4.5.4 An example of Attribute Listing

Lets look at a practical example of how attribute listing can be used.

Attribute Listing can be enhanced by starting with a specific question in mind.1

Try using the Journalistic Six: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

 

The following questions might also be useful when applied to a situation or problem:

Adapt? Modify? Replace with? Magnify/Maximise? Rearrange? Reverse? Combine? Minimise/Remove? Add/subtract something? Change Colour? Vary Materials Reorganize Parts? Change Shape? Adapt Style

Robert Harris in his article "Creative Thinking Techniques"2 gave the following example of how attribute listing can be used to solve a problem.

For example, let's say you work for a ball bearing manufacturer and you discover that a flaw in one of the machines has caused the production of 800 million slightly out-of-round ball bearings. You could ask, "What can I do with 800 million slightly out-of-round ball bearings?" and, of course, a few things come to mind, like sling shot ammo and kid's marbles. But you could also break the ball bearings down into attributes, such as roundish, heavy, metal, smooth, shiny, hard, and magnetisable. Then you could ask, "What can I do with 800 million heavy things?" or "What can I do with 800 million shiny things?

You can focus on each identified attribute and ask questions about it, like this:

What can heavy things be used for? Paperweights, ship ballast, podium anchors, tree stands, scale weights, and so on.

What can be done with metal things?Conduct electricity, magnetize them, melt them, and make tools with them.

Attribute Listing can also be used in business situations such as marketing and Product Positioning. The position of a product in the market may be based on the following factors:

  • Product Features - organically grown vegetables
  • Product Benefits - particular car model has additional space in back which can be changed to hold additional seats or extra storage space and is ideal for families
  • Associating the product with a use or application - "the honeymoon destination"
  • User Categories - association of the product with a user or class or user - mobile phones for the young executive
  • With respect to competition - compatible with "X" product

However, the position of a product may need to change or adjusted for a variety of reasons i.e. new competition, new technology, new customer preference etc. Attribute Listing could in this situation be used to find a new or adjust the existing position of a product in the market.

 

Could the market position of your product or service be changed? Why not try Attribute Listing to look at new and creative ways to market your product or service? 


1 Robert Harris in his article on „Creative thinking techniques“ and Tony Proctor in his book  "Creative Problem Solving for Managers!" both look at how asking questions can enhance this creative technique
2 www.virtualsalt.com/crebook2.htm