Posts Tagged ‘Alternatives’

18. Example: Bicycle

18.Example: Bicycle

Bicycle is a type of transportation. The basic Outcomes for all forms of transportation are the same. There are only two Outcomes, an item is at one location then is at a different location.

Transportation Outcomes

Drawing 3: High-level Outcomes for Transportation

Even though the most basic Outcome diagram has only two Outcomes there are many other performance Outcomes to achieve the ideal for transportation.

Transport what you want,
when you want, where you want,
the way you want,
with what and whom you want,
for the price you want with no hassle.
  • Where the item is being moved to and from?
  • When you start to transport the item? Start time.
  • When the item arrives?
  • Cost: Length of time needed to transport the item is a cost.
  • Cost: Damage from a lack of safety is a cost.
  • Hassle: Lack of safety also causes hassle.
  • Cost: Energy needed to move the item is a cost.
  • Cost: Pollution from transportation is a cost.
  • Hassle: Anything that reduces comfort is a hassle.
  • What item is being transported?
  • Who wants the item transported?
  • With: Combinations of items being transported.

The chunked down or zoomed in Outcome diagram looks like this:

 Chunked Down Transportation Outcomes

Drawing 4: Chunked down Outcomes for Transportation

Notice that the first 4 Outcomes are a more detailed description of “Item is at a location” and the second 4 Outcomes are a more detailed description of “Item is at a different location”.

I've left out of the diagram the cost of pollution and energy because it's not part of the required Outcomes to achieve the goal of transportation. Those extra Outcomes are important fertile areas of innovation.

Another very important point to consider is the purpose of transportation. The basic Outcome of transportation is to move an item from one location to a different location. Often people will perform a task because it satisfies another desire. Many people ride bicycles for exercise or entertainment. Optimizing the different Outcomes for exercise or entertainment is very different from riding a bicycle purely for transportation.

A perfect example of the Outcomes being different based on the purpose is a stationary exercise bicycle. A stationary bicycle is useless for transportation but ideal for many Conditions of exercise or entertainment.

Determine the purpose
before drawing an Outcomes diagram.


The Functions of a bicycle are determined by the Outcomes. A stationary exercise bicycle has different Functions than a bicycle used for transportation. Both share some Functions such as acquiring energy from the user.

Functions Bicycle

Drawing 5: Bicycle Function Diagram

Even though a stationary bicycle doesn't move the user still needs it to stop and wants it pointed in the desired direction. Also the energy isn't transferred to the ground but something must be done with the energy collected from the user pedaling.


The ideal statement can help identify the Elements. Who and what are Objects. Where and when are Conditions or Begin and End States. Cost and hassle are undesired End States.


  • Location of item. This is where the item currently is located. Transporting the item changes the location of the item.
  • Item being transported
  • Health of person transported
  • Comfort of person transported
  • Amount needed to transport
  • Maximum energy level needed to transport
  • Energy available for transporting

Begin States

  • Location where the item is before the Action of transporting is the Begin State
  • Being healthy and undamaged is a typical Begin State
  • Time transporting begins

End States

  • The destination is the End State of the location of the item.
  • An item being damaged or unhealthy is an undesired End State.
  • Tired, undesired for transportation. Possibly desired for exercise.
  • Wet from perspiration, undesired.
  • Time transporting ends
    • On-time, desirable
    • Early, desirable, neutral
    • Late, undesirable
  • Length of time to transport


  • Move
  • Stop
  • Turn
  • Rest
  • Lean
  • Park
  • Mount / Dismount


  • Start time can affect the end time, safety, etc.
  • End time
  • Location where the item is moving. The location Condition is a different concept from the location Object. Condition affects the ability of being able to change the Object. Transporting the item to a location that is far away will affect the ability to transport it.


There are many Resources available in transportation including: passenger, weather, other vehicles, gravity, time of day, surface of the road, etc.


Once you have the Functions defined you can perform the Function using Components. The 15 Alternatives and 7 Elements also apply to Components so you can start with an existing device like a bicycle and find Alternatives for each Component.


A bicycle has many Components. Lets look at 9 of the major Components.

  • wheels
  • tires
  • handle bars
  • seat
  • frame
  • gears
  • brakes
  • pedals
  • forks

Objects for wheel:

Size, shape, weight, solid, spoked, material







Single wheel directly moves bicycle

Single wheel, unicycle

Wheel is added to the bicycle.

Single indirect wheel

Wheel drives treads

Single Other than wheel, ski

Other part of the bicycle






Wheel stays with the bicycle, welded on

Becomes a single wheel, once

One wheel stabilizes, once, one condition




One wheel, once, one condition


Many wheels directly move bicycle (2 wheel drive)

Many wheels (tricycle, quad-cycle, etc)

Partial wheel,

Indirect, wheel not part of bicycle. Road is wheels like a conveyor.


Many other, skis


Many same, multiple fixed wheels

Partial same, part of wheel is fixed.

Wheel doesn't change many times, some conditions

Wheel stabilizes many times, many conditions, many wheels

Becomes many wheels

Becomes a wheel many times, many conditions

Becomes part of a wheel

Wheel repairs many times, or conditions

Replace part of wheel

Wheel changeable, many options

All wheel bicycle (sphere like Illustration 29: Cage keeps tigers out)


No wheel

Any indirect, wheel drive treads, or propeller, etc.

All indirect

Any other, choose any option

All other, all options included

Any wheel stable

Wheel always same, last for lifetime

No wheel same, customized

Becomes any wheel, any condition

Becomes all wheel(s)

Becomes no wheel: track, float

Any wheel repaired

All wheels repaired

No wheel repairs, see Keep Stable

Chapter 17 Chapter 19

17. Example: Learning a Skill

17.Example: Learning a Skill

Who wants to learn a skill? What desires are they trying to satisfy by performing the task of learning?

  • Pass a test
  • Perform a task
  • Make a decision
  • Learn something else
  • Teach it
  • Entertainment
  • Share an experience

Look at the different reasons for learning a skill. Are the reasons satisfied in the same way? Can we group them into functionally similar reasons? Are the differences qualitative or quantitative?

There appear to be two different types of reasons to learn a skill. The first is practical and the second is social.

The practical reasons for learning a skill are different from each other based on level of skill needed when complete. They can be ranked in order:

  1. Able to make a decision
  2. Perform a task
  3. Pass a test
  4. Learn another skill
  5. Teach the subject

Even though the skill levels needed are ranked, there isn't a clear unit of measure so we can't quantitatively measure the differences. The difference is by qualitative type.

The social reasons, Entertainment and Share an Experience, are satisfied in different ways from the practical reasons. Even though learning the skill is desirable it is not essential to being entertained or sharing an experience. Enjoying the process is an essential Outcome for the social reasons. Enjoyment is beneficial but not required for the purely practical reasons to learn a skill so there is an overlap.

Learning a Skill Outcome Diagram

Drawing 1: Learning a Skill Outcome Diagram

Since there are two different sets of Outcomes lets start with the practical reasons. Draw an Outcome diagram for the task. These Outcomes define successfully performing the task.

The Outcomes for Learning a Skill do not include all related Outcomes. Motivation to learn and perception of the process of learning are factors that should be considered but are not essential to the core set of Outcomes.

The Outcome diagram defines the Objects. The next step is to draw a Function diagram for the process of achieving the Outcomes. The last step of a Function diagram is achieving an Outcome.

Learn a Skill Function DiagramDrawing 2: Learning a Skill Function Diagram

Consider that you might need a Function diagram for each Outcome.


Expand the Elements for each of the Outcomes and each of the Functions. Element expansion is a form of structured idea generation. It is not free-form. The goal is to list items for each of the 7 Elements, which are related to the Outcomes and Functions. This focuses your work and keeps it organized for finding patterns later.

Since many people are accustomed to brainstorming it can be helpful to temporarily skip the Outcome and Function diagram, and start by listing Elements. This can help people clarify their thinking before drawing the Function diagram.

You will need some knowledge of the subject matter you are innovating to be able to identify Elements. If you are innovating an engine you will need to understand some amount of mechanics.

Gather new informationLearn Function Diagram: Gather New Information


  • Learner
  • Information

Begin and End States

There are several combinations of these begin and End States. Depending on the purpose what is desired, undesired, and neutral changes.

  • No information is gathered
  • Related information is gathered
  • Some of information is gathered
  • All the information is gathered
  • Extra information is gathered, not relevant
  • Incorrect information is gathered, not factual


Read, Watch, Hear, Touch, Do it, Taste, Smell, Imagine, Measure


Books, magazines, websites, radio, TV, video, pictures, audio recordings, lectures, demonstrations, games, models, activities, samples, measurement devices, tests.


Purpose, demographics, health of learner, other knowledge, past experiences, distractions, time available, comfort, emotions, format of information, language, physical environment, quality of information (incomplete or incorrect)


Medium of information, learner, other knowledge, emotions, physical environment, lecturer, friends, all of the Conditions.

Interpret informationLearn Function Diagram: Interpret Information


  • Learner
  • Information
  • Meaning

Begin and End States

  • No understanding
  • Incorrect interpretation, misunderstood
  • Partially understood
  • Fully understood


Compare & contrast, Questions and answers, Thought experiment


Logic, restating in own words, lists, diagrams, conversations, email, text chat, phone, if...then statements, language, symbols


Purpose, demographics, health of learner, other knowledge, past experiences, distractions, time available, comfort, emotions, format of information, language


All the Conditions, learner, emotions, physical environment, teacher, friends

PracticeLearn Function Diagram: Practice


  • Learner
  • Skill level

Begin and End States

  • No skill
  • Some skill
  • Full skill


Play, simulation, exercise, do the real thing, mental rehearsal


Games, simulation, real thing, simplified version of real thing, slow motion, weights, puzzles


Difficulty of task, environment, health of learner


Objective measures of ability: time to complete an exercise, complexity of exercise completed, percentage of accurate results; measure of the difficulty of a type of practice: number of variables, amount of time given to complete task, number of mistakes allowed.

Achieve AbilityLearn Function Diagram: Achieve Ability

The final step in the Function diagram is satisfying both of the Outcomes of the Outcome diagram. Achieve Ability is complete when the learner can perform the task and does not need assistance.


  • Skill Level
  • Learner

Begin and End States

There might not be a quantitative measure for ability but it can be broken down into four functionally distinct levels.

  • No ability
  • Some ability
  • Adequate ability
  • Maximum ability


Do a task

Complete a test


Test, Questions, Measurement, Score, Mirror, Camera


Time available, level of other abilities, number of skills being learned, wording of the test, time between receiving feedback


Feedback from others, results of previous attempts


Learner is involved in every Outcome in Learning a Skill; so, it makes sense to start finding Alternatives for Learner.

When I first tried to apply the Directions to Learner I was confused. I had difficulty figuring out what was a direct Learner versus a Stable Learner. The problem was I needed to chunk down Learner into Person and Learning. A learner is a person who is learning. Once I chunked down into the two parts it was easy to figure out. Chunking up and down is a useful approach to remember.

Person Alternatives







Single person instructed

Instructed once


Prohibited Class or individual

Learns how to find person who can do it


Individual discovers skill

One person always learns

Single learns until a point

Single person learns existing information

Individual returns to learning

Skills restored for an individual


Many people instructed

Instructed many times

Many observers

Learn to find many people who can do it

Many prohibited people

Group teaches

Group makes discovery

Many people always learn

Many people learn until a point

Many people learn existing information

Learn existing information as a group

Group returns to learning

Many people return to learning

Skills are restored for many people

Everyone instructed

Continually instructed, never independent

Everyone learns by observing

Everyone prohibited

Everyone teaches

Everyone discovers for themselves

Everyone always learns

Everyone learns until a point then stops

Everyone learns existing information

Everyone returns to learning

No one returns to learning

Learning Alternatives







Commanded one time

Commanded for one task

Commanded for one part of task

Individual doing other activity

Doing one other activity

Doing other activity once


Replace incorrect


Already learned

Apply existing knowledge

Teach someone else

Skill becomes permanent

Skill becomes permanent after single time

Part of skill becomes permanent

Regain single skill

Regain skill once

Single reminder


Commanded for part of task

Commanded many times

Doing many other activities

Doing pieces of other activities

Replace many incorrect

Many steps to replace incorrect

Already know some of skill

Already know many skills

Teach many people

Teach many skills

Many skills become permanent

Skill becomes permanent after many times

Skills become permanent in multiple parts

Regain many skills

Regain skill many times

Many reminders

Commanded for everything

Commanded for entire task

Commanded until remembered

Doing every other activity

Doing any other activity

Do nothing, passive learning

Continuously replace incorrect

Replace all incorrect

Already know everything

Already know nothing

Already know anything

Teach everything

All skills become permanent

No skills become permanent

Any skill becomes permanent

Entire skill becomes permanent

Continually regaining skill

Everyone regaining skills

Regain any skill

Reminders for everything

Always reminded

Information Alternatives







Next step

Information to remember

One more detail

Custom information


Grade / performance

What not to do, contrast

How to find information

Reason for skill



Single fact


One gains acceptance

Remembered after first time

Reminder, flash card

Information changes once

One part changes



Multiple steps

Some steps

Many new things

Many parts are new

More information many things

Many theories

Information about the information

Multiple ways to find the information

Partially correct

Multiple grades

Multiple reminders

Partial reminder

Multiple facts

Repeated information

Partial history

Told many times before remembered

Many things remembered

Accepted as fact for many Conditions

Many parts change

Changes many times

Many parts uncertain

All steps

Always new information

No steps

Applies to everyone

All information about the information

Totally false


Continual grading

Never reminded

Always reminding

Always same information

Complete history

All information remembered


Becomes considered law

Information always changing



Meaning Alternatives







Plain single meaning

Meaningful in one Condition

Increase meaning

Told meaning

Correct meaning

Indirect meaning


Opposite / Sarcasm

One thing unknown

Confused about one thing

Same meaning

Doesn't change for one Condition

One meaning stays the same

Takes time to understand

Situational meaning

Meaning changes once

Understands after one error


Plain meaning multiple Conditions

Increases meaning multiple Conditions

Many things increase meaning

Multiple implications

Contradictory meanings

Partially wrong meaning

Wrong meaning many things

Same meaning many Conditions

Many meaning stay the same

Parts of meaning stay the same

Partially understood

Multiple exposures to understand

Multiple parts before understanding

Part of information before understanding

Corrects meaning many times/ways

Meaning changes many Conditions

Parts change meaning

No meaning

Always increasing meaning

Increase meaning everything

Unknown meaning

Meaning is hidden

Totally confused

Totally wrong

Same meaning all situations

Always understood

Understood by everyone

Needs all to understand

Understands everything

Always relearn

Meaning constantly changing

Everything changes meaning

Always becomes clear again

Skill Level Alternatives

Skill Level






Skill level improves once

One part of skill improves

Skill decreases

Other skill change

Task becomes easier

One part of task becomes harder (exercise)

Single skill level stays the same

Skill same in one situation

One skill increases to point (learn once)

Skill increases to a point for one Condition

Skill level fluctuates once

One skill level fluctuates


Many skills improve

Skill improves many times

Skill partially improves

Many other skills change

Skill decreases many times

Parts of task become harder

Parts of task become easier

Partial skill level stays the same

Multiple skill levels stay the same

Skill same in many situations

Multiple skill levels increase to point

Skill plateaus multiple times

Skill level fluctuates many times

Many skill levels fluctuate

Skill level always improves

Completely loses skill

Improves all other skills

Task eliminated

Skill level never changes

Skill same in all situations

Maximum skill level achieved

All skills increased to a point

Become expert in all aspects

Skill level never consistent

Continuous practice needed

Gather Information Alternatives

Gather information






Do it, experience, see yourself

Read, told, watch video, theory

Fixed belief, one thing, one time

Consistent once

Confirm belief once

Single change or difference

Average one variable


Repeat experience

Experience many things directly

Many indirect sources

Indirectly experience many things


Fixed belief, many things

Consistent many times

Confirm belief many times

Confirm many beliefs

Many changes or differences

Average many variables

Moving average

Experience everything

Experience anything

No direct experience

Believes everything, never changes

Confirm all beliefs

All differences

Rate of change

Practice Alternatives







Real thing once

Imagine, simulation

One type of practice

Single Test



Real thing many times

Parts of real

Simulate multiple aspects

Do same thing many times

Repeat different parts

Multiple tests

Occasionally different


Always real

Any real

Simulate all aspects

Same thing every time


Continually testing

Test everything

Constantly changing

Achieve Ability Alternatives

Achieve ability






Do it once

First try

Simulation once

Lose ability once

Complete practice once

Test completed once



Done many times

Do pieces

Multiple simulations

Lose many abilities

Complete practice multiple times

Multiple tests completed

Many re-certifications

Done all aspects

All aspects simulated

Any aspect simulated

Lose all ability

Lose any ability

Complete all practice

All tests completed

Perfect score on test

Test before each time

Chapter 16 Chapter 18

8. Alternatives

Alternatives Grid

8. Alternatives

Special Web Update - 36 Alternatives Video

This video can help you get a quick overview and understand how the Alternatives were derived. The 15 Alternatives in the rest of the chapter is a condensed version of the 36 Alternatives.

15 Alternatives

15 Alternatives Grid





to Stable




The Alternatives Grid describes every possible way to satisfy a single Condition.

Each box in the grid represents a general way or approach to achieving a goal or result. Five columns and three rows means there are at least 15 ways to achieve any goal.

Each box in the Alternatives Grid is a general description. It describes a type of Alternative. There can be many examples of each type. All the possible Alternatives can be categorized into one of the 15 types.

The 15 Alternatives describe all the possible ways to achieve a goal because they are all the basic approaches.

6 Spacial DirectionsTo understand how you can describe every possible combination think about giving directions to go somewhere. If you give someone directions you can break all the steps into six basic movements: up, down, left, right, forwards and backwards.

By combining the six basic movements, you can travel anywhere. The same concept works for Alternatives. The 15 Alternatives describe every possible type of Alternative. It’s a framework for solving every problem.

Just because there are 15 types doesn’t mean that is the limit. Each box only describes a general type. There could be lots of individual ways that fit in each box. There could be many Continuous Stable Alternatives or Many Single Direct Alternatives.

The boxes of the Alternatives Grid describe every way. This helps you find the ways you can use. Knowing there are at least 15 Alternatives helps you find really good solutions.

If you can’t think of something for a box then there’s a solution you overlooked. Sometimes one of the Alternatives isn't possible using current technology. You can still describe the basics of how it will work and watch for the technology to become available.

Ways to Use the Alternatives Grid

There are three main ways to use the Alternatives Grid.

  1. Find a good Alternative
  2. Find all the Alternatives
  3. Find an untapped innovation

Sometimes you just want to get something done. When any good Alternative will satisfy your criteria we call that problem solving or solution finding. The way you were trying wasn’t working; so, you need a different choice. Use the Alternatives Grid to find an option you like.

When solution finding you don't need to look at every Alternative. Just because there are 15 boxes doesn’t mean you must find something for every box. If you find a really good Alternative, use it. If you need another, the Alternatives Grid is always there to guide you to more options.

When making a plan you might want to make sure you have the best choice and Alternatives in case you need to change your plan. The Alternatives Grid is a great tool for planning. Use it to find the best choice. Because it describes all the possible Alternatives, it helps you make sure to consider every option.

If any of the boxes in the Alternatives Grid is empty there is definitely something you missed. This could be a breakthrough waiting to happen. Since you have described what the box must contain you have the upper hand in finding it first.


ScalesThe 3 rows of the Alternatives Grid are called Scales. The three Scales are: Single, Multiple, and Continuous. We use the symbols 1, M, and either ∞ or C to represent the scales.

Each of the three scales are functionally distinct from each other. Having only one of something is very different from having more than one. Doing something in one step is often very different from breaking it up into multiple steps. You can't step over a hole in two steps. You either step over it in one step or fall in. One is functionally distinct from multiple and continuous.

Most things fit in the many or multiple scale. Once you have a quantity of something there isn't a Functional Distinction between a small amount or a large amount. The big difference happens when you have all of something.

Having all of something is very different than having many. One type of continuous is all. When you have all of something you can do things that are not possible when you have many or even most of it. Having all of something is different from many and it is different from having the one and only. Continuous also means no divisions or breaks, it's smooth. Continuous is the difference between a digital gauge and a dial with a needle.

Breaking things into these categories helps you think about how they function, and what can be done. These Functional Distinctions are important for finding solutions.


SingleThere is a Single Alternative for each of the directions. Words used to describe Single are: single, one, once, only, exclusive, or unique.

Apply Single to: who, what, why, where, when, and with.

Single Element: Object, Begin State, End State, Action, Tool, Condition, Resource

Think of a Single: person, purpose, place, use, time, piece, or step.

Single use, disposable, single material, single color, plastic utensilsIllustration 10: Single use, disposable

Disposable plastic eating utensils are Single use. These are also a Single piece and made from a Single material. Each of these have a Single purpose.


One of a kind shoes

Illustration 11: One of a kind shoes

Custom made items are one of a kind. These items are exclusive. When used to make an item unique, Single can increase value.

Shorts, single color

Illustration 12: Elastic waistband, one piece shorts

The elastic band in the waist hold up one pair of shorts. The shorts are one-piece.

Ford Model T, single color

Illustration 13: Ford Model T One Color

The Ford Model T came in one color, black, to simplify manufacturing and reduce cost.



MultipleMultiple or many is more than one. Multiple provides flexibility with limits, choices with structure.

Multiple items usually have quantities you can count. Multiple can be many of the same item or many related items. Many can also mean parts. So instead of a single piece it has many pieces or many steps to perform a task.

Multiple applies to who, what, why, where, when, and with.

Think of multiple choice, pieces, steps, customers, locations, prices, or models.


Illustration 14: Menu

Menus provide multiple choices. There are options with limits. There is flexibility but structure.



Cars, multiple colors

Illustration 15: Cars in multiple colors

Multiple colors of cars are offered by manufacturers. This provides variety without complexity.Most cars have options for different components. This allows flexibility for customers but control for manufacturers. Cars carry multiple passengers.

Belts, multiple colors

Illustration 16: Belts are used on multiple pants

A belt can be worn with many different pairs of pants.A reversible belt is more than one color.

Adjustable sizes fit many waists.


ContinuousContinuous is the extreme in any direction, not just more but the most possible.

Continuous items are measured by volume or weight if they are measured at all. Words used to describe continuous are:

  • all
  • any
  • every
  • none
  • always
  • forever
  • whenever
  • never
  • everyone
  • anyone
  • whoever
  • no one

Continuous applies to who, what, where, when, why, and with. All 7 Elements of an Outcome apply to continuous. Continuous Scale is similar to Stable Direction

Buffet, all you can eat

Illustration 17: All You Can Eat Buffet

An all-you-can-eat buffet has many examples of continuous.

  • All you can eat
  • No waiting
  • No servers
  • Anything on the menu.


Skype, free chat, voice, video

Illustration 18: Skype, free chat, voice and video conferencing

Skype provides free chat, voice and video conferences between users and unlimited long distance phone calls for a fixed price.

Unisex Restroom Sign

Illustration 19: Handicap Unisex Bathroom

Restroom is accessible to anyone. The sign can be read by people who can see and cannot. Unisex so anyone can use it.

Vinyl Siding

Illustration 20: Vinyl siding,
never paint

The color of vinyl siding is forever. You never need to paint it.

Custom Made T-shirt

Illustration 21: Custom made T-Shirt

Custom made items allow you to have anything. If the product is information, like the design on the T-Shirt, you can make unlimited copies.

Wireless Headset

Illustration 22: Wireless headset

Wireless headset has no wires and requires no hands to use. If it is used with a mobile phone it can be taken anywhere. A headset allows you to talk while driving so it's anytime.

Tattoo, forever, always

Illustration 23: Tattoo , always, forever

A tattoo is an example of continuous in several ways. It is permanent, always, and forever.


DirectionsThe 5 columns of the Alternatives Grid are called Directions. The five directions are: Direct, Indirect, Keep Stable, Make Stable, and Return to Stable. Like the 3 scales the 5 Directions are functionally distinct from each other.

The symbols we use for the Directions only hint at the true functionality of each Direction. The first three, Direct +, Indirect -, and Stable = cover the ideas of more, less, and same. More, less, and same are obviously functionally distinct from each other. Makes Stable → and Return to Stable ~ are functionally distinct versions of Stable.

Understanding the differences of the Directions involves learning an aspect of multidimensional thinking. When thinking in only one dimension we have opposites of each other such as more and less, + and -. Clearly more and less are opposites of each other. But stable, =, is the opposite of change. So Stable, =, is the opposite of both more +, and less -.

Stable can also be thought of as zero (0). If you add or subtract zero from anything it does not change. You can achieve a stable position by making a change or by undoing a change. In that way the change is zero.

Makes Stable starts at a State then ends in the final Stable State. Return to Stable starts at a State then changes and finally returns to the original State. Most often we think of the initial State as being the desired State but it could be any State.

Each of the 15 Alternatives apply to all of the 7 Elements. It's also helpful to think of the 6 Ws: Who, What, Where, Why, When, and With. Who uses it, buys it, decides to use it, and wants it? What is it being done by or to? Where is it being done? When is it being done? With which products, people, or processes is it being used? Why use it? Why is how to decide the Alternative to use.


DirectIt directly satisfies the condition. You can also think of direct as positive such as doing something versus not doing something. Also think of add, increase, or more. If the Direct Function is stopped the desired condition stops.

Paper Clip

Illustration 24: Paper Clip Directly Holds Paper

Paper clips directly hold the paper together. If it is removed the pieces come apart. Also a paper clip is added to the paper.

Heater, directly adds heat

Illustration 25: Heater directly warms

Heater directly makes you warm. It adds heat.


IndirectIndirect is just what it seems like. It’s the opposite of the direct approach. Think words such as remove, decrease, and other.

Indirect is very flexible. The direct approach makes the goal happen when you use it. Indirect could make it happen by not doing something. Or it could take the goal away by doing something.

But indirect doesn’t apply just to Actions. It could apply to things you use. For instance you want paint that sticks to a surface better. Instead of looking at the paint, look at the surface. Maybe you can do something to the surface to make the paint stick better. Or to the brush or to the room you are painting in.

A very powerful use of Indirect is to check your goal. Some times we state our goal in a way that is limiting. An example is The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for “preventing bad medicine from being sold”. That sounds like a good goal but is that really what you want?

Isn’t the real goal to promote good medicine? If you set up your Alternatives Grid to “promote good medicine” you suddenly have 12 boxes full of good medicine instead of trying to stop bad medicines. See how that could be much more productive?

But sometimes you could use the indirect goal for another purpose. If you were looking for ways to heat food the indirect is to make it cold. Can you see value in making food cold?

Look for all indirect Alternatives including:

  • Objects
  • Actions
  • Resources
  • Begin State
  • Tools
  • End State
  • Conditions


Bug zapper

Illustration 26: Attract bugs to zapper instead of repelling with chemicals

Instead of using toxic chemicals to repel bugs, attract them to a bug zapper.



Illustration 27: Make water not stick

Instead of drying dishes, make water not stick.

Indirect Junk Mail

Illustration 28: Junk mail fuel

Instead of stopping junk mail, get more then use it as free fuel.

Tiger Ball

Illustration 29: Cage keeps tigers out

Tiger Cage

Illustration 30: Cage keeps tiger in

Both cages protect the people from tigers. Each has different benefits.



Keep StableKeep the desired condition. If you start with what you want you want to keep it. Ways to keep the desired goal fit the description of Stable.

Stable options are described with words such as:

  • prevent
  • hold
  • keep
  • protect
  • store
  • save
  • avoid
  • secure
  • ensure
  • restrict
  • lock
  • maintain

The Stable Alternative can apply to all 7 Elements.

  • Actions, keep happening or prevent it from happening. Do the same Action.
  • Object, keep it's shape, color, size, location, or any other characteristic. Objects can be who as well as what. Apply stable Alternative to Person, who it’s happening to, for, with or by and remember preventing for person as well.
  • Begin State, start from the same State each time.
  • End State, keep the same State, prevent the State from changing
  • Tool, holds, protects, restricts, locks, etc. Tool does not change, move, or break.
  • Conditions, hold conditions stable, same conditions used each time, etc.
  • Resources, use a Resource that is consistent such as gravity.


Seat Belt, keeps passenger safe, holds passenger in seat

Illustration 31: Seat belt keeps passenger safe

Seat Belt

  • Hold person in seat
  • Keep person safe
  • Prevents serious injury

Sippy Cup

Illustration 32: Sippy cup

Sippy Cup

  • Lid keeps liquid in
  • Avoids spills
  • Plastic, prevents breaking

Make Stable

Make StableStarting from some undesired State it creates a stable desired State. Change a property of an element to bring it to a stable State.

Make Stable options are described with words such as:

  • become
  • approach
  • replace
  • result
  • reach
  • asymptotic

The Make Stable Alternative applies to all 7 Elements.

  • Actions, starts with another Action and ends with the appropriate Action.
  • Object, becomes the shape, color, size, location, or any other characteristic. Objects can be who as well as what. Apply make stable Alternative to Person, who it’s happening to, for, with or by and remember preventing for person as well.
  • Begin State, the Begin State changes over time. A system might need to handle many variations until the more efficient supply is established.
  • End State, a system that can start with many different start States and results in the same End State.
  • Tool, a Tool might form fit to the task or the user.
  • Conditions, Condition becomes stable over time.
  • Resources, a Resource that accumulates, stabilizes, or becomes available over time. Waste material that is used for padding or sound insulation could be a Make Stable Resource.



Illustration 33: Glue makes stables

Glue makes things stick together permanently.


Illustration 34: Vaccine

Vaccine causes immunity to disease.


Illustration 35: Fossil, make stable

Fossils happen when water with minerals soaks into the object then the water dries and the object decays away the minerals are left behind as a fossil.


Return to Stable

Return to StableBring the desired State back if it changes. Like all stable Alternatives you might have used a direct or indirect to reach the desired State.

Return to Stable options are described with words such as:

  • change
  • recover
  • restore
  • fluctuate
  • heal
  • recycle
  • flexible
  • repair
  • reuse

Return to Stable Alternative applies to all 7 Elements.

  • Actions, change from one Action to another then back
  • Object, recovers shape, color, size, location, or any other characteristic. Objects can be who as well as what. Apply make return to stable Alternative to Person, who it’s happening to, for, with or by and remember preventing for person as well.
  • Begin State, system handles fluctuating Begin State.
  • End State, a range of End States.
  • Tool, a Tool might adjust to Conditions.
  • Conditions, fluctuates.
  • Resources, reuse, recycle, restore.


Illustration 36: Springs


  • Bend and return
  • Stretch and return


Illustration 37: Generator

Generator returns power if it fails.


Illustration 38: Thermostat

Thermostat turns on heat if it gets too cold or air conditioning if it gets too hot. Returns temperature to the desired setting.

Time and Alternatives

Innovation is always dealing with change so the passage of time is a fundamental concept for innovation. Time is specifically referenced in the directions, especially the Stable Alternatives. Keep Stable, Make Stable and Return to Stable focus on changes in relation to time. Direct and Indirect are less concerned with time and focus on now. Direct Alternatives achieve the goal when the Action is performed and stop when the Action stops. Indirect is the opposite or different from Direct so regarding time it might be not now meaning before or after. When Continuous is applied to time it overlaps the three Stable Alternatives. It's helpful to think about how time is considered for each of the directions.

Combining Scales and Directions

By combining the 3 Scales and the 5 Directions you have 15 Alternatives. For an example look at coloring a wall. Walls can be colored in many different ways. The typical approach is paint. The end user of the wall does not care how the wall gets the desired color, only that it is the desired color without any other negative effects.

This is only a sample of each type. In reality there are at least 105 types with multiple variations for each. As you read these samples think of other ways of doing the same type or other types for each Alternative. Space has been left for you to write down your ideas.

Example: Paint Sticks to Surface






More / Increase / NewOnce
One thing
One way
Decrease Other Same
One thing the same
Becomes permanent
Improves once
Single step
Changes once


Many more
Many times
Many steps
Many other Same many ways
Same many times
Becomes permanent in many ways
Multiple steps
Changes many times

Increase all
Increase any
Increase none
All other
Any other
Decrease all
Decrease any
Any same
All same
All ways becomes permanent Always returns
Always changes




Make paint stick better to one type of surface. Paint sticks during a Single Condition such as temperature or humidity. Paint sticks after one coat.






Make paint stick better to multiple surfaces. Paint sticks during multiple Conditions, such as hot and cold or low and high humidity. Two step process, primer then paint.







Paint sticks to any surface. Paint sticks during any Condition.






Wall holds paint better. The brush makes the paint stick better.







Wall holds multiple types of coloring such as paint or wallpaper.








Wall holds any color or type of coloring. No paint, color is projected on the wall.




Keep Stable


Make the wall from a material that is the desired color.







Make the wall from a material that is multiple colors. Color appears the same in multiple Conditions, reacts to light.







Any color. No color, it is transparent so you can see the desired Object through it. Continuously reacts to Conditions to always appear as desired.




Make Stable


Single treatment makes it stable, stain. Single color. Ceiling paint changes color after drying making it easier to see where you painted.


Multiple colors. Multiple types of surfaces, such as interior, exterior, walls, ceilings, or floors. Multiple treatments to make it stable. Multiple step process.


Treatment permanently colors any surface. Any color stain. Stains the entire room or Object at once.




Return to Stable


Returns to color once. Film placed on wall allows dirt to be removed once. Scuff mark removed with heat or a chemical applied to wall once.


Returns to color multiple times. Multiple layers that can be removed. Covering is thick allowing it to be sanded to remove stains or scuff marks. Easy to wash.


Color projected on the surface that automatically adjusts to display the correct color regardless of conditions.

1See Prerequisites section for more explanation of Functional Distinction

Chapter 7 Chapter 9

7. Basics of Predictive Innovation

7. Basics of Predictive Innovation

Predictive Innovation makes it possible to accurately understand what customers desire now and in the future and how to overcome technical challenges to satisfying those desires. In this way it merges marketing, engineering and business strategy. The key is how it breaks down systems into easy to manage dimensions. All innovation and problem solving uses three specific dimensions:

  • Outcomes
  • 7-Elements
  • 15-Alternatives

By using these three specific dimensions, all the innovations for any product or service can be accurately described even if current technology can't build it.

Height, Width, DepthPhysical objects can be described using height, width, and depth. Similarly, systems can be described using the three dimensions: Outcomes, 7-Elements, and 15-Alternatives.


Outcome is the result of something happening. For Predictive Innovation we use a broader and more formal meaning.

Outcome is an observable state resulting from a cause.

Speed, color, or temperature are observable States. A State can also be an event that did or did not happen. The State of any Outcome is classified into one of three categories:

  • desired
  • undesired
  • neutral

Most systems can be described using between 5 and 9 Outcomes. If a system is complex it might require dividing the system into smaller sub-systems to be manageable.

When each of the Outcomes of a system are in the desired State the overall goal is achieved.

Predictive Innovation uses Outcome Diagrams to graphically represent the systems for satisfying people's desires. Outcome diagrams are a type of flow chart. Instead of showing steps in a process it displays all the conditions or “if” statements to achieve the overall goal. In words an Outcome diagram says:

If A and B and C Then my desires are satisfied for this Scenario.




Chapter 6 Chapter 8

6. Dimensions of Predictive Innovation

6. Dimensions of Predictive Innovation

There are 6 dimensions used in Predictive Innovation. Finding What, How, When, and Where primarily deal with 3 of these dimensions. Why and Who requires more depth of all 6 dimensions. The 6 dimensions are:
Dimensions of Predictive Innovation

  1. Actors – are people involved in making and using innovations
  2. Desires – are the focus of innovation
  3. Scenarios – are the boundaries of a set of desires
  4. Alternatives – the ways of satisfying desires
  5. Outcomes – are the objective criteria that defines satisfaction
  6. Elements – are the detailed parts of an Outcome



There are 8 types of Actors. Each Actor can be a single person or multiple people. There is always at least one person who is the User. Users are the central focus of innovation. If the users' desires are not satisfied innovation fails. The 8 types of Actors are:





Customers are divided into four distinct roles: Beneficiary, User, Buyer, and Payer. Roles can be performed by one or more people but someone performs each of the roles. The desires of the person acting in that role are different from the desires related to the other roles.

Users are people who use the product or service. There must be at least one User. Satisfying the desires of the User is essential to innovation. Examples of Users' desires are:

  • How well the product performs the task
  • Feelings related to using the product.

Beneficiaries experience the benefits of the product or service. In most cases the User and the Beneficiary are the same person but not always. Products used in performing a service have a different User than the Beneficiary.

Deciders make the decision to purchase the product or service. Examples of Deciders' desires are:

  • price
  • warranty
  • where to purchase the product

Payers supply the money or materials for the innovation. For consumer products the User, Buyer and Payer are often the same person. In business these are usually three different people. Examples of Payers' desires are:

  • Return on Investment
  • Total cost
  • Achieving a larger strategy

Provider is divided into four roles:

  • designer
  • builder
  • seller
  • communicator

Provider can be divided differently but these four provide a sufficiently accurate description to understand the process. Just like customers these could be a single person or multiple people. The provider could also be the same person as the customer and each of the roles could be shared by people acting in other roles. So the User could be Builder and the other 6 roles be someone else.

Designers convert desires into actionable designs. This frequently is more than one person. Examples of Designers' desires are:

  • Know criteria to satisfy desires of Actors
  • Access to technology
  • Interesting challenge

Builders convert design into real products. For services the builder does the work. Builders are often many different people. Examples of Builders' desires are:

  • Ease of production
  • Tools needed
  • Start up costs

Sellers deliver the product or service to the User. The Seller is involved in the purchase transaction. Examples of Sellers' desires are:

  • Size of market
  • Quantity discounts
  • Turn over
  • Profit margins
  • Hassles of delivering products or services

Communicator gathers information and translates between Actors. Examples of Communicators' desires are:

  • Know the desires of Actors
  • Able to reach other Actors
  • Accuracy of communication

Customers act as more than just Users. There are markets and innovations for each Actor in a Scenario. Innovation starts by satisfying Users.

Chapter 5 Chapter 7

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