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B. Attribute Listing
1. What is Attribute listing?
Attribute listing is a technique from the early 1930s which takes an existing product or system, breaks it into parts and identifies various ways of achieving each part. In turn, it prompts different ways to change, modify, or improve each attribute and recombine them to identify new forms of the product or system [1]. Attribute listing is one of the best ways to generate ideas, whereby there any many parts to the problem / challenge faced. If you are asked to generate ideas or solutions to a complex challenge, the first thing you can do is to list all the attributes of your problem. These may include: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, etc. (depending on the complexity of the challenge). By doing so, you can then concentrate on one attribute at a time [2]. The usual procedure is to take an existing product or service for example and list all of its attributes. For instance, a flashlight may be described as a long, round tube made of plastic using batteries to light a bulb which shines through a clear plastic shield when the user pushes a switch. Examining each of the attributes could lead to new ideas. Why is it round? Why plastic? Could it be turned on in a different way, or be powered by a different source? This kind of questioning could lead to new products which would address entirely new markets [2].

Attribute listing is a very useful technique for quality improvement of complicated products, procedures or services. It is a good technique to use in conjunction with some other techniques especially Brainstorming, Morphological Analysis and Matrix Analysis. This allows you or your team to focus on one specific part of a product or process and find new combinations before generating a whole lot of ideas [3]. The attribute listing technique is often used in the Research & Development (R&D) department of companies, especially those who are constantly producing innovative products in order to have an advantage over their competitors [5].

2. How is it implemented?
This approach focuses on identifying attributes of a process or product and ways to improve one or many of them [6]. Keep in mind that attributes include parts, properties, qualities or design elements of the product, service or strategy you are considering. In order to make it work: Firstly, it is recommended to Identify the product/process/service or the components of the product/process/ service you are dissatisfied with or wish to improve. Make a list of elements of a product or a service or a list of elements of an organizational strategy of the company. For example, attributes of a pencil would be shaft material, lead material, hardness of lead, width of lead, quality, color, weight, price, etc. A television plot might have attributes of characters, actions, locations, weather, etc. For a marketing review you might use attributes of markets open to you, uses of your product, channels available, skills you have access to, etc. List all of the elements (e.g. material, color, weight, use of the product, design) that can be described with certain attributes. Choose some of these attributes that seem particularly interesting or important.

Secondly, Draw a table Insert the elements/attributes into the table as headings Find as many variations of attributes as possible within the columns under each heading.

Example 1[7]: The order to provide street lighting in the historical centre of a town is given. What does attribute listing in this case practically mean? The following elements may be found: energy supply, the bulb style, the material of the poles, the bulb size, light intensity, the kind of installation.
Energy supply
Electric power supply from the city net Solar photovoltaic power water power wind power gas petrol organic substances batteries Solid fuels Fuel cells

Bulb Style
modern medieval Art Nouveau

Pole Material
ceramics wood metal stone bamboo glass plastic

Bulb Size
large medium low slim

Light intensity
high middle low changing

Kind of installation
Fixed to the ground Suspended across the street Suspended between buildings Attached to buildings Mobile


Attribute listing is a creative method to find new ideas to solve problems and to find innovative products and services. Therefore, this method can be very usefully combined with a brainstorming session. The core idea is to forget everything you have learned and retained when thinking about a possible solution. Thirdly, it is necessary to Identify alternative ways of achieving each attribute, either by conventional enquiry, or via an idea-generating technique e.g. brainstorming. Combine one or more of these alternative ways of achieving the required attributes and try to come up with a new approach to the product or process being worked on. For example, the combination of solar photovoltaic power system with modern style bulb, wood for pole material, medium bulb size, middle light intensity with the pole fixed to the ground. Discuss the feasibility of implementing these alternatives. You will have to break up an existing product, service or system into its elements. You have to ask: Is this element of an object or a structure necessary for its function? The elements have certain characteristics/attributes (form, material etc.) Are there any other possibilities and ways to create this element?

Example 2[8]: The attributes of a customer service desk include opening hours, friendliness of service and availability of literature. You could change the opening hours to weekends (but closed during low hours during the week). Friendliness could be improved by keeping records of people asking for help and then asking them later how things went. And so on.

What happens when we put elements with changed attributes together? For this purpose, the elements and possible attributes are listed in a table. We might arrive at surprisingcompositions from the table, not all will work but some of them will lead to completely new products, services and structures. A Dimensional Attribute List applicable to a number of products [10]. Weight Rust resistance Length Color Water resistance Materials Style Durability Shock resistance Heat tolerance Explosiveness Flammability Aroma Translucence Buoyancy Hang ability Recharge ability Flexibility Malleability Compressibility

3. What are the success factors? (Dos and Donts)

Our thinking is very often limited to standard expectations and characteristics. For innovation, we have to call into question these normal characteristics. Very often, we consider prerequisites for solving a problem as given without reflection on whether they are appropriate in the situation. If we try to skip one or more of those prerequisites, or try to give them other characteristics, we can find surprising and creative solutions! [9].



4. Case study The making of a new lamp [1].
The starting point for this might be to carry out a morphological analysis.


Set up the properties of the new product.

Properties of a lamp might be power supply, bulb type, light intensity, size, style, finish, material, shade, etc. Set these properties out as column headings on a table


Give possible variations for each property by brainstorming.


Set up a table.

Power Supply
Battery Mains Solar Generator Crank Gas Oil/Petrol Flame

Bulb Type
Halogen Bulb Daylight Coloured

Light Intensity
Low Medium High Variable

Very Large Large Medium Small Handheld

Modern Antique Roman Art Nouveau Industrial Ethnic

Black White Metallic Terracotta Enamel Natural Fabric

Associated Material
Metal Ceramic Concrete Bone Glass Wood Stone Plastic


Make up different combinations

Interesting combinations might be: Solar powered/battery, medium intensity, daylight bulb - possibly used in shops to allow customers to see the true color of products for sale e.g. clothes; Large hand cranked arc lights - used in developing countries, or far from a mains power supply; A ceramic oil lamp in Roman style - used in themed restaurants, resurrecting the olive oil lamps of 2000 years ago; or A normal table lamp designed to be painted, wallpapered or covered in fabric so that it matches the style of a room perfectly.


5. List of References
[2] Elizabeth D. Smolensky and Brian H. Kleiner , 1995, How to train people to think more creatively, Management Development Review, Volume 8 Number 6 pp. 2833

6. Glossary
Brainstorming is a group creativity technique designed to generate a large number of ideas for the solution to a problem. Morphological analysis or General Morphological Analysis is a method developed by Fritz Zwicky (1967, 1969) for exploring all the possible solutions to a multi-dimensional, non-quantified, complex problem. Matrix analysis methods may be applied to the analysis of experimental data concerning group structure when these data indicate relationships which can be depicted by line diagrams such as sociograms.

Web sites:

[1]http://www.mycoted.com/Attribute_Listing [3]http://members.tripod.com/~eng50411/ psolving.htm [4]http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/ 2570/family/the_elements_of_creativity_attributes_ listing_method.html [5]http://for-creativity.blogspot.com/2007/09/ elements-of-creativity-attributes.html [6]http://www.cmctraining.org/articles_ view.asp?article_id=55&sid=0. [7] http://www.mindtools.com/pages/Reviews/Creati ngNewProductsandServices.htm [8]http://www.eirma.org/members/learninggroups/ lg03-creat/Learngroup_creat_follow-up/RamonVullings-creativity_tool_catalogue.pdf [9] http://www.4pm.pl/page/37/index.html [10] http://road.uww.edu/road/zhaoy/old%20course/ Chapters%209&11.ppt

7. Keywords
attribute listing quality improvement brainstorming product innovation creativity techniques idea generation

8. Questions Question 1:
List the steps of the attribute listing technique



Question 2:
What other techniques can be used in conjunction with attribute listing?

Question 3:
Which are the benefits of using attribute listing for the development of a new product?

Question 4:
Which of the following components belong to a dimensional attribute list of a new street lamp: Tick Battery Bulb type Cost Answer: Battery, Bulb type