Using ASIT to develop new products
Editor | On 30, Nov 2001
(The third in a series of three articles describing ASIT and its uses)
1. Form before function
The two previous articles in this ASIT series focused on problem solving. This article shows how ASIT can be used to develop new products.
Unlike conventional methods for new product development that begin the development process with the customer and his or her needs, ASIT begins with the existing product.
According to ASIT the product is first (conceptually) modified along the lines of one of ASIT’s five thinking tools, without any specific goal in mind. In the second stage the new (virtual) product is matched with a possible market. The market is identified (or invented) by answering the question, “Who may benefit from our modified product and under what circumstances? The market is invented instead of the product.
The advantage of this approach over the conventional approach is that we can get ahead of our competition and come up with exciting new products which satisfy needs that may have been overlooked because our customer could not communicate these needs.
Developing ideas by creating a form before determining its function is described by Finke  as ‘function follows form’ thinking. In a series of brilliant experiments Finke showed that individuals become more creative when they are constrained to determine the form before its function.
Using ASIT, the developer of new products is constrained not only to ‘function follows form’ thinking, but also to Closed World thinking.
A Closed World is defined as the collection of the types of objects from which the product is made and the types of objects that reside in its immediate environment. ASIT’s Closed World principle constrains the developer to develop new products that share the same ‘world’ with the original product.
The Closed World condition restricts the developer to come up with variations on existing products rather than replacing them or adding new formerly non-existent elements. This way, the new ideas generated by ASIT do not require any R&D effort.
2. The ASIT process for New Product Development (NPD)
ASIT suggests the following process:
1. Determine the ‘world’ in which the product is situated.
2. Determine the new form: select an ASIT tool and apply it to modify the product.
3. Determine the new function: try to conceive new functions, new values or new benefits for the modified product.
ASIT is a world–form–function thinking.
Here is a short description of the five ASIT tools as they apply to new product development:
Scan the product’s world to find other products whose functioning can be fully or partially integrated into the existing product.
Multiply a component of the product.
Divide the products into its basic parts then reorganize the parts in space or time.
Turn a symmetrical part of the product into something asymmetrical.
Remove a component from the product.
3. Application case studies
Note: Some of the case studies describe real commercial products, and some of them were invented for the sake of presentation. The case studies are categorized according to the ASIT tool involved.
Example 1: New idea for candles
Product – candle; world – birthday cake; Unification.
The candle will be integrated into the birthday cake.
New function or value: the candle will be edible, there will be no need to remove it from the cake, and eating the candles will be a lot of fun for the kids.
Example 2: New idea for cellular phones
Product – cellular phone; world – home; Unification.
The cellular phone will be unified with a regular wireless home phone.
New function or value: no need for two different products (or alternatively, an additional wireless phone at home for free).
Example 4: New idea for a pickle container
Product – pickle container; world – refrigerator; Multiplication.
There will be two containers.
New function or value: the two containers will be connected to each other one on top of the other with a filter in between. In the refrigerator, the pickles will be in the bottom container inside the salt water. When served, the container is turned upside down. The salt water flows through the filter to the container that is now at the bottom, and the pickles are served without the water.
Example 5: New idea for a wall clock
Product – wall clock; world-home; Division.
The numbers will be separated from the clock.
New function or value: it will be possible to attach the numbers directly to the wall and create a giant clock.
Example 6: New idea for a car
Product – car; world – regular use on the road; Breaking Symmetry.
The volume of the engine will vary as a function of the required power (this is breaking symmetry in time).
New function or value: a more economical system. Technically varying the volume can be achieved by varying the number of active cylinders.
Example 7: New idea for jigsaw puzzles
Product – jigsaw puzzles; world – normal use at home; Breaking Symmetry.
The size of the pieces will vary from one side of the puzzle to the other.
New function or value: two kids of different ages can build the same puzzle together – the younger kid starts with the big pieces and the older one starts with the small pieces. They meet somewhere at the middle.
Example 9: New idea for televisions
Product- television; world – normal use at home; Object Removal.
The TV screen will be removed from the system.
New function or value: a cheap television set for the blind. If other worlds are now considered, the idea of a TV without a screen can also be used in cars. The driver cannot watch the screen, but may be interested in listening to the news or to a favorite talk show.
This paper has presented the ASIT process for the development of new products.
The ASIT process consists of three steps: determining the world, the form, and the function, value or benefit.
ASIT generates highly original ideas and products that are relatively easy to manufacture. Also, time to market is short. A disadvantage may be that only those needs that reside within the range of existing products can be discovered.
In some cases the outcome of the ASIT process is not limited to a new product. A whole new concept can emerge. Consider again the Breaking Symmetry idea for the jigsaw puzzle. The concept of “one game for two kids of different ages” emerged. It is now possible to use this concept as a template to create many new interesting ideas. For example, to create a seesaw in the park where the distance between the seats to the center is different on each side (thus creating a change in the balance). Kids of different ages (and therefore weights) can play together.
- A. Fink, T. B. Ward, S. M. Smith (eds.), “Creative Cognition Approach”, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1995.
- Horowitz R., Maimon O., “Creative Design Methodology and the Sit Method”, Proceedings of DETC ’97: 1997 ASME Design Engineering Technical Conference, Sacramento, 1997.
- S. Altshuller, “Creativity as an Exact Science”, New York, Gordon and Breach, 1985.
About the Author:
Dr. Roni Horowitz has been working on ASIT development in the past 12 years. Roni got his Ph.D. form the Engineering Faculty of Tel Aviv University in the field of creative problem solving and design; B.Sc. in Aeronautical Engineering (the Technion, Haifa), and M.Sc. in Industrial Engineering (Tel-Aviv University). Roni has extensive experience in conducting inventive thinking workshops and full credited academic courses in Israel and worldwide.