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White-haired man: I like the task unification technique, especially in situations where you already have a particular problem that you're trying to address. When you use it this way, the technique will take a specific resource and point it at specific aspects of the problem you're trying to solve. Let's go back to our refrigerator example and see how this works. Imagine going out and asking people what kinds of problems or frustrations they have with their refrigerator. In other words, what are their pet peeves about what's put inside the fridge, or anything else about how it's used.
We might get feedback from consumers that sounds like this. It's hard to know what food is still fresh and what need to be thrown out. I waste a lot of food because of that. Refrigerators are difficult to keep clean. You have to go in there, take the food out, and wipe the shelves off. It's a hassle. It's hard to know what food I need to buy at the store because I can't remember what's in the refrigerator. That means I have to run back to the store if I forgot something. Certain family members leave empty food packages in the refrigerator.
It drives me crazy, especially when they leave empty ice cream cartons. Yuk! When I'm trying to lose weight, the refrigerator becomes my biggest enemy. I wish it could me in some way. So how do we use task unification? Let's pick just one of these to work on. The last one is interesting, losing weight. Everyone thinks about their weight at some point. To use task unification to address this issue, we first have to unpack the issue and break it down into its smaller components.
It's almost like making a component list for a product or service. Instead, we make a component list of all the things that involve losing weight. For example, to lose weight people have to measure the calories they consume each day, manage the portion size of what they eat at each meal, eat quality foods, resist bad foods, manage the timing of meals so they don't eat too often or, even worse, skip meals, and monitor the progress of how much weight is lost.
Next, you go back to your component list for the refrigerator: compressor, door, door handle, shelves, drawers, ice maker, light bulb, and temperature control. With these 2 lists, you create a 2-dimensional matrix, like a spreadsheet. You put the components of the refrigerator down the first column. You put the components of the issue across the first row.
What you end up with are combinations in each cell that might give you an idea on how to solve a problem. You pick any cell and you ask yourself 2 key questions. First, what benefit does that deliver? And the second is, how would it work? Let's try it. Let's look at cell E6 for example. Resist bad food and shelves. Let's imagine shelves that help you resist bad food.
Sounds a bit strange, but in fact, research shows that shifting the food around in your fridge can retrain our brain to lose weight. Putting certain foods on certain shelves can help you crave healthy food instead of bad food. Perhaps you could design shelves that help consumers know where to put the healthy stuff and where to put the bad stuff. Let's try another example. How about cell H3, the door and monitor progress.
That seems pretty useful. It might help to remind a person how much they weigh immediately before they open the fridge door. Today's new refrigerator models have LCD screens on the door. Hey, if these could be linked with weight scales, you might create a way to deliver this new benefit. At first, it might seem a bit odd to have a component take one of these jobs, but that's the point of systematic inventive thinking, to force combinations that you were not likely to think of on your own.
The task unification technique can lead you to ideas that will delight your customers in completely new ways.
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