By Richard Kaplan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Roni Horowitz very clearly points out benefits for using ASIT to devise ideas for new products in the November 2001 TRIZ-Journal. In this note I would like to show how the ASIT generalization and simplification of TRIZ results in a creativity approach to new products that is very similar to one that is about 50 years old (1).
In his classic work Applied Imagination (1), Alex Osborn suggests using the substitute, subtract, combine, add, adapt, magnify, minify, modify, multiply, put to another use, eliminate, reverse, rearrange, and reduce approaches [later put into the nice acronym, SCAMPER, by Eberle (2)] to devise ideas for new products.
Using ASIT terminology:
While ASIT has the simplification benefits cited by Horowitz, its focus on the existing product and “Closed World” solution as starting points can constrain thinking and thereby result in missing breakthrough possibilities.
Dr. Horowitz's response:
I would like to thank Mr. Richard Kaplan for providing me with the opportunity of answering some of the more common questions raised when ASIT is first introduced.
As I see it, there are two different issues here:
Since answering the second question may partly answer the first, I’ll begin with the latter.
ASIT's Closed World principle states that the new product should not include any types of objects that are not present in the original product's world (note that the product's world includes its immediate environment).
Indeed this looks like a very restricting requirement, so why impose it on the developer?
There are basically three types of explanations: empirical, cognitive and practical.
The empirical explanation
Examining hundreds of highly successful products revealed that, contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of them did not incorporate new types of objects.
Here is an example: A very successful new product on the market is toothpaste that includes vitamins. This is a typical closed-world product since vitamins are part of the immediate environment of the toothpaste (they are also consumed via the mouth).
The psychological explanation
People tend to unconsciously link improvement with addition and they are thus not open to highly original ideas that do not include addition.
The Closed World condition forces the developers to invest their intellectual efforts in areas they would otherwise neglect.
In this respect, the Closed World condition does not only restrict but also broadens the scope of the search.
The practical explanation
The ideas resulting from closed-world thinking are not only original but also simple, easy to implement, and can reach the market more quickly.
Mr. Kaplan talks about “breakthroughs” that ASIT users may miss. If, by “breakthroughs" he is referring to the invention of the television, CD ROM, or the microwave oven, he is right.
ASIT is of no help when it comes to these kinds of inventions. But is this what a shoe manufacturer is looking for when he wants to introduce interesting new designs to the market? I think not.
It is also obvious that the new technological devices mentioned above are a result of accumulative and gradual technological development and not as a result of a single breakthrough.
I hope this helps in clarifying the concept of the Closed World condition.
I would now like to refer to Kaplan's second question that deals with the similarity between SCAMPER and ASIT.
To simplify things, it would be fair to say that ASIT = SCAMPER + the Closed World condition.
Those who do not practice problem solving and new product development regularly may view the differences as nuances. But where thinking is concerned, nuances are important.
So here is a partial list of the differences between ASIT and SCAMPER:
ASIT- Unification / SCAMPER - Combine, put to another use
ASIT's Unification technique is more focused than SCAMPER's parallel technique. ASIT does not just say, “put to another use” but rather, “add to your product a functionality that already exists in the product’s immediate environment.”
Suppose that you are a broom manufacturer and that ASIT tells you to add to your broom the functionality of the dustpan. Again, some would view this as a nuance, but I see it as a big difference.
ASIT - Breaking Symmetry / SCAMPER - Substitute or modify
I cannot see the similarity here. ASIT does not allow substituting at all because of the Closed World principle. Also, “modify” is such a general notion, that I cannot see how it can help at all. Breaking Symmetry, on the other hand, is very clear: change a symmetrical part of your object into something asymmetrical.
To sum up:
Any thinking method restricts thinking. Even scamper. I could come up with a new method called SACYM (Suggest Anything that Comes to Your Mind) and claim that SCAMPER is too restricting.
The question is quantitative more than qualitative. I claim that ASIT is better than SCAMPER because it is more restricting and therefore much more helpful to the problem solver.