Scholarly article on topic 'Tracing unorthodox use - A TRIZ-related ideation method in systematic product innovation'

Tracing unorthodox use - A TRIZ-related ideation method in systematic product innovation Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Procedia Engineering
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{"Unorthodox use" / "Systematic innovation" / "Ideation method" / TRIZ}

Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Claudia Hentschel

Abstract Lots of companies deliver products and services that serve the customer a determined purpose or function – but they often go wrong about how the product is finally used. Such diversions sow the seeds of creativity to generate ideas for new product outcomes and problem solutions. However, this potential is only scarcely exploited so far. Based on a survey on consumers’ and developers’ opinions on unorthodox use, a new method is introduced to transfer product functions to unexpected application fields, which helps galvanizing the ideation process. It shows many similarities to the systematic way of thinking, to the contradiction logic and to selected knowledge- and analogy-based mental block breaking tools in TRIZ.

Academic research paper on topic "Tracing unorthodox use - A TRIZ-related ideation method in systematic product innovation"

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Procedia Engineering 9 (2011) 545-558

TRIZ Future Conference 2007

Tracing unorthodox use - A TRIZ-related ideation method in systematic product innovation

Claudia Hentschel *

Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft FHTW Berlin, University of Applied Sciences, 10318 Berlin, Germany


Lots of companies deliver products and services that serve the customer a determined purpose or function - but they often go wrong about how the product is finally used. Such diversions sow the seeds of creativity to generate ideas for new product outcomes and problem solutions. However, this potential is only scarcely exploited so far. Based on a survey on consumers' and developers' opinions on unorthodox use, a new method is introduced to transfer product functions to unexpected application fields, which helps galvanizing the ideation process. It shows many similarities to the systematic way of thinking, to the contradiction logic and to selected knowledge- and analogy-based mental block breaking tools in TRIZ.

© 2011 Published b y Elsevier Ltd.

Keywords: Unorthodox use; Systematic innovation; Ideation method; TRIZ;

1. Introduction

Every company prides itself on giving customers products that serve a defined purpose and fulfil a known need. Tennis balls for playing tennis. Drilling machines for drilling holes. Communication products for communicating. Toothpaste for cleaning teeth. Beverages for quenching thirst. Pizza-boxes for packing pizzas. Lorry tarps for covering freight. Cooking oil for cooking. Aspirin against headache. A drug chemically named sildenafil citrate as a treatment for heart conditions by dilating blood vessels and making more blood to flow. Robot end-effectors and control software for automated surface mounted device (SMD) assembly. A text messaging system built into mobile phones for internal maintenance purposes for technicians to troubleshoot problems.

After all, making a product fulfil intended purposes and functions will guarantee success - or so one would think. Not always do consumers use the product for the purpose it was intended for. What if a customer uses the product in unexpected ways and for unexpected purposes? Those torn tennis balls for protection purposes on a trailer coupling. The drilling machine to stir paint when refurbishing, the telephone device for displaying music, toothpaste for curing CDs of scratches, a certain beverage as bathroom cleaner against lime scale, an empty pizza-box for transporting

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +49-31-5119-2358; fax: +49-31-5119-2257 . E-mail address: .

1877-7058 © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.proeng.2011.03.141

laptops, lorry tarps for sewing bags, cooking oil as moisturizer against dry skin. And what if inventing companies start experimenting with Aspirin as a treatment for blood dilution, and with sildenafil citrate as a treatment for male erectile dysfunction? Seriously, SMD assembly systems strongly impacted on how chocolates are automatically packed into chocolate moulds. Also, the Short Message Service (SMS) was discovered by irrepressible hackers and teens, inventing their own abbreviated code to punch out messages. Mobile companies did not even know how to charge for SMS at first, because the idea was not part of their business models.

Generally speaking, developing companies have limited view, and, if at all, late access to information on how their products are finally used - only the customer has. Two questions are considered herewith: First, if non-intended product use is actively considered in industrial product development and if companies actively support or suppress such behaviour. And second, if consumers are always aware of using their products in another than the intended function - or if they are fixated on the way products or services are "normally" used and described in operating instructions.

The author has initiated a survey based on two questionnaires and gives first results on consumers' and developers' awareness of unorthodox product use, their experiences and intentions [:]. In brief words, the use of products for another than the intended purpose is not to be underestimated: the creative act is transformed into a methodology that supports product developers to think new applications to their solutions and at the same time new product outcomes. The idea is to trace unorthodox product use for generating new ideas in systematic product innovation.

2. Ideation within systematic innovation

2.1. Systematic innovation issues

Systematic product innovation allows to identify, analyse and solve (not only) engineering problems in a sort of algorithmic procedure. It is considered as one of the most contradictory subjects in innovation management, as the process from idea generation to problem solution often remains the most unorganized task compared to other tasks in product development. This is to be seen clearly, when it comes to numbers. According to insiders' statistics for industry in general, to bring one product to the market, one needs to start with 3000 raw ideas [2]. The effectiveness anywhere else would be considered ridiculous: who would accept 3000 flights scheduled and only one takes off? However, when it comes to new product development, this ratio is often regarded as acceptable. And thus many ideas are generated, lengthy filtered and those ideas discarded that are disliked in the hope that the best idea is found.

Looking at the idea releasing principles of existing creativity tools, they can basically be divided into associative (e.g. method 6-3-5, brainstorming) and confronting (e.g. synectics, emotive word analysis) methods. Taking the way of proceeding as grouping criterion, intuitive (e.g. method 6-3-5, brainstorming, synectics) and discursive (e.g. morphological box and matrix) methods are distinguished, TRIZ being assigned to the latter group and the most recent rediscovery from Russia in European product development [3]. The TRIZ approach is that if a solution to a problem is needed, one only needs to create few ideas. Although the ideal ratio one problem to one idea is not realistic, TRIZ systematically pre-selects the promising direction that an innovative solution should be heading for, improving the above mentioned effectiveness tremendously.

2.2. Outcome-oriented idea generation

When an idea is looked for, people often ask too much of themselves with placing the demand of creating something really and completely new and innovative on the spot. In most cases, an idea is less than most people expect of it: with defining an idea as neither more nor less than the new combination of known elements, the request to deliver a new idea sounds more feasible. Thus, it is not the idea itself, that has to be completely new, but rather the combination of known elements to satisfy the definition requirement. If this is exceeded - tant mieux! So, instead of inventing things it often makes sense to transfer a given solution of another field to the one where a solution is to be found. This adaptation is much cheaper and faster than inventing anew.

Ideas determine the result and trigger new processes, whereas in traditional management, it is usually the intended result that determines the process, the planning and organisation. With product innovation, the path towards output-oriented processes also should be considered, as they promise additional opportunities for disruptions and new market creation - well before competitors do. A recent publication even speaks of this approach being the only chance in innovation management to create products that customers really want [4]. Here, as in this book, the term ideation stands for idea generation and means "the process of creating new ideas that are focused on addressing a set of targeted underserved outcomes, jobs and constraints" [4] rather than slight changes within a given field. This paper also leads to a method that creates completely new outcomes by some sort of systematic confrontation method as idea releasing principle. The confrontation is realized by combining a given product function and a purpose different from the intended one.

This is much like how the idea to this work came up. After a TRIZ lecture, where the well-known pizza-box example provided by the TRIZ-online team [5] was presented, the author had to change lecture rooms quickly, so putting the laptop into the empty pizza-box brought for demonstration purposes was more an automatic act. Being convinced of the new lightweight, cheap, easy to handle transportation device, the author was amused at the notice, that nobody expected the pizza box to contain an expensive laptop. What in hardware hacking would probably be considered as a slight attempt at modifying a computer case ("casemodding"), here additionally turned out to be a perfect camouflage against theft. This little personal experience sensitized the author to customers' real behaviour with products - without knowing about the outcome at that point.

2.3. Usefulness of repurposing a product

History reveals, that well-known ideas were often born when product functions were combined with new applications: the vine press for book printing by Gutenberg in the 15th century, the former gramophone developed by Thomas Edison (1847 - 1931), initially designed as a voice recorder, but finally used inversely to play music with, the shower curtain used to sew the first one-way diapers by Marion Donovan (1917 - 1998), the adaptation of former tea packages for easier preparing tea portions leading to the tea bags invention by Adolf Rambold in 1949, and normal white colour devised by Bette Nesmith Graham (1924 - 1980) as a means of painting out errors when mechanically typewriting in the days before word processors, are only few historic examples. Melitta Bentz from Dresden first placed a blotting paper into a brass pot in which she drilled holes. What in 1908 she got patented as a coffee filter, was the start for a company, whose brand name and products are synonymous with freshly brewed coffee. However, these adaptations, at best familiar to those who are interested in invention anecdotes, are sold the world over. Despite the attention that in former times was given to individuals when innovation was evaluated, in future both cases will coexist, the individual and the corporate activity as a source of innovation [6].

Looking at art, one finds also many examples for the use of products in other than the related contexts (Fig.1).

Figure 1: Tête de taureau (Picasso).

Picasso (1881 - 1973) in 1942 created the famous bullock head (Tête de taureau) only from a bicycle seat and its handlebars, to name only one example of modern art. Here, as in other pieces of art, probably simply overflowing creativity was the root cause for using items in new and even strange contexts. No matter how the artist created the idea, the outcome at least is appreciated internationally ever since.

Advertisement has long recognized the eye catching effect of products and/or objects used in other than expected contexts (Fig. 2).

^ \ W^L A ■ ! J, f0m m

m ¡L ■ W

Kann dein Handy auch was Besonderes?

Figure 2: Advertisement for mobile ticket reservation (© Deutsche Bahn AG).

When DB AG introduced their mobile ticket reservation function with a postcard in 2116, one side of the postcard showed the mobile with a razor function and the question: "Does your mobile also knows something special?". On the other side it said "Yes, it does - ticket reservation!" and additionally asked for more suggestions to mobile phone applications by consumers, promising attractive prizes to be won by the most creative replies.

The inhabitants of the former German Democratic Republic are often quoted as creative improvisers due to supply bottlenecks. In general may desperate situations, difficulties with existing products and inappropriateness of suitable products available lead to non-intended product use. Additionally, lack of money to buy convenient products, or lacking access to a suitable product due to finding oneself in other than the intended surroundings, or having unusual items at hand by chance when trying to solve a problem, is a trigger to a change in application field. Last, not least, simply play instinct is an initiator - children seem to be real experts when it comes to the creative act of inventing new functions for given objects. Observing a toddler plugging coloured pencils in the grass pretending to make flowers grow cannot be excelled by any adult - or can it?

Some even state, that a "right" use or purpose does not exist; that each usage can only be revealed in a context, that is coded by normality, handed down by institutions or restricted by law. Each new application thus invents a field beyond this limitation [7].

3. Finding an appropriate term

3.1. Prevailing denial in innovation management

Marketing and innovation management literature equally neglect the subject; only occasional publications are to be found where non-intended product use is mentioned offensively. Mainly computer freaks and jurists make non-intended product use subject of their discussion: The former address pros and cons of open source programming or good and bad examples of misusing e.g. web technologies. The latter mainly address liability for product failures.

The few exceptions that address the subject are given here: Product development company IDEO speaks first of "cross-pollination" and highlights more than once that looking at products from another application field delivers the solution to a given design problem almost automatically [8]. Also, "finding rule breakers" is regarded as helpful in creating new product concepts [9]. Reason enough to go into the subject more deeply.

One article addresses the "bending" of technological paths by "human stubburnness" and highlights that one half of today's everyday's products are outcome of such purpose alienation [10]. The term that is given there is "exaption", which probably shortens "exaptation". Exaptation is a term that was first used in biology of evolution, where it refers to the exploitation of a feature for a purpose that was not originally intended. It highlights the difference between functional adaptation for an intended purpose and an alienated functional application. The term exaptation is later used in genetics: many biologists share the opinion, that new structures are never purposeful but rather occur as side products by pure chance when genotypes are passed on imperfectly.

Another publication addresses the subject as cultural hacking, emphasizes the creative aspect with reference to the term "purpose discovery" and introduces additional terms such as subversion, improvisation and even the French "bricolage" and "détournement" [11]. A most recent source defines hacking as "the repurposing of a product for a task that it was never intended to perform" [12]. Despite the very appropriate explanation, the term "hacking" is rejected here, as it all too often refers to breaking into computers and micro electronics. Here, any product and/or service use is to be considered.

3.2. Drawing a distinction to recycling

When using products in a different than the original purpose, some parallels to recycling might be seen. Recycling means reuse, further use or reutilisation of products or parts of products in cycles [13]. Two kinds of cycles are to be distinguished: Product recycling and material recycling. The latter refers to destroying the product's original shape and is not to be considered further. The first refers to maintaining the product's original shape and feeding it back into a new usage cycle. As the product provides the same as the intended function in reuse, it is excluded here, too, as only different as the intended functions are of interest. Thus, similarity to recycling is only to be found in further use, as the consumer finds a different function that was not necessarily intended in the design phase.

Differences to recycling prevail and are twofold. They concern

• the level of the new product application, and

• the finality of the decision to use a product in a different function.

In further use the product is used in a function that is usually to be considered of lower level than the original product function. This often, but not necessarily is the case with the product function considered here, where an additional function can occur, sometimes without even interfering with the formerly intended one.

As to the decision to use a product in a different function, further use is considered as an end-of-life technology. In most cases, however, the decision to recycle a product by means of further use is an irreversible one that is taken when the product, for what reason ever, cannot be used for its intended purpose any more. With using a product in another than the intended purpose, the original function might be destroyed, as with the tennis ball example. But it may also occur that the original function is still available, and, moreover, the consumer can sometimes switch between the originally intended and the different function, as was the case with SMS. Here, additional functionality of a product is involved. A valid definition being not at hand, it is clear how little attention this subject is paid to. In short, actual terms show limitations: either terms to be found are completely unknown to designers and product users, as exaption, or they convey a minor, inferior aspect, as "bricolage" and subversion, or even recycling. Therefore, another term is to be coined.

3.3. Defining a well-known phenomenon

Taking into account that formerly separated product functions converge to an ever larger extent, as one close term for the described phenomenon, product conversion was chosen first. But this term is already occupied by the transformation of military goods for civilian use and by the going over from one ecclesiastical confession to another. So another English term was looked for, first by asking consumers about their understanding of the German word "Zweckentfremdung" (Fig. 3). The above mentioned survey [1] revealed that 66 % of normal consumers understand this term as the use of products for (many) more than the main purposes. About 57 % also understand it by product usage against the description in operating instructions.

Figure 3: Consumers' understanding of unorthodox use (in %, n=97, multiple references possible).

39 persons from those 97 questioned took advantage from crossing two opportunities, with 21 persons (54 %) stating that additional functionality and usage against operating instructions is to be considered as "Zweckentfremdung". Tuning of products and adding parts to the product was only addressed by about 23 % and is obviously a minor aspect. Another result is that many multifunctional products were never considered as "Zweckentfremdung": the integration of a camera into a telephone, for example, is not considered as non-intended use of the telephone, probably as it is already too familiar.

The intention is to highlight the purpose diversion aspect, much like traffic diversion, where the original path is still valid, but reveals less importance or attractiveness at the moment. Therefore, the English term unorthodox use is chosen here to distance from recycling, to separate it from misuse and even abuse, that is to be considered as useless, and to highlight more the useful aspect and additional functionality in product use. Unorthodox use thus comprises repurposing of a product, a product function or service for a task or application that it was never intended to perform and can be as simple as using a lighter to open a bottle cap, or as complicated as rigging a telephone system to provide free calls, as was to be also found out by the following.

4. Unorthodox use awareness

4.1. The consumers' opinion

This paper addresses a well-known phenomenon, if one believes the survey that was effectuated in January 2007, when 97 persons gave their opinion on using products in other than the intended purpose [1]: 97 % of the people answered the question, if he/she has ever used a product in another than the given purpose in the affirmative! Numerous examples were given to demonstrate what was understood by unorthodox product use from their point of view. Within few minutes about 300 examples were given altogether, showing that unorthodox product use obviously plays a role, 50 different examples being repeatedly named, four out of these 50 given here (Fig. 4).

The lighter that is used as a bottle cap opener and pliers used as a hammer are two examples frequently repeated. Coca Cola® for cleaning sinks and toilets from lime scale or condoms to protect weapons from desert sand are two of the lesser-known examples.

On the other hand, the same consumers admitted that they deviate from given functions and purposes very rarely: only 7% stated that they deviate from given functions often; this small number in comparison to the large number of examples enumerated shows how contradictory a subject is addressed here.

Cola for cleaning sinks and toilets from lime scale

Paystation as DVD-Payer

Pliers as hammer

Lighter to open a bottle cap

0 20 40 60 80 100

□ 7 7 CM 78

Figure 4: Selected unorthodox use examples named by consumers (absolute, n=97, multiple references possible).

When asked whether the persons that use products in different contexts do this fully or not at all aware, the result looks evenly balanced: 50% are aware of their product purpose diversion, 50% say that they do this unconsciously and only later realize the product deviation.

When CBS Nightline challenged product development company IDEO to redesign the ordinary shopping cart in just five days, the team took note of unsafe and inefficient - but unconscious - usage in grocery stores. Not only baby seats were transported with the cart, but also it was left in the main aisle so that customers could rush quickly to sections of the store, fetch items and then find the cart that they had left centrally parked. As a result, the redesigned cart had two child seats coming along with some sort of a play surface, and small removable baskets that were to be taken to the sections and later replaced in the cart.

Conscious or not - using a product in a different and/or additional function than the original one bears a seed of creating new applications, if not innovations [14]. Adapting a product to a new need or situation much relates to what is known by context awareness in mobile computing. Here, as in mobile computing, the human factors' related context is structured into three categories:

• the user's tasks and needs (e.g. spontaneous activity, engaged tasks, general goals),

• the user's environment (e.g. location, interaction with others), and

• the information status on/to the user (e.g. knowledge of habits, biophysiological conditions).

Unorthodox use of products seems mainly triggered by alterations of these three categories. The user / consumer

of a product might

• have contradictory needs or tasks to fulfil, in a given environment, when a suitable product is not at hand, or

• find himself in a contradictory environment / situation, in which the user has to fulfil a given task without an adequate product at hand, or

• have contradictory information about how to apply a given product.

The first two are resembling each other in terms of their result. Example to the first bullet: When parents do not want their toddlers to wear diapers, and at the same time, do not want their children to wet their pants, to pull up and down the diaper is how consumers might have dealt with this contradiction before the solution was transferred into a pull-up diaper product.

The example to the second bullet was highlighted in the beginning: when a person has many items to handle and to transport a flat product of almost the same size like the normally wrapped pizza, using the box as a transport device for the laptop is only a small step.

The third bullet is demonstrated with the example of different persons using the same material of the same family game in different ways and thus applying different rules to the game. A deviation, that may be excusable here, but

has heavy consequences when the product is altered to an example from medicine or alike. Here, the extent of awareness comes into play again.

The contradiction logic shining through all examples is jumping into the eye of each "TRIZnik". After all, any unorthodox product use is an important step towards personalisation of products [12] as it creates an adequate personal interface between product and user. The interesting question arises, if professional product developers see this alike.

4.2. The developers' opinion

The traditional approaches to product development provides for known functions and needs. These are good for developing products that will be used in defined ways. Considering unorthodox use is useful, as it brings to light new uses for a product - uses that can officially be designed and marketed: that function being useful in another application for that one user may be also useful to all users of the application. However, 75 % of the questioned companies stated, that unorthodox use is not considered in their product development processes [1]. So it is hardly surprising that close to 90% of the analysed product developers understand the German term "Zweckentfremdung" as "usage of products against the operating instructions" (Fig. 5).

Rebuilding a product and/or adding parts

The use of a product for (many) more purposes than the intended one.

The use of a product against the operating instructions

0 20 40 60 80 100

1 1 1 5,0

Figure 5: Developers' understanding of unorthodox use (in %, n=8, multiple references possible).

As these developing companies define the function(s) of a product and formulate those in their operating instructions, in can be stated that the consumers' and developers' understanding of the term is basically the same [1], with slightly more consumers (66 %) than developers (62,5 %) considering additional functionality of the product as part of the term. Tuning of products and adding parts to the product was addressed by 75 % of the developers, but only by 22,7 % of the consumers.

Here, a contradictory situation can be revealed. While for consumers unorthodox product use is a step towards personalisation, developers partly consider it as something that should be avoided: 50% of the companies questioned refer to legal prevention of unorthodox use, e.g. by general terms and conditions of business - and probably have warranty claims in mind. More than 30% state, that product diversion should by all means be avoided and that all measures are to be taken in the product development phase to later hinder consumers from using products in other than the intended purposes. In general, two reasons are blocking unorthodox product use from the developing company's point of view:

• Underestimating customers - customers are not trusted to come up with new solutions to use the product; they are not considered expert or informed enough for that part of the innovation process. That's what the R&D team is considered to be for.

• Pronounced safety thinking - fear of running into unknown terrain, also in terms of juridical claims.

Last aspect to be mentioned here: all questioned companies support the idea to take unorthodox product use as a method for idea generation, but less than one third consider this aspect actively in their professional work. When asked how product diversion is to be revealed at the consumer's side, the majority refers to customer surveys and internet forums as appropriate methods. But with the limited awareness of product diversion mentioned, additional

ways to asking customers, e.g. trend scouts and work shops, have to be found to make use of this kind of idea generation peg.

4.3. Ideation implications

Products and use going personal

Unorthodox use can be thought as a profound expression of personalization, as the person adapts and shapes a product to his own will [12]. It is a way of controlling a product. Personalizing technical products takes into account that people are human and have different, variable and varying needs. In this context, usability is a widely known aspect in product development. Two possibilities to ensure more usability exist:

• the product adapts itself to customer's needs, environment, and/or information, and

• the customer adapts the product to his needs, environment and/or information.

The first category is recently under way in research and development. Examples are collaborative filtering approaches, as e.g. applies when offering each customer a product choice that might meet his interests most, generated from the currently displayed purchase behaviour.

The latter category, being more of interest here, is less offensively discovered and refers to examples like exchanging and decorating cellular phone housings, e.g. with rhinestones, the adaptation of software, e.g. download of new sounds and rearrangement of menu items or personal screensavers. Since all products and services can be used unorthodoxly, the question is if this should be encouraged, and if so, how. To later develop a method for tracing unorthodox product use offensively, it might be fruitful to take a glance at those reasons that make people unable to imagine alternative functions for given products.

Mental blocks in new context imagination

Consumers and designers alike are running into at least three kinds of mental blocks when supposed to use a product in a different than the intended purpose:

• Functional fixedness - the human tendency to fixate on the way products or services are "normally" used, making people unable to imagine alternative functions. For example, when people are asked to perform a task requiring the use of a wire, they are less likely to think of unbending a paper clip if they are given the clip attached to papers than if they see the clip loose [15].

• Conforming behaviour - people learn patterns of behaviour from others in their social and cultural group and simply stick to their habits. For example, stationary phone boxes, heavily absorbing sound to prevent others from listening in former times, became more and more unattractive when walking around in public while speaking on the phone is accepted by a group majority, levelling the path towards headsets and alike.

• Automatic response - some product qualities and features prompt people to behave in particular ways. For example, when drivers are confronted with a blinking light, they tend to focus their attention on it. Or when confronted with a ringing phone in public or the annoying sound of an alarm clock, people feeling disturbed tend to switch it off immediately. A slight change, e.g. turning the ring into a melody, a light or into a vibration, exploits new terrain in product use, as shows a new type of alarm-clock that wakes up persons with light.

Breaking through or at least being aware of these mental blocks in imagination is a first step towards exploitation of unorthodox product use for idea generation, requiring a lot of mental flexibility itself.

5. TRIZ^related ideation

5.1. Accepting wild ideas

Before going into a methodology that captures and offensively encourages to think diversions from intended product use, it is to be said that two main implications have to be accepted:

• Using such a methodology means that a company is aware of innovation, but at the same time must accept the heavy responsibility for coming up with new products and services that may have nothing to do with its

original focus. For many companies, this constitutes a radical shift in terms of product development and even strategic thinking.

• Here, a methodology will be given that captures also weird product outcomes rather than problem solutions. As the advantage of outcome orientation was already highlighted above, a company is herewith turning away form the traditional approach of asking customers for solutions [4, 16, 17].

If a company is aware of these implications, it has to find its way between the traditional part and the fragile new fields and/or adjacent or even totally different markets provoked by this method. Thus, this method is rather intensifying the dilemma between preserving the common product field and supporting new ideas that might enlarge or even change the field of activity [18].

When a micro electronics company looked for a solution to remove micro bubbles from liquid, they found it in vine making industry, more precisely champagne production. Because that industry knows how to handle micro bubbles very well, the solution was to be transferred more easily than reinventing a solution all anew [2]. Only because micro electronics industry is so far away from champagne industry, nobody thought of this adaptation earlier.

This adaptation procedure can also be used the other way around, where e.g. champagne production offensively looks for new application fields of this special knowledge of function they can provide. Maybe that function is also needed in a totally different area. Only by accepting that important innovations often arise outside a branch and beyond the known company focus, one can now look at the methodology.

5.2. 6C-Method for tracing unorthodox use potential

Looking at the methodology in detail, it is resembling a reverse engineering process, as it takes a given product function or selected product effect and tries to find new applications for it. The classical design process is working the other way around [3]. Six steps seem adequate to be followed and later highlighted by a practical example (Fig.

1. Capture: Systematically keep or strengthen your eye for observing customers' habits and thus unorthodox, also accidental use whenever possible [9]. Here, the actual outcome of the product use is important, not what it was supposed to come out like by the designers' imagination.

2. Concede: Acknowledge and take advantage of your knowledge about your product and develop a new style of given product analysis by exploiting physical and mechanical effects and features. See the product as a bundle of effects, features and functions, enabling new applications rather than a bundle of intended functions by abstracting from the latter. "TRIZniks" deeply understand the terms effect and function.

Figure 6: Steps within 6C-method.

3. Co-opt: Make use of the effects present in the given product design and transfer these effects and features into other contexts, scenarios, places and/or categories to meet a new objective. For example, try to convert given effects into one of the following categories that should be different from the originally intended one: furniture, transportation, scientific instrument, personal basic commodity and clothing, toys and games, devices, tools and pieces of equipment and weapon.

4. Conceive: Try to interpret the effects or a selected feature as new practical function or a practical contribution to a new category. Create new mixtures of effects and features from a professional point of view. Re-transfer them also to original surroundings and context and alter product features and effects that contribute to a certain need there or create a new customer need within a given context.

5. Chart: Organize and rate the results, revealing relative attractiveness of each product diversion opportunity. The diversion attractiveness refers to the relative usefulness for the customers, and how satisfied they are by existing products. Originality and practical orientation could also help in evaluating the outcomes.

6. Choose: Select the most promising results to jump-start innovation by generating new product concepts in detail.

5.3. Two examples

Tracing unorthodox use of cellular phones

Let us apply the 6C-method to the cellular phone product. According to the first C "capture", one can realize that in certain circumstances some people display sort of an even affectionate attitude towards the cellular phone device itself - probably depending on the person who has called. Indeed, hugging, caressing, shaking is not what one first assumes with using a mobile, but what often enough can be stated when observing certain mobile phone users more intensively.

The second C "concede" refers to the acknowledgement of certain effects of the product. Take the form and outer appearance of the product as sort of a status symbol, moving more and more into the personal sphere of the consumer. Actually, all kinds of accessories like leather bags and casings, headsets and even diamond-like decorations are extolled, expressing more and more individuality. The mobile phone has long become a personal belonging like pieces of jewellery or purses, taking slowly the place of adults' wallets and keys or the place of a cuddle toy to a child. The step towards becoming a personalized product thus is little enough.

According to the third C "co-opt", one is requested to transfer these findings into a new category of application field. Furniture, transportation, scientific instrument, personal basic commodity and clothing, toys and games, devices, tools and pieces of equipment or weapon where named above. An extensive analysis would consider all categories systematically. The author has some experience in cooperating with improvisation theatre actors, making them displaying creative transfers into strange situations, according to [19, 20], but this being another subject to be investigated. To put it briefly, personal basic commodity and clothing is the field that is further investigated here.

C number 4 refers to "conceive" a new application by interpreting a selected feature as a practical function or a practical contribution to an application. Like it or not, in a world where mobility counts, the next step is probably to send moods and feelings along with speech and pictures. Here, more is meant than simply sending new emoticons. The personalization goes way further when seeing the mobile moving even physically closer to the customer as with wearable mobiles that challenge textile and mobile industry alike. The mobile integrates into our personal outfit by making it more tactile at the sender's and receiver's side, e.g. simply by an arm sling or a vest. Such a tactile -sensitive mobile could send emotions by MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), resulting in a slight squeeze of the receiver's arm. Ridiculous or not, functional textiles being more and more a subject of research, one could easily think of additional communication functions.

"Chart" means, to highlight the attractiveness of such an unorthodox use for the customer and thus for the potentially developing company. The diversion attractiveness can exemplary be calculated by the following equation:

a = u + (u - s) (1)

with a = diversion attractiveness u = usefulness and s = satisfaction.

Within this equation, both usefulness as well as customer satisfaction are rated by numbers from 1 to 10. A high rating of usefulness refers to a highly considered contribution to a customer. Customer satisfaction can be highly rated, when alternative products are available and/or affordable. The result of the equation can never be less than zero and highlights a relative attractiveness of unorthodox use as it considers only the difference between usefulness and satisfaction.

Additionally, originality and practical orientation should be considered. At the moment, the main problem remains in the design of conductive fibres and fabrics, and in applying sensor properties to threads and textiles. Power generation, supply and signal processing in/with clothes is a vast but recognized field at the moment, having strong impact for communication industry.

The last step "choose", should give an answer of how much sense it makes for a mobile communication company to enter the textile industry and vice versa. Denying this question is not an option. When the new application, say a pressure sensitive arm sling, is selected, the company has to go into the subject more deeply, also by addressing questions like context awareness of such personalized wearable phones - or who wants to be remotely embraced in the middle of an inconvenient situation? Here, one can hope, that such systems remain to be switched off by the consumer.

Tracing unorthodox use of effervescent tablets

As another product example, take normal dental cleansing tablets for false teeth. Let us say, unorthodox use of the product at the customer's side is not familiar to the developing company. In this case, they should start to trace back such information or start with step 2 "concede" right away.

Seeing the product as a bundle of effects, one could collect such effects as frothing up, bubbling, decalcifying, sterilizing, enlarging volume, smelling, colouring liquids, and so on. Restrain from mentally connecting these effects to the intended functions they have in the original application!

Making use of such effects in other fields, "co-opt", one could think of applying the effects to furniture, transportation, scientific instrument, personal basic commodity and clothing, toys and games, devices, tools and pieces of equipment, weapon, to name the categories above. Using the effect of decalcification and sterilizing, and try to apply it to other fields, e.g. science, medical or household equipment.

By the "conceive"-step, the question should be addressed if this product could be adapted to the problem of hardening and blockage of human arteries (probably this is not new a knowledge, but serves here for demonstration purposes). The same question can be asked when transferring the product effects to normal household problems, where lime scale in bathrooms or dirt in drinking-bottles is a commonly known problem and addressed by many household articles.

"Chart" then means facing such satisfaction by alternative products with the estimated usefulness. The above equation (1) can be helpful here. Say, the satisfaction with such alternative household products against lime scale is very low due to high price and/or interference with health requirements. Then, the term in brackets could therefore reach a high score, and adding to the estimated high usefulness of such a product, the diversion attractiveness sums up to a high score.

List such scores to all possible product application ideas and "choose" the most appropriate one to then develop a new product concept based on a context variation.

6. Link to TRIZ

Having to describe all implications with TRIZ here, would burst this paper's size limitation. The author's opinions on TRIZ are to be found in [17, 21]. Here, only a meta-viewpoint is taken to TRIZ. As can be seen, elements from all four TRIZ columns are to be found in the 6C-approach:

Apart from the contradiction logic addressed in chapter 4.1, where the consumer is depicted as often finding himself in contradictory situations and/or having to fulfil contradictory tasks, there is the systematic approach to be seen, highlighting functions of products to support the idea of ideality: more useful functions of a product contribute to a higher ideality. A step by step procedure underlines the systematic approach.

As to the knowledge-based column that TRIZ tools are grouped along [5, 21], the main focus is laid on functions and effects, e.g. physical, chemical, thermo-mechanical or geometrical. The user of the method should be led to new

paths, also outside his original expertise and is therefore requested to restrain from structuring product purposes to special given fields or branches like mechanics, electronics, communication, chemistry or alike.

The analogy-based thinking then is requested by the application of effects and functions to new, but analogue application fields. This resembles the original benchmarking idea, where knowledge from analogue problem solutions is transferred to other fields. The conflict and contradiction thinking is also reflected, as by the customer, who often unconsciously has contradictory tasks to fulfil.

Last, the visionary aspect that refers to what becomes of former inventions and products. Transformations into new application fields reveal new ways of evolution, altered to a disruptive way of thinking here.

In further elaborations of the 6C-method, special occupational groups shall deliver examples that are leading away from the household remedy character of some of the given examples to those more suitable for industry. Therefore, more investigation concentrates on such "extreme" users, as to be found in special industry branches.

7. Summary

The innovation process ends with the creation of items customers want to achieve. It begins with tracing and identifying new situations in which they will have to solve problems. With unorthodox use being underestimated if not neglected so far, developing companies are provided with a new TRIZ-like tool to imagine customer-desired product outcomes instead of customer-input-driven problem solutions to formerly expressed needs. The 6C-method traces unorthodox use and leads to new, often wild ideas for product innovation, breaking with original purposes assigned to a product and revealing new purposes based on functions and effects. The method is roughly demonstrated with the examples of cellular phones and dental cleansing tablets.


The author extends her sincere thanks to Dr. C. Petersen, who, by her unorthodox initiative, contributed to finding an appropriate English term for the German word "Zweckentfremdung".


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