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Renewing by reconfiguration: how to apply systematic inventive thinking for your product

As we now have entered 2021, the biggest question for all startups is how the post-pandemic effects will become visible in their innovation (Tech Crunch). In 2020, we had already seen how innovators and small businesses were forced to a halt, while there was also a majority which took this as an opportunity to grow even further. However, innovation remains key to being a startup. The method of systematic inventive thinking could be useful when it comes to revamping your product. Here is how.

Finding your innovation sweet spot

Most people believe that doing sufficient customer research will unravel accurate insights about what your customers actually desire and need. However, it is proven that most of the time, customers are generally not aware enough to know about what their needs and wants are. They often lack the imagination to envision what they need from a particular product or service. We also see this when designers are encouraged to think outside of the box themselves: though they do have the imagination, this type of thinking often yields ideas which are too far out of the company’s brand image or capabilities. It, therefore, all comes down for a company to find its innovation sweet spot: the point where a new product still falls into the company’s positioning and capabilities, but is far from existing products to attract new interest. A method which could help finding this ‘spot’ is through systematic inventive thinking.

Applying the five templates of innovation 

Systematic inventive thinking is essentially more ‘inside the box thinking’: it is listing important elements of your product (physical and non-physical) and then applying the five templates of innovation, resulting in a new product. These five templates are:


  • Subtracting: removing elements which are not desirable or unnecessary for the product
  • Multiplication: multiplying a particular element of the product and then altering, for example, the function of the multiplied element, such as a double-sided razor blade (Gillette razors)
  • Division: separating parts of a product and possibly reconfiguring or repurposing these
  • Task unification: assigning a new task to an element of the product
  • Attribute dependency change: creating new associations (dependencies) between the product’s attributes and its environment, such as creating a limited edition for a particular holiday (Christmas)

To see matters from a different angle

The five templates of innovation are often used in combination with one another and can help predicting market demand. Systematic inventive thinking shows that sometimes you do not need to think of something entirely new when being innovative. Essentially, it is like when you play around with the same set of building blocks. As a startup, you don’t always need new things to innovate: sometimes, using what you already have and seeing it from a different perspective might be good enough to offer something refreshing to the table.

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