29 3 / 2013

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Many important product inventions have been derived from market-based information using a variety of marketing research methods. However, the value of these methods in offering a rich and exhaustive set of tools for ideation has been criticized. We note that many wants lie beneath the surface and that current product users are not able to express wants and needs for non-existent products. Referring to the common method of asking buyers to describe problems with current products, they note that big leaps to new product ideas might not be uncovered when respondents describe problems in terms of current products. One possible outcome of excessive reliance on market-based information is the disproportionate effort that currently is devoted to “me-too” products, namely, products that mainly involve product line extensions, improvement of current products, and cost reduction. In contrast, product-based information has been shown to be effective in various other decision-making contexts. It is our contention that such information will be similarly effective in the context of ideation. An approach for analyzing the dynamics of evolution of technological innovations was developed. We examined it for suitability in the context of product evolution. We conducted a backward analysis of problem-solution relationships and succeeded in identifying approximately 200 common phenomenological patterns, which he termed “standards.”

Although our approach was aimed at inventive problem solving of technology systems rather than inventing new products, it is conceptually consistent with our flash template approach, in the sense that it focuses on internal operations. Here, only those operations that are relevant to the context of products are examined and adapted. We obtained the initial identification of flash templates in our study by mapping structural changes in the soap category. A preliminary condition for inferring flash templates is knowledge of the chronological development of products. We used existing data on the evolution of soap-related products in describing the original product in each stage, as well as the transition to the new product in the following stage.’ We classified the commonalties identified in the transition between products in relation to typology and considered candidate product flash templates. In these mapping studies, five major flash templates were revealed. In the following section, we formulate the flash template taxonomy. We provide several basic definitions required for the development of the flash template taxonomy subsequently. The characteristics of a product can be divided into components (objects such as the legs or seat of a chair) and attributes (variables of the product, such as the color or height). At the stage of flash template construction, we consider only attributes that consist of factual information. Abstractions and inferences are considered only at a subsequent stage. In addition, we make a distinction between internal attributes and components, which are under the manufacturer’s control, and external attributes and components, which are not controllable by the manufacturer but present in the neighboring environment of the product in its common usage. Thus, the legs and seat of a chair are internal components, whereas color and height are internal attributes. Floor and table are external components, and the height and weight of the person sitting on the chair are external attributes.