When to Combo

In the last post, we talked about how a creative idea can blossom from simple techniques. We discussed how a correlation between the complexity of a creative technique and the idea generated is non-existent. We used the example of Starbucks’ Frappuccino, which was the result of combining different ingredients to create a 500MM concoction that went on to revolutionize the coffee space forever.

Creative techniques are aplenty, and anyone can go in for a quick search on Google and find a long list of those techniques. However, these creative techniques aren’t plug-and-play. Simply picking up a technique from the inter webs and expecting a perfectly ripe idea to be calling back at you from the paper is a dream that will never formalize in real life (unless you’re darn lucky).

As such, it becomes immensely important to know when to use a creative technique, and when not to. This will better your odds at ending up with a potentially good idea, but doesn’t guarantee it. This got me thinking: when is it best to use the SCAMPER technique we discussed in the last post? More importantly, what is the optimal situation to use combinatory techniques to generate ideas. In order to answer this question, I went back to a product I’m currently developing – The Taobla.

For those of you that haven’t heard me talk about it before, The Taobla is a tray table with interchangeable trays that adapts to the way you chill. It is designed with multiple trays that fit snug onto the table top so that you can munch better while binge watching Netflix, double-screen multiple football games or work on your laptop while you slurp on some soup.

Granted, I did not deliberately pick up a combinatory technique in order to generate the idea for The Taobla, it perfectly fits the situation in which you would. You see, we always place our food on trays, and then place those trays on top of a table in order to munch in our living rooms while watching TV. However, the trays were never designed to maximize the functionality of this behavior. The tray you’re currently using might be slightly bigger than the surface of your side table. Tipping over the tray becomes much more likely. That is why I decided to prototype a table that comes with interchangeable trays specifically designed for it. I combined trays with the table itself.

It seems like the best time to try out combinatory idea-generating techniques is when you are working on solving a human-behavior that currently requires multiple independent products. For example, we always put on socks before we wear our shoes. As a result, multiple products have sprung up touting sock-looking shoes.

Nike Sock Shoe

When not to use combinatory techniques? This is a tough one, I must say. However, after continuously testing such techniques, I’ve noticed that the resulting ideas are almost never radical in their nature – which is perfectly fine. The goal of innovating is to solve a problem, not reverse-engineer a “disruptive” idea and try to find a problem for it.

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