products and features that seem almost smart.
They change or adapt in relation to something else that has changed with the consumer, almost as if they knew what was going on. The consumer gets a lot more convenience and other benefits from these types of smart products.
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