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The attribute dependency technique is a bit more complicated than the other techniques. To make it easier to use I recommend creating a two-dimensional matrix like the one here. A spreadsheet program like Excel makes this easy. To create a matrix you start by listing the internal and external attributes of the product or service. Let's use our example of a refrigerator to practice this. The internal attributes of a refrigerator would include its capacity, shape, weight, color, the function of the shelves, type of compartments, number of doors, its temperature inside and its brand.
The external attributes would be types of food and beverages inside, amounts of food and beverages, family eating preferences and location in the kitchen. As a rule of thumb I suggest you always include the attribute of time in your list of external attributes. Time could mean several things. For example we could set time to mean time of day. It could also be elapsed time. You may want it to mean season of the year.
It's totally up to you. Another rule of thumb is to include price on your attribute list. Having price somewhere in your matrix will help you see new opportunities to vary the price of your product or service because of some new, innovative feature. Write all of these attributes in the far left hand column. Then write just the internal attributes across the top row. That's because we're not going to create pairings between two external attributes. We can't control those types of correlations so there's no point in having them on your matrix.
Now here's a tip on how to make your matrix a bit more manageable. Notice how in certain cells the matrix creates a pairing between an attribute and itself? Look at B2 for example: Capacity, and capacity. It doesn't make sense to create correlations with just one attribute, so we can put an X in that cell. In fact, we can X out each cell along this diagonal line from cell B2 all the way down to cell J10.
When you X out these cells, notice something about the top right part of the matrix. Each of these cells is a duplicate pairing of the ones in the lower left portion, we don't need to consider them. We can put X's in these as well. These steps will make your matrix easier to use. Here is a properly constructed matrix. Each cell of your matrix creates a unique pairing between two attributes. For example, cell A5 creates a pairing between capacity and number of shelves.
Each cell represents a potential virtual product. You are now ready to apply attribute dependency. You may recall earlier we discussed two types of fixedness:functional and structural. Now you have a third type and it's called relational fixedness. This is where people have a difficult time imagining two attributes in a system having some relationship or connection. Attribute dependency helps you break relational fixedness and see exciting, new innovations that you may never have thought of before.
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