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



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




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)



Logic Bubblegum and Mental Inertia

One of the most powerful concepts to explain creativity is that “Logic Bubble”.

The term was coined in Edward de Bono’s book Future Positive (1979).  All thinking takes place within a perception space,  within that space everything looks logic from the perspective of the thinker. The logic bubble is formed by values about how the world should be assumptions about how the world is as is, his education, her experiences and cultural luggage.

A new idea lies outside the logic bubble. It cannot be finding within the current boundaries of perception. It is not “logic”; however, it should be in hindsight.

The “logic” of a new idea has to be reconstructed in another “Logic Bubble”

Searching for new ideas requires not thinking harder or more logical or even smarter, but thinking outside the Logic Bubble. A perception shift is needed. The standard pattern of thinking has to be broken.

The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving do have a  likewise concept – Mental Inertia. Valeri Souchkov: “ says that mental inertia is a synonym of psychological inertia. In physics, “inertia” means that the heavier a physical body is the more difficult is to stop it or to change direction of movement of the body. Like any physical body have mass, and, respectively, inertia, our memories and mental associations expand and grow during our lifetimes, and create their own “inertia” (in other words, “thinking inertia” or “mental inertia“). In psychology, it also means a habit of standard reaction in any situation, which resembles standard, even if a situation is non-standard. The same happens with our mind: the more someone’s mind is “loaded” with memories and associations, the more difficult someone can think different and build up new creative images.
I first met this term in  Altshuller‘s work  written in the 1960-1970s. And I also met it in some papers on cognitive psychology dated approximately within the same time frame.”

Photo: “Creative Definition Magnifier” by Stuart Miles