The Subtraction Technique is amazing because of its simplicity and power. It is one of five techniques that form the core of Systematic Inventive Thinking, a method of innovating new products and services.
Here is a classic example of how it can completely reframe how we see one of the most familiar of institutions – the Library.
To get the most out of the Subtraction technique, you follow five basic steps:
1. List the product’s or service’s internal components.
2. Select an essential component and imagine removing it. There are two ways: a. Full Subtraction. The entire component is removed. b. Partial Subtraction. Take one of the features or functions of the component away or diminish it in some way.
3. Visualize the resulting concept (no matter how strange it seems).
4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this new product or service, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge? After you’ve considered the concept “as is” (without that essential component), try replacing the function with something from the Closed World (but not with the original component). You can replace the component with either an internal or external component. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values of the revised concept?
5. If you decide that this new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it more viable?
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Drew Boyd is co-author of “Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results.” Follow him at www.insidetheboxinnovation.com/ and at https://twitter.com/drewboyd