A recent Wall Street Journal article observes that people are most innovative when they put constraints on their work based on what they already know.
The article highlights five techniques that can add juice to the innovative process:
- Subtraction - Removing seemingly essential elements like the teller from the bank (ATM) or the eyeglass frame from the glasses (contact lens).
- Task Unification - Bringing together unrelated tasks and functions like straps on a Samsonite backback that double as a back massager.
- Multiplication - Copying a component and then altering it like Gillette did by adding blades to a razor.
- Division - Separating the components and then rearranging them like airlines did when they first started printing boarding passes at home.
- Attribute dependency - Making the attributes of a product change in response to changes in another attribute or in the surrounding environment like transition lenses that get darker when the sun comes out.