Subtraction: An unlikely thinking tool to help you generate creative inventions ideas

Need some help in finding your own new inventions ideas? You are not alone.

The largest most successful companies in the world hire innovation consultants to teach them how to come up with creative new inventions and ideas for products.

Here is a glimpse into one thinking tool that will help you come up with your own new products ideas and inventions.

When less is more

When we think of new innovative products, or brainstorm inventions ideas, we tend to automatically think of adding a feature or two to an existing product.

Why? That’s the easiest way. We look at what’s there and add a new function, another capability. The core concept of the product remains unchanged.

What if instead of adding you try to subtract?

The subtraction thinking tool, part of a method called S.I.T, instructs you to take a product, remove one of its essential components and then find the benefits of the subtracted version.

Let’s look at the following step by step example, to find out how you too can use the subtraction thinking tool to come up with your own new inventions ideas:

Step #1: Choose a product

Choose a product that serves a function you understand well, or is in a niche you know quite a bit about.

This could be a microwave if you cook often with it or a bike if you use one and know which essential components are parts of it. It could be something more specific to a niche you are interested in, or just any ordinary product.

The idea is to find something you can easily brainstorm with and think creatively about.

Step #2: Make a list of your product's components

What is your chosen product made of? You don't need to identify the materials, but rather understand the components.

If you chose a bike your essential list will include wheels, frame, handle bars, pedals, brakes, seat and so forth.

Go over your list and make sure you are not missing any obvious or unnoticed piece of the puzzle.

Step #3: Apply the subtraction thinking tool

This is the essence of the process. Remove one of the components from your list (the one you just created in step three).

One at a time, brainstorm an hypothetical product that is your initial product without one of his components.

In our example: a bike without pedals, a bike without a handle bar, a bike without wheels and so forth.

Step #4: Find the benefits

Look at each of the subtracted versions (your new list of hypothetical products, the one you came up with in the previous step), and try to list each new product's potential benefits. What could the subtracted versions of your products be used for?

Give this process some time and put some brain power into it. Force yourself to come up with a use or a list of benefits for each of your subtracted versions.

Step #5: Identify potential new products 
Are these inventions ideas feasible?

Let’s take our bike example.

A bike without wheels sounds like a pretty crappy product. The whole point of using a bicycle is to move and get from one place to another, right?

But if you had to find the benefits, what could they be? Why would anyone want to paddle in place?

Do you see where this is going to? Your new invention idea is a stationary bike or the exercise bike. Heard of these?

Bikes minus wheels equals new product
 new invention ideas:  exercise bikes

In our example a stationary bike is a great invention idea. It's used for exercise and is easy to manufacture and sell.

However, you might come up with some new products or inventions ideas that are not that great. They might have their benefits, but no audience that would like to buy them.

Always ask yourself: is my product visible? would someone pay to enjoy those benefits?

To further illustrate how the concept of subtraction as a thinking tool, can help you come up with new inventions ideas, here are some great inventions, that are actually subtracted versions of familiar well known products. 

inventions ideas: Baby chair Original product: Chair
Removed: Legs
New product: Baby chair
inventions ideas: Umbrella hat Original product: Umbrella
Removed: handle and shaft
New product: umbrella hat for golfing, fishing or smoking in the rain
inventions ideas: instant soup mix Original product: Soup
Removed: liquid
New product: Instant soup mix

Learn how to use another thinking tool to find ideas for new inventions. 

Return from a thinking tool for inventions Ideas to new invention ideas 

Return from a thinking tool for inventions Ideas to Inventions

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