The Autodesk Innovation Genome is the process we use at Autodesk for innovation. You can learn more about it.
One of the parts of the process is a structured brainstorming exercise where you take an innovation target (a problem you wish to solve), and consider seven questions about possible solutions for that target.
- What could we look at in a new way?
- What could we use in a new way, or for the first time?
- What could we move, changing its position in space or time?
- What could we interconnect, for the first time or in a new way?
- What could we alter, in terms of design and performance?
- What can we make that is truly new?
- What can we imagine that would create a great experience for someone?
I thought It's Alive in the Lab readers would like to see an example. Though we have used the process at Autodesk and in partnership with dozens of companies, the innovation targets have all been company confidential. Bill O'Connor, the founder of the Autodesk Innovation Genome, suggested this:
- How could have the Americans shortened the war with England to gain their independence sooner?
As a refresher, here is a synopsis of the war.[source: Wikipedia]
- Starting in 1765, members of American colonial society rejected the authority of the British Parliament to tax them and resisted renewed British attempts to collect duties on goods such as sugar and molasses that for many years had gone uncollected through widespread smuggling by colonists.
- During the following decade, protests by rebellious colonists — known as patriots — continued to escalate, as in the Boston Tea Party in 1773 during which patriots destroyed a consignment of taxed English tea whose price had been reduced to combat smuggling.
- The British responded by imposing punitive laws — the Coercive Acts — on Massachusetts in 1774 until the tea had been paid for, following which Patriots in the other colonies rallied behind Massachusetts.
- Tensions escalated to the outbreak of fighting between Patriot militia and British regulars at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, after which the Patriot Suffolk Resolves effectively replaced the Royal government of Massachusetts and confined the British to control of the city of Boston.
- The conflict then evolved into a civil war, during which the Patriots fought the British and Loyalists in what became known as the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).
- Patriots in each of the thirteen colonies formed a Provincial Congress that usurped power from the old colonial governments and suppressed Loyalism. Claiming King George III's rule to be tyrannical and infringing the colonists' "rights as Englishmen," the Continental Congress declared the colonies free and independent states in July 1776.
- The British were forced out of Boston in 1776, but then captured and held New York City for the duration of the war, nearly capturing General Washington and his army. The British blockaded the ports and captured other cities for brief periods, but failed to defeat Washington's forces.
- In early 1778, following a failed patriot invasion of Canada, a British army was captured by a patriot army at the Battle of Saratoga, following which the French entered the war as allies of the United States. The war later turned to the American South, where the British captured an army at South Carolina but failed to enlist enough volunteers from Loyalist civilians to take effective control. A combined American–French force captured a second British army at Yorktown in 1781, effectively ending the war in the United States.
- A peace treaty in 1783 confirmed the new nation's complete separation from the British Empire.
- The United States took possession of nearly all the territory east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes, with the British retaining control of Canada and Spain taking Florida.
So given this situation, what innovative ideas could the founding fathers have come up with to shorten the war for independence.
What could we look at in a new way?
- Look at taxes as a resource and work with the British to raise more taxes in exchange for Parliamentary representation and better government services.
- Look at the presence of loyalists as an opportunity by calling a gathering of all loyalists and supporting British troops to the town square in what turns out to be an ambush.
What could we use in a new way, or for the first time?
- Use British governance of India against them, by sending agitators there to start an uprising that the British would also have to deal with while battling with the colonies.
- Use the Native American's fighting prowess and familiarity with the territory by reaching a ship-building agreement (they only had canoes) in exchange for their help in fighting the British.
- Use the queen as a hostage by disguising a few colonists as chimney sweeps, kidnapping her, and demanding colonial freedom as her ransom.
What could we move, changing its position in space or time?
- Move the fighting out of America by sending a militia to attack high-value targets in England.
- Move the fighting to Europe by enlisting France and Spain to attack England in 1765 (or at least blockade England).
What could we interconnect, for the first time or in a new way?
- Connect the territory that colonies occupied then to future territory they would obtain by forming alliances with France and Spain in exchange for rights to those future territories.
What could we alter, in terms of design and performance?
- Instead of tossing the tea in the water, alter it with poison and serve it to the Loyalists as a fake act of contrition.
What can we make that is truly new?
- Reassign Benjamin Franklin from constitutional-related duties and leverage his invention-making prowess to allow him to develop weaponry superior to that of the British. For example, have patriots fire at the British soldiers from hot air balloons.
What can we imagine that would create a great experience for someone?
- In exchange for no taxation, offer to build the London Bridge in New York rather than London to avoid the need to ship it overseas in 1968.
- Imagine a crystal ball that would show the 1776 British the America of 2015, so they would just say "Well forget about it." and go back home.
Yes, this is a fictitious example; however, the process works. If you've got an innovation target or problem to solve, these seven questions can help generate ideas. Consider what you can look at, use, move, interconnect, alter, make, or imagine. The results are real.
Brainstorming is alive in the lab.