Good Concept Generation
Leaves the team with confidence that the FULL space of alternatives has been explored
Reduces the likelihood that the team will stumble upon a superior concept late in the development process
Reduces the likelihood that a competitor will introduce a product with dramatically better performance than the product under development
Common Dysfunctions (during concept generation)
Consideration of only one or two alternatives, often proposed by the most assertive members of the team
Failure to consider carefully the usefulness of concepts employed by other firms in related and unrelated products
Involvement of only one ore two people in the process, resulting in lack of confidence and commitment by the rest of the team
Ineffective integration of promising partial solutions
Failure to consider entire categories of solutions
Clarify the Problem
Clarifying the problem consists of developing a general understanding and then breaking the problem down into subproblems if necessary.
Example: Design a better hand held nailer
The nailer will use nails
The nailer will be compatible with nail magazines on existing tools
The nailer will nail into wood
The nailer will be hand-held
The nailer inserts nails in rapid succession
The nailer fits into tight spaces
The nailer is lightweight
The nailer has not noticeable nailing delay after tripping the tool
Nail lengths from 50 mm to 75 mm
Maximum nailing energy of 80 joules per nail
Nailing forces up to 2,000 Newton
Peak nailing rate 1 nail per second
Average nailing reate of 4 nails per second
Ability to insert nails between standard stud/joists (368 mm opening)
Total mass less than 4 kilograms
Maximum trigger delay of 0.25 seconds
Sources for Concept Ideas
Reference books and trade journals
Experts to help generate concepts (such as your sponsors)
Brainstorming with team members
Using the 6-3-5 (brainwriting) Method: A drawback to brainstroming is that it can be dominated by one or a few team members. This 6-3-5 method forces equal participation by all.
All the team members should sit around a table. The optimal number of participants is the "6" as the method's name. In practice, there can be as few as 3 or as many as 8. Each takes a clean sheet of paper and divides it into three columns by drawing lines down its length. Next, each team member write 3 ideas for how to fulfill a specific agreed-upon function, one at the top of each column. The number of idea is the "3" in the method. These ideas can be sketched or written as text. They must be clear enough that others can understand the important aspects of the concept.
After 5 minutes of work on the concepts, the sheets of paper are passed to the right. The time is the "5" in the method's name. The team members now have 5 minutes to add 3 more ideas to the sheet. This should only be done after studying the previous ideas. They can be built on or ignored as seen fit. As the papers are passed in 5-minute intervals, each team member gets to see the input of each of the other members, and the ideas that develop are some amalgam of the best. After the papers have circulated to all the participants, the team can discuss the results to find the best possibilities.
There should be no verbal communication in this technique until the end. This rule forces interpretation of the previous ideas only from what is on the paper, possibly leading to new insight and also eliminating evaluation.
Using existing products and concepts as idea sources