Another week begins, so let’s start on a fresh note and talk about ideas. It is going to be a full week for me, as I am sure it will be for you all. One of the most enjoyable thing abut my job is that I get to talk to business thought leaders on the same day that I talk to Fortune 100 execs and college students. This juxtaposition of talking to people at very different levels led me to think that it would be good to share a small set of techniques we use for combining ideas.

The four are: Fusion, Fission, Transposition and Abstraction.

Fusion – Take two or more ideas or ‘parts’ of ideas that are not usually put together and ‘fuse’ them.

Fission – Take an idea and split it into its components to see if they can stand alone, or if they are a value ‘bottle neck’ in your space. For example, you might see that there is a service component to an existing product or asset that could be a new market offering.

Transposition – Transposing is just a fancy term for lifting something out of its traditional context and putting it somewhere else and/or exchanging it. You can get some interesting effects when you consider, for example, assets that your company might consider ‘core’ and think about them being run by someone else. What does your company get in exchange and how does it do business differently?

Abstraction – This one’s a little harder. It’s about changing the level that the concept works on. Let’s think about it… say you are a company that makes really safe can-openers. Pretty simple value proposition right? But let’s think about what does a can opener mean? It means saved time, perhaps saved money (rather than making something fresh), less possibility of injury, convenience and a whole raft of other things. Now can you think of other equipment that you can extend this value proposition to? Are there are other ways you can partner with different businesses, like insurance for restaurateurs… Ok, may be the example is a stretch, but that’s what abstraction is all about.

Here’s an example of some of these techniques at work. I’ll pick on a prior client of ours, a major oil company. One of their business units has recently launched a new product/service offering called Shell HomeGenie. This is a new combination of products like web cameras, programmable appliance switches and thermostats that are OEM manufactured. The service component is a value proposition about having comfort, safety and convenience at home, through being able to control various appliances from a web portal from any computer.

Building on their traditonal value proposition of energy into a home, we can apply fusion to think about what other components might be associated with that. In this case we’re talking about energy consumption of appliances and heating/cooling, but most importantly having control of those devices. Applying Abstraction leads us to having a portal where homeowners can monitor the security of their property, as well as convenience to make their home warmer/cooler as weather conditions change, or to turn on the lights late at night.

Now that the basic concept is there, we can apply more techniques to think about how such an offering might be retailed. The natural course is to sell this via your home energy bill, but in addition new outlets such as CompUSA have been chosen – selling a boxed kit that the homeowner can install themselves. That’s energy monitoring, comfort and security in a box for a few hundred bucks. Pretty neat for a rather traditional oil company.