July  2005     Edition 3
Elements of Invention

Einstein’s genius

in creating the “Special Theory Of Relativity” wasn’t that he invented a new science, but he saw the relationships between the works of a dozen other scientists and put it together.   In today’s terminology he “connected the dots” of known theories and experimental results to explain what was being observed.   From this he was able to predict new outcomes. 

Inventions don’t come out of thin air

, but are created from the application and association of knowledge, fueled by a need, and generated through cognitive thinking.   Put another way, the technique of inventing includes four elements; Knowledge, Association, Need, and Thinking.

Example Headscratcher:

  “How do we gain market share against our two top competitors”.  This is a “How do we do it better” Headscratcher.    The solution for this Headscratcher is obtained through a series of several techniques, including “Invention”; resulting perhaps in new functionality or a delivery system.  Let’s take a closer look at Invention.

The Four Elements of Invention:

Knowledge

:  The collection of facts and experiences you have.  The more knowledge one has access to, the more powerful the choices will be.   “Knowledge is Power”. 

Association

:  Understanding the relationships, connections and trends between and among knowledge elements.  Association is “Connecting the dots”.

Need

:  Seeking a solution begins with someone wanting one, but finding and implementing a solution requires a need for one.   “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

Thinking

:   Purposeful thought for the objective of creating a result.   “Think”.

Putting it together:  


Knowledge:

  You need experienced knowledge experts on the team;   A sample of “Knowledge” for the example is an understanding of why customers buy from the competition, and the experiences in selling against them.

Association

:  For the example, “connect the dots” between customer problems, decision criteria and buying patterns with your solution compared with your competitors.    Make sure you or someone on your team is really good at association.  This includes those who are good at spotting cause and effect, patterns and trending, such as architects, analysts and detectives.

Need

:  Examine the customer’s need too.  Their “invention” to solve a problem, just like your “invention” to create a solution, will also be driven by a need.   

Think!

  Get “Thinking” part of your organization.  When Thomas Watson joined IBM in 1914, then called the “Computing Tabulating Recording Company” he coined the term “THINK”.  Watson said “Thought has been the father of every advance since time began.  ‘I didn’t think’, has cost the world millions of dollars”.  The slogan THINK became ingrained in the employee base, complemented with large block-letter signs with the word “THINK” on it, eventually translated into dozens of languages distributed thought-out IBM worldwide.

The Takeaway
:  Inventing in business isn’t something done in the laboratory with white coats, or in boardrooms, but is a process lead by those who recognize the skills needed to create solutions.   Sometimes those skills are contained within a single individual, sometimes within a team.  So long as the four elements are present, invention will happen.

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