Back in the early ’90’s, a group of psychologists, led by Ronald Finke, made an interesting discovery. When it comes to creating, people are innately better at uncovering the potential benefits of a given form than creating a new form to satisfy a given need. This discovery spurred a new thinking approach called Function Follows Form that encourages us to first create a Virtual Situation (form), and then to explore its potential benefits (function).
Function Follows Form (FFF) is a way to overcome some of the drawbacks of research-led or design-based innovation. Conventionally, product innovation begins with consumer need identification that’s then translated into functions. The product’s form is then designed to fit these functions. Consumers, however, struggle to articulate unmet needs and imagining a product that does not yet exist is virtually impossible.
How can the Function Follows Form (FFF) approach boost results?
- Visualizing the virtual situation, and deeply exploring its potential benefits, though cognitively challenging, can lead to the discovery of previously unforeseen needs, market segments, and opportunities.
- Product Commercialization – Uncover hidden value and customer needs in existing products.
- New ideas tend to be practical because they are not only based on existing knowledge and capabilities but have also been filtered for do-ability and have undergone adaptations to overcome anticipated challenges.
- It’s possible to develop a long-term innovation plan or pipeline, rather than a one-time novelty by systematically exploring many possible variations of your existing situation or product.