The big idea
Attribute listing was pioneered in 1931 by Robert Platt Crawford in his course on creative thinking. The technique takes an attribute or idea from one thing and applies it to another. The task of creating the ideas is more than just the process of combining things; an essential element of the process is the Attribute Listing Matrix (ALM) where the features, attributes and ideas are listed.
The Bahco Ergo Screwdriver was developed through a focus on the attributes of its handle both in terms of safety (preventing repetitive strain injury) and that at some point most people want to use a screwdriver with both hands, which meant the handle had to be redesigned.
Attribute listing is a means of getting you to focus on as many attributes of a product or problem as possible. In breaking down the elements of a problem or object, you can look at each in turn and generate new ideas. The technique is particularly useful for considering complex products or processes in that it allows you to consider each feature or stage and look at the associated attributes in detail. You can also specify the criteria by which you want to examine an attribute, for example it could be quality, cost or speed of production. You can also look at the attributes from a range of perspectives:
- Physical attributes: shape, form, colour, texture
- Social attributes: responsibilities, taboos, roles, power
- Process attributes: selling, marketing, production
- Psychological attributes: needs, motivation, emotions
- Price attributes: cost to the customer, manufacturer, supplier
The tool takes you through the four basic steps of attribute listing. It can be done on your own or with a group and can be a quick exercise if you are not dealing with a complex problem.