More-of-the-Same or a Breaktrough Innovation?

 

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In  a recent post What’s (not) an Innovation? we mentioned that an innovation consists of a new combination of

  • a function – the innovation has the purpose of satisfying a need
  • a principle – there is a mechanism or idea how to deliver that function
  • a market – the innovation has a value that can be traded.

But still remains the question:

  • When is an innovation really breaking patterns more than other innovations?
  • When is an innovation incremental?
  • When radical?
  • When is a technical solution just more-of-the-same routine engineering?
  • What is the difference with a scientific invention?
  • When is it patentable?

Valeri Souchkov presented a new classification scheme for solutions or inventions, based on the original classification by Genrich Altshuller.

world-conference-triz-future-2008-57-november-2008-university-of-twente-enschede-the-netherlands-5-638Principles (scientific discoveries) cannot be patented. The levels of inventions 2 to 4 are patentable. So, a new combination of a principle with a function and a market can patented, regardless the fact that the new combination of principle and function in another market already exists. Below you will find 4 examples of patentable solutions, based on the same principle and the same function, but with different applications. That is to say: fulfilling different needs and as such, serving different markets.

Principle: quickly increasing/decreasing pressure, the Function that is used is to remove things; 

Applications (market):

  1.  remove seeds from peppers
  2.  remove shells of cedar nuts
  3.  remove sunflower seeds
  4.  remove dust
  5. splitting imperfect crystals

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Actually, in the examples above we see here concept extraction at work, or in other words “How to Search for (Patentable) Ideas”:

  1. Look for the concept behind an idea (concept= a function and a principle or mechanism)
  2. Apply the concept to other areas (product/market combinations)

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What if it was Great? Under-Celebrated Heroes!

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Have you noticed that in this blog the title of people who we refer to is not used? This is a conscious decision to make the reader evaluate the ideas rather than the person who is suggesting something.

Of course, this is a bit tricky since if you refer to a well-known person, everyone already knows all about the person. But the underlying idea is that readers should focus on the ideas rather than the person and what he or she has achieved so far in life.

A skilled thinker has developed the habit to always looking for positive, negative as well as interesting aspects with an idea. And a skilled thinker also knows that ideas are seldom perfect but can be used as a stepping stone to develop a better idea. Driven by curiosity there is a continuous search for interesting aspects.

In theory, ideas should be so powerful that regardless of the messenger or medium an idea can stand on its own and change the world. But in real life, great ideas are ignored and not evaluated. A famous person can suggest something mundane and still get lots of attention, while less famous people’s ideas are ignored. At a workplace, an idea suggested by a manager or team leader is regarded as great, but if an employee says the same thing it is ignored or regarded as moaning, non-constructive etc.

TED Talks have decided to create a platform of under-celebrated heroes. The talks are given anonymously. This is an opportunity for people who have the knowledge and the ideas but not the celebrity status to put forward their ideas. By not knowing who is suggesting something, you have to focus on the ideas and the message. Of course, this is something that we should do all the time.

Great ideas may also never reach a larger audience since a person may not like the spotlight or they may fear to lose their job or friends and loved ones. The chance to anonymously put forward your ideas and see if they can fly by themselves may encourage more people to give anonymous TED Talks.

The idea to let ideas speak for themselves is not new. The document Common Sense is a wonderful example. It was published anonymously during the American Revolution in 1776, written by Thomas Paine, it urged America colonists to declare independence from Great Britain.

What ideas would you like to share with the world – anonymously? What do you suggest to make life on Earth better?

And how do you practice on exploring the message and the idea rather than the person who suggested the idea?

P.S. What if we let the ideas in this blog stand for themselves and take away the name and the “About” page. How will you find our blog posts?

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Photo: IBM Poughkeepsie site, with the word “THINK”.

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Where to Steal for the Best Ideas – Idea Holiday

stealingMaybe you believe that stealing ideas is not very creative or original.Or even that it is unethical. However, there are idea banks where people post, exchange, discuss and polish new ideas, just for the intellectual pleasure of devising ideas and the social rewards of sharing them. Some people approach idea banks just to get inspiration and getting into the mood of making a creative effort for something they are working on.

A good example of ‘taking a holiday” from our daily short time and quick solution oriented thinking can be found in the Siemens Ideas Bank, which is focused on technologies for basic needs. You will find inspirational ideas about:

  • Energy
  • Waste management and recycling
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Water and waste water
  • Health care
  • Housing and construction
  • ICT-solutions
  • Integral solutions

Other, sometimes hilarious but also serious ideas can be found in Halfbakery, like the mini segway executive chair. Simple and practical ideas can be found in An Idea A Day, like political ideas to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

For ideas about social innovation – the design of social arrangements – look at the book The Global Ideas Bank – 500 ways to change the world.

So take a holiday and visit interesting ideas!

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