CREATIVE THINKING TECHNIQUE: ATTRIBUTE ANALYSIS

scamper

Attribute analysis breaks our propensity to operate at the highest level of generalization. Often, if we consider the attributes of people, things, situations, etc., we come to different conclusions than if we operate within our stereotypes.

We usually describe an object by listing its function. The way we see something is not inherent in the object itself — it grows out of experience and observation. A screwdriver’s primary function is to tighten or loosen screws. To discover new applications and ideas, you need flexibility of thought. An easy way to encourage this kind of thinking is to list the attributes or components of the subject instead of concentrating on its function. For example, let’s suppose you want to improve the screwdriver.

(1) First, list the attributes of a screwdriver.
For Example:

Round steel shaft

Wooden or plastic handle

Wedge-shaped tip

Manually operated

Used for tightening or loosening screws

(2) Next, focus on each specific attribute and ask “How else can this be accomplished?” or “Why does this have to be this way?”
Ask yourself:

What can I substitute for this attribute?

What can be combined with it?

Can I adapt something to it?

Can I add or magnify it?

Can I modify it in some fashion?

Can I put it to some other use?

What can I eliminate?

Can the parts be rearranged?

What is the reverse of this?
(3) Following are a few recent patented screwdriver innovations. The innovations were created by creative thinkers focusing on separate attributes of the screwdriver such as the handle, power source, and the shaft.

Focusing on the handle, a Swedish company created a handle with space for both hands. It was so successful, they later developed a full range of tools with long handles.

In the Third World, an aspiring inventor added a battery to provide power. This power source proved to be more reliable than electricity.

An entrepreneur came up with a better arrangement. He created shafts that were made interchangeable to fit various size screws, which obviated the need to have several screwdrivers.screwdriver

A Japanese engineer invented a bendable electric screwdriver with a super-flexible shaft to reach out of the way places.

Considering the attributes of something rather than its function, provides you with a different perspective. Different perspectives create different questions which place your subject into different contexts. Years back, the Jacuzzi brothers designed a special whirlpool bath to give one of their cousin’s hydrotherapy treatment for arthritis. This was a new product for the Jacuzzi brothers who were in the farm pump business. They marketed the tub to other victims of arthritis but sold very few. Years later, Roy Jacuzzi put the concept into a different context (the luxury bath market) by asking, “Can I put this particular hydrotherapy treatment to some other use?” and bathrooms were never the same.

Listing the attributes of a subject and then focusing on one attribute at a time helps us to break our stereotypical notion of a subject as a continuous whole and to discover relationships that we likely would otherwise miss. This happened to a group of designers who, by chance, happened upon unusable medical incubators in the third world.

Hospitals and charities had donated expensive medical incubators to third world countries to help preterm babies survive and thrive in hospitals. Spare parts for the incubators were expensive and difficult to locate in rural settings, forcing medical staff to forego regular maintenance. Additionally, they discovered that intermittent power left the devices unusable during parts of the day and voltage spikes destroyed sensitive equipment. The majority of the donated equipment were unusable after a few years.

An organization Design That Matters discovered that an abundant local resource in developing countries are car parts and the technical understanding of local car mechanics. Their designers decided to see if they could manufacture an incubator using car parts. They listed the attributes of the medical incubator and then leveraging the existing supply chain of used auto parts, they used the creative technique SCAMPER. They SUBSTITUTED car parts for medical parts; they MODIFIED and PUT TO OTHER USES sealed-beam headlights to serve as the heating element, they ADAPTED a dashboard fan for convective heat circulation, COMBINED signal lights and door chimes to serve as alarms and REARRANGED a process for emergency backup power during power outages using a motorcycle battery and a car cigarette lighter.

The remarkable incubator made out of car parts was doubly efficient, because it tapped both the local supply of parts and the local knowledge of automobile repair. You didn’t have to be a trained medical technician to fix the NeoNurture; you just needed to know how to replace a broken headlight.

These newly-designed incubators will help provide millions of at-risk infants with shorter hospital stays and can enable infants who might otherwise have faced a lifetime of severe disability to experience full and active lives. 

Often great ideas like this one are works of bricolage. They are, almost inevitably, old parts strung together to form something radically new. We take something we stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape. The NeoNuture is an incubator that has been cobbled together with spare auto parts that happened to be sitting in junkyards.

 

LEARN THE CREATIVE TECHNIQUES USED BY CREATIVE GENIUSES THROUGHOUT HISORY: http://creativethinking.net/#sthash.SXV5T2cu.dpbs

THINKERTOYS

 

 

 

 

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