The Multiplication tool is one of the five powerful thinking tools taught to me by the folks at Systematic Inventive Thinking. I like this tool because it is simple and yields great results. Even children can learn it.
Multiplication works by taking a component of the product, service, strategy, etc, and then making one or several copies of it. But the copy must be changed in some way from the original component. The original component is still intact, unchanged. Now using Function Follows Form, we work backwards to take this hypothetical solution and find a problem that it solves.
One of our blog readers, Jim Doherty of the Grabbit Tool Company, agreed to let me use their main product, the EZ Grabbit Tarp Holder, for this month's LAB. I bought a set at Ace Hardware last night, and used the Multiplication tool just now to create some new product ideas. Here is a demonstration of the EZ Grabbit:
Make a copy or several copies of each component, one at a time, and change something about it. What would be the benefit or potential use of the product with this new, changed component? Here are some ideas:
Two sleeves, but the second sleeve is attached, back-to-back, to the original sleeve. This would allow a second tarp to be attached to another one (with its own dogbone). There could be three or perhaps even four sleeves, arranged in quadrant style (with the openings facing out), so multiple tarps could be attached. The copied sleeve could be longer than the original, allowing different tarp configurations.
Multiple dogbones, but each is optimized for different types of material (tarp, plastic, terry cloth, cotton, denim, etc) to prevent damage, improve grip, etc.
Multiple chords, each coming out of the same dogbone with its own hole, to allow different attachment points.
Two grips, the second one attaches to the first one to allow it to be hung from a hook.
Two locking mechanisms, the second one used to attach to the fabric temporarily so it does not get lost or slide around during placement.
Once we have raw ideas like these, it's a good idea to get early customer feedback and perhaps build some working prototypes to let customers envision using the new product. The ideas above are incremental innovations to the product's original category, so it can be valuable to get customer feedback about potential uses of the new embodiments outside the category to find breakthrough ideas as well.