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The task-unification technique

From: Business Innovation Fundamentals

Video: The task-unification technique

White-haired man: The famous inventor, Thomas Edison, lived in a beautiful home, but something was unusual about the gate that led into his house. His visitors had to push the gate very hard to open it, and then again, very hard to close it. It seemed odd that such a successful inventor like Thomas Edison wouldn't fix his gate. Rumor has it that Thomas had attached a pump to his gate, so that every time somebody opened or closed it, they were pumping fresh water into the plumbing system of the house.

The task-unification technique

White-haired man: The famous inventor, Thomas Edison, lived in a beautiful home, but something was unusual about the gate that led into his house. His visitors had to push the gate very hard to open it, and then again, very hard to close it. It seemed odd that such a successful inventor like Thomas Edison wouldn't fix his gate. Rumor has it that Thomas had attached a pump to his gate, so that every time somebody opened or closed it, they were pumping fresh water into the plumbing system of the house.

This is a great example of the innovation technique called task unification. Task unification is defined as the assignment of additional tasks to an existing resource. That resource can be a component of a product or service, or it can be something in the immediate vicinity of the product or service. Think back to the story of Thomas' gate. The gate has its primary job of letting visitors through, but it also has the additional job of pumping water.

That's not all to the story. The guests coming to visit Thomas are also a resource. They have their primary job of being friends of Thomas, but now they have the additional job of activating the gate to open and close it. To use task unification, begin by listing the product's internal components, as well as the external components, the things right around where the product is being used. You select a component and assign it an additional task.

That creates the virtual product. Using function follows form, you look for potential benefits and you modify or adapt the concept to improve it. There are 3 general ways you can apply task unification. One way is to have an internal component take a job of another internal component. Think of it as that component is stealing the function of the other component. Here's an example. What you see here looks like an ordinary coffeemaker.

In fact, this product has a clever little innovation inside. The coffeemaker's filter has the additional job of measuring just the right amount of coffee to use given how much water was put in. It gives you the perfect brew every time. You could also have an internal component take the job of an external component. Nissan, the Japanese auto maker, has a nifty idea to make it easier to fill your tires with air. The car's horn will beep to let you know when you've reached the right tire pressure.

It's called the Easy Fill Tire Alert. In this example, the car horn steals the job of the tire pressure gauge. You could also have an external component steal the job of an internal component. Here's an example from a grocery store in Korea. They place billboards in train and subway stations that show their products on the shelves just the way you would see it in the store. Commuters use their smartphones to scan the products they need, and that shopping list is sent to the grocery store so the commuter can stop by on the way home to pick up the groceries.

In this example, they assign the subway billboards the additional task of becoming the point of sale. Very convenient and it saves time. Here's another example of an external component being assigned the additional job of an internal component. It's a concept called PlayPump. It's a child's merry-go-round, the kind you would see on a playground. They don't know it, but as they play on it, they're also turning a pump to pump fresh water out of a well and into a holding tank.

It's used in small villages in Sub-Saharan Africa where finding and pumping water is very difficult. The kids of the village have the additional job of providing water to the community. Hey, wait a minute. That almost sounds a lot like Thomas Edison and his water-pumping gate. That's why task unification can lead you to some pretty clever ideas.

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This video is part of

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Business Innovation Fundamentals

58 video lessons · 2479 viewers

Drew Boyd
Author

 
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  1. 1m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 22s
    2. Using the exercise files
      19s
  2. 21m 37s
    1. What is innovation? Introducing Systematic Inventive Thinking
      3m 21s
    2. The principle of function follows form
      4m 8s
    3. The closed-world principle
      4m 16s
    4. Characteristics of innovative products and services
      3m 51s
    5. Challenging the myth of thinking outside the box
      3m 11s
    6. Challenging the myth of serendipity
      2m 50s
  3. 11m 55s
    1. Functional fixedeness
      2m 26s
    2. The subtraction technique
      2m 59s
    3. Subtraction in action
      4m 8s
    4. Addressing common challenges
      2m 22s
  4. 10m 35s
    1. Structural fixedness
      2m 32s
    2. The division technique
      2m 43s
    3. Division in action
      3m 3s
    4. Addressing common challenges
      2m 17s
  5. 16m 25s
    1. The multiplication technique
      4m 24s
    2. Multiplication in action
      4m 39s
    3. Zooming in and zooming out
      4m 51s
    4. Addressing common challenges
      2m 31s
  6. 15m 45s
    1. The task-unification technique
      4m 19s
    2. Task unification in action
      4m 14s
    3. Using task unification for business issues
      4m 27s
    4. Addressing common challenges
      2m 45s
  7. 17m 49s
    1. The attribute dependency technique
      3m 32s
    2. Creating an attribute dependency matrix
      3m 37s
    3. Types of dependencies
      4m 12s
    4. Attribute dependency in action
      4m 31s
    5. Addressing common challenges
      1m 57s
  8. 27m 7s
    1. Running ideation workshops
      4m 13s
    2. Which technique to use
      3m 26s
    3. Creating new services and processes
      3m 17s
    4. Creating digital innovations
      5m 12s
    5. Involving customers
      5m 49s
    6. Evaluating ideas
      5m 10s
  9. 14m 48s
    1. Mastering innovative thinking
      3m 42s
    2. Building a pilot program
      3m 56s
    3. Addressing organizational challenges with innovation
      4m 3s
    4. Next steps
      3m 7s
  10. 52m 41s
    1. About Drew
      2m 9s
    2. What is innovation?
      51s
    3. What got Drew started in innovation?
      2m 15s
    4. On innovation as a skill
      1m 53s
    5. On innovation as part of your business
      1m 58s
    6. On resistance to innovation
      3m 31s
    7. On innovation's tainted image
      2m 34s
    8. Where do you apply innovation strategies?
      2m 31s
    9. Who should lead an innovation effort?
      3m 6s
    10. On favorite innovation experiences
      3m 51s
    11. On innovation vs. strategy
      3m 36s
    12. On working with innovation consultants
      3m 20s
    13. On trends in innovation
      3m 26s
    14. On innovation as competition
      2m 32s
    15. On innovative companies
      2m 43s
    16. On generating vs. executing ideas
      3m 2s
    17. Can you overdo innovation?
      2m 1s
    18. How do you start innovating?
      3m 44s
    19. On the most innovative products
      3m 38s

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