Methodology

Functional Lens

At the foundation of GEN3's methodology lies a functional approach to defining any engineering system – which could be either a product or a manufacturing process.

What is a function?

A function is an action performed by one material object to change or maintain a parameter of another material object – to push, to block, to move, to hold, etc. By depicting a system in functional terms, it is possible to translate customer parameters into their underlying physical parameters, which become the targets for technical innovation.

Systems operate for the sake of performing functions. Components in an existing system are specific "solutions" to the underlying functional requirements. Therefore, to improve a system (and find superior solutions to achieve the same function), our approach focuses on the original functional need, rather than the components. This focus on functions broadens the potential solution set.

Why are functions important?

Our functional approach to problem definition is important along two dimensions:

  1. By depicting a system in functional terms, it provides an objective basis for identifying deficiencies in the current system. These deficiencies help to illuminate the underlying key problems that are critical to solve. They can be expressed in terms of harmful functions to eliminate, contradictions to resolve, or even useful, but inadequate functions to be improved. Alternatively, function modeling can be used to depict a superior functional architecture, thus creating new problems to be solved.
  2. Using functional indexing to express key problems provides a roadmap for navigating the external world of global knowledge for potential solutions and enabling technologies. This is possible because functions are universal across industries. As a result, functions become the means for reaching beyond the domain of the client's business and technical expertise.

Where can functions lead us?

But how do functions lead us to potential solutions that lie beyond the client's domain? Using a tool called Function-Oriented Search, we are able to identify industries or fields of science and engineering that have successfully dealt with functionally similar challenges.

Read about our other core innovation processes and guiding principles.

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