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SIT & Innovate

04 Apr 2018 by Steven Giannoulis

Needle and Button Separated by Complex Tangled Thread, Complexity Concept.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we innovate and how we help our clients do the same. In an industry where much of what we do has been commoditised, our most valuable skill is our ability to think creatively in helping our clients solve the problems that matter most to them. I’d heard of Strategic Inventive Thinking (SIT) but had never taken the time to really understand it. Thanks to a course on, now I’m a big fan.

SIT uses a number of tricks and techniques that require you to look ‘inside the box’ to unlock ‘outside the box’ thinking. It starts with the existing solution rather than the problem itself. (Now that’s innovative in its own right.) And it’s a technique many successful firms, like Apple and 3M,­­ have been using for ages.

"SIT uses a number of tricks and techniques that require you to look ‘inside the box’ to unlock ‘outside the box’ thinking."

For each existing solution to a particular problem, you identify its key components and attributes and then use the following techniques to think differently about them:

  1. Subtraction – What if we take away certain features and functions? Apparently, the idea for the iPad came by applying this technique to the laptop.
  2. Task unification – What if we associated relationships in different ways. Rather than having its own cooling motor, what if your fridge was kept cool by your home’s air conditioning system? No motor and suddenly the fridge has more capacity for food, is cheaper and quicker to manufacture. And you have more possibilities for shape and size!
  3. Multiplication – What if there were more that one of these components? What if your laptop had more than one screen? What if your phone had a screen on the front and the back?
  4. Division – What if rather than having one big feature we have lots of small ones? The development of the dish draw dishwasher is a good example of this thinking.
  5. Attribute dependency – Rethinking what a thing is designed to do. What if it did something else instead? What if your light-bulb also heated your room for example? The best example is the mobile phone. Someone said what if it wasn’t just for calls but a mini-computer, a camera, a dictaphone, a mini-TV, an audio device, a games console, etc. And now it is.


Once you’ve generated lots of ideas using these techniques, they are evaluated against both customer needs and the feasibility to produce.

The two things that I like most about the SIT approach are:

(1) It’s driven by customer-led design thinking – it’s not about brainstorming wild ideas but really thinking about the customer experience and how to better meet their underlying needs and wants; and

(2) it targets ‘fixedness’ thinking which stops innovation. Fixedness is the pre-set ideas we have that things need to be in a certain place, look or work in a certain way or work in tandem with something else. Change your mind-set on these and you open your mind to a whole lot of possibilities.

Innovation leads to new, useful and surprising outcomes that allow our customers, and their customers, to better have their needs met. I’m a firm believer that innovation comes from within – changing your perspective – and that’s why Strategic Inventive Thinking really appeals. The next step is for us to give SIT a go. What if…..?

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