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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. In this course, author and business school professor Drew Boyd shares the techniques he's taught Fortune 500 companies to innovate new services and products. Drew provides real-world examples of innovation in practice and suggests places to find your own opportunities to innovate.
In the bonus chapter, Drew shares insights from his own career and answers tough questions on resistance to innovation, innovation and leadership, and the difference between generating vs. executing innovative ideas.
So let's apply the multiplication technique to a common household appliance, a refrigerator. You begin by listing the product's internal components, then you multiply one of the components but change it in some non-obvious counterintuitive way. Using function follows form, ask yourself two questions. The first question is should we do it? What would be the benefit of a refrigerator with this copied component? Who would want this, and why? If you identify some benefit, you ask yourself the second question, can we do it? Is it feasible to make the refrigerator with this copied component? You try to modify and improve the concept to yield an innovative idea.
Here is our component list: compressor, the door, door handle, shelves, drawers, ice maker, light bulb, and temperature control. And here is our table that shows each component and its attributes, the things that vary about that component. That will give us ideas on how to change the copied component.
Let's try a few examples. First, let's make a copy of the door. Most refrigerators already have two or even three doors, so let's make a copy of the main door and find a new idea. We need to change something about it though, so let's try different locations. How about a door on the side of the refrigerator? What would be the benefit? Well, maybe it would be easier to get certain items like beverages out of the smaller side door.
You wouldn't have to move things around all the time to get stuff in the back. One of the reasons I really like this technique is that it helps us break structural fixedness. We're so used to having the door of a refrigerator on the front, so this concept gives us an idea we may not have thought of before. Let's try another location. How about if we put a door just inside the outer door? That would give us more storage space, perhaps for items used most often.
It might be more energy-efficient, letting less cool air get out. Let's try another component. How about the ice maker? I want you to imagine having two ice makers, the original one plus another one that is different in some way. How can you make it different? Let's change the type of ice it produces. It would create different types of ice cubes. Perhaps it uses something other than water. What if Mom wanted to make frozen lemonade ice cubes, for example? Hmm.
You could also change the location. Some refrigerators let you dispense ice from right outside of the door, so we don't need to repeat that idea. What if the second ice maker was somewhere else in the kitchen, by the sink perhaps? That might make it more convenient for the family, but you always have to ask yourself the second question, is it feasible? From a technical point of view, it could be done, but the additional cost might outweigh the benefit in this example.
Finally, let's try something a little more bold. Let's select a component, and instead of making just one, let's make 15 copies and see what happens. Each copy has to be different from the original and from all the others. How about the temperature control? Fifteen of them? Seriously? Let's look at our table for some ideas on how to change the copies. What if you made each one control temperature for a different food item? Scientists have shown how many foods have an optimal temperature to taste the best.
What if this new refrigerator allows the homeowner to precisely set the temperature for every food item in the fridge? This last idea may not be practical for homeowners, but perhaps a restaurant that needs to store and serve food all day might love this idea, to help it serve better tasting food. And this is the key to this and the other techniques. Finding ideas that deliver more value to your customers, that makes you and your company more competitive.
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