Attribute Listing — Creativity Technique — An Example

Attribute Listing is a creative technique which involves breaking the problem into smaller and smaller parts and looking at alternative solutions to these parts.

Attribute Listing is a good tool for Incremental Innovations in a product/service. This tool is generally combined with other creativity tools like Reversal Technique, Analogical Reasoning, SCAMPER, Word PO etc…

A customer’s Value Proposition is Greatly improved by the addition of many minor innovations, yielding a massive competitive advantage.

Imagine designing a pen. The pen has following parts such as Nib, Cap, Tip, Barrel, Refill, Grip, Dip. Other than these part attributes, we can consider other attributes like shape, length, colour, printing, and used for writing. Focus on one attribute at a time and look for alternatives. Example- Shape, Can we change the circular shape to triangular?

When you subdivide the challenge/problem into many separate parts, the challenge does not change, but your perception of it does and leads to new ideas — Michael Michalko

Attributes can be classified into subcategories like

  • Physical attributes: shape, form, colour, texture, structure, sound, taste, door, space, density, location
  • Social attributes: responsibilities, taboos, power, ecological
  • Process attributes: selling, marketing, production, manufacturing, designing
  • Psychological attributes: needs, motivation, positive and negative emotions
  • Price attributes: production cost, consumer price, Consumer acquisition cost, manufacturing cost, sunk cost

Let’s look at an example that you want to start a Restaurant and need to come out with few ideas. Bear in mind that this is an exercise to show how to use this creativity tool, so it will not have deeper analysis or Judging Criteria for selection of ideas. Some of the ideas shown below may not be practical/relevant due to my limited knowledge on Food Varieties, Nutritional Values, Taste sensations, Restaurant limitations etc… Professional knowledge would lend a hand to come out with better ideas. Knowledge is the foundation of creativity.

Being a designer, we are biased towards real users. Therefore, I’m listing down attributes which a User feels important. As a user, I may not be interested in attributes like investment requirements, problems with hiring manpower(Though they are major factors from an investor’s perspective).

Please note that some of the attributes are interlinked. When we generate ideas for a Theme attribute, it would cover attributes like Lighting, Sound, Touch, and Furniture.

Let’s take some FOUR attributes and look for alternative ideas

ATTRIBUTE 01 — FOOD QUALITY

Food Quality — External and Internal Characteristics that are acceptable to Consumers. Taste is one of the main internal factors, which should be different, and difficult to be replicated in the home. We have kept this as a separate attribute. Then, Can we look at external characteristics(Appearance — Shape, Form, Size etc…) of Food Quality?

How to visually Communicate Quality of Food?

Handcrafted, Workmanship

How about a Transparent and Fine Detailed plate of an Organic shape

How about Edible Diamonds in the food

How about serving in Delicate, Fragile Utensils

ATTRIBUTE 02 — INNOVATION in FOOD

SCAMPER is a relevant Creativity Technique to help in generating Ideas for Food Innovation.

S-Substitute, C-Combine, A-Adapt, M-Modify/Magnify, P-Put to a different use, E-Eliminate, R-Rearrange.

Assume, we are looking for Innovations in South Indian Food, IDLY. Let’s use C-Combine word for generating ideas.

IDLI like a bar chocolate with Nuts and Seeds? Stuffed IDLI? IDLI Burger? IDLY+YOGURT+HONEY+Food on the GO? Half-Colored/Half different textured IDLY? Doughnut IDLY? IDLY Sandwich? IDLY+YOGURT+HONEY+Food on the GO?

ATTRIBUTE 03 — THEME for RESTAURANT

Imagine we have chosen a theme of “Excitement”. Let’s generate ideas for the same.

Exciting — Hot Experience — Hot — Fiery — How about objects are on fire inside the restaurant? All food served hotter. The environment is also very hot due to raging fire.

How about a Desert Theme with sand dunes

Exciting — How about a hanging bridge between two walls and dine in the swaying bridge

Exciting — Delicate -Softness — Can we sit among cushions of flowers and Dine?

Exciting — Adventure — Wall Climbing — Can we ask consumers climb the wall to reach dining place? — A Healthy Option

Exciting — Thrill — Can the floor be of sharp rocks — People have to jump and walk, extremely cautious? Sit on rocks and Dine?

Exciting — Travel — Chilly — How about a Restaurant full of artificial snow?

ATTRIBUTE 04 — MENU

Let’s assume that we have chosen Rocky Terrain as our Theme. How can the menu be?

Rocks — Hammer to Break — Booklet in the shape of Hammer

Quartz Crystals — Bunch of Crystals — Each Crystal is printed with a food name?

Menu printed on a wooden log?

Menu inscribed on a stone?

The more we divide the challenge, the more attributes we can improve. By separating one attribute, we are able to improve focus, think flexibly and discover alternative ideas. Sometimes, Grouping of related attributes may inspire ideas.