Defy the Voice of the Customer, the traditional cornerstone of Marketing and Innovation, and consider the power of the Voice of the Product instead.

In Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) we turn traditional customer-centric thinking upside down and we focus on the existing product. We center our thinking around the existing situation and systematically manipulate it to generate new ideas. Only after we have found an idea, we look for potential customer demand. With a possible solution in hand, we research patterns of customer behavior, tension points or unmet needs. We start with a solution and then identify the problem.

When we talk about the existing situation, we not only consider products, but also services, processes and business models. For simplicity sake, we will use the term “product” in our examples.

The existing situation is considered in its immediate environment, the imaginary box, or, as the founders of the method call it, the Closed World. A product only becomes meaningful and adds value in the context in which it is used. To illustrate this, imagine a simple product: a screwdriver. In the immediate environment of the screwdriver we could find a picture frame that needs hanging, a wall, screws, a toolbox with other tools, and a person. This is what we consider the Closed World of the screwdriver. We will talk more about this in upcoming posts, but the basic concept will suffice for now.

The pattern that we will discuss today is called Task Unification. In this approach, an existing resource of a product gets an additional task that was previously carried out by something else. Let’s have a look at a few examples.


Have you ever noticed how much waste is left behind in the park after a picnic? This makes parks look unattractive, it can cause health issues and it is a general concern for park management. CleanPicnic has created a picnic blanket that people can pick up for free at the entrance of the park. It not only serves as a nice picnic blanket, but it is designed in such a way that it can also be used as a waste bag to collect all waste after the picnic. The picnic blanket has been given the additional task of collecting waste.


Another great example of Task Unification is the Defender 24/7. This is a new personal protection system that not only takes down the attacker with pepper spray, but also photographs the attacker and alerts the authorities at the same time. If you look at the Closed World of the can of pepper spray you will see that the separate actions of taking a picture of the perpetrator and alerting the police, have now been integrated and are activated at the same time, with a single push of a button.



It’s a common mistake to confuse the pattern of Task Unification with task aggregation. Let us illustrate this with an example. In a Swiss army knife, a lot of tools have been aggregated, but no tools in the pocket knife have been given a new task. The screwdriver is still just the screwdriver. This is unlike the picnic blanket which now not only has the task to serve as a surface for food and drink, but has been assigned the additional task of collecting waste.

Task Unification is the second SIT technique we discuss in this series. We already talked about Subtraction and our next articles will cover the Attribute Dependency, Multiplication and Division patterns. Stay tuned!

FlyWheel Business is expert on Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). Interested to learn more? Ask us your question or contact us for SIT workshops near you.


© Ernst-Jan van Batenburg, FlyWheel Business

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