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How to invent and innovate as an individual, employee, or corporation

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In a given company, ~1% of employees produce 99% of patents.

Thus, individuals who have mastered the skill of inventing and patenting are incredibly valuable!

Regardless of the myths, innovation is a learn-able skill.

How can we become inventors?
How can we produce inventions as employees?
How can we encourage inventions as business owners?

I address each of these questions in this presentation, referencing useful books on the subject as well as my own experience as Technical Chair of the Patent Committee for Nortel Networks’ EDN as well as being named inventor on over 80 patents issued and pending.

Published in: Design, Business, Technology
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How to invent and innovate as an individual, employee, or corporation

  1. 1. Invention and Innovation 1 Dr. Tal Lavian http://cs.berkeley.edu/~tlavian tlavian@cs.berkeley.edu UC Berkeley Engineering, CET
  2. 2. Fail your way to Success 2 “Many people dream of success. To me, success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the one percent of your work which results only from the ninety-nine percent that is called failure. -Soichiro Honda, founder, Honda Motors
  3. 3. Who invents? 3 In a given company, ~1% of employees produce 99% of patents. Thus, individuals who have mastered the skill of inventing and patenting are incredibly valuable! How can we become inventors? How can we produce inventions as employees? How can we encourage inventions as business owners?
  4. 4. Typical Barriers to Innovation 4 There is no shared understanding of what innovation means Little consensus for roles and responsibilities around innovation Task versus system orientation Long term IT contracts often focus on SLA’s, not innovation
  5. 5. Typical Barriers to Innovation 5 Volume-based revenue streams view innovation as counter growth Management incentives depend on current unit contribution, not long-term Main street financial metrics (revenue growth and earnings) make entrepreneurship difficult Sales-driven market development strategy
  6. 6. Typical Barriers to Innovation 6 Failure to recognize innovation “as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practiced”:    No systematic scanning for changes No systematic analysis and exploitation of opportunities No systematic commercialization of innovation Sales pipeline determines portfolio (market has to exist already)  Rely on others to create new markets Lack of investment dollars for innovation Innovator’s dilemma: new things look too small compared to existing business
  7. 7. Cultural Challenges 7 There are significant cultural challenges: • Between the researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs • Between all of the above and investors and owners • And these relationships change over time
  8. 8. The Myths of Innovation By Scott Berkun 8 Describes the methodology of realizing the potential of modern ideas. Ideas never stand alone Ideas without implementation are not inventions The goodness of the invention is always counter-balanced by the ease of its adoption Inventing and implementing always require hard, consistent work.
  9. 9. Stages of Innovation Diffusion 9 We distinguish among:  Early adopters: More educated, innovative individuals who gain from technology.  Followers: The majority of adopters who see its success and want to join in.  Laggards: Less-advanced individuals who either do not adopt or adopt very late and may lose because of the technology.
  10. 10. Factors Affecting Invention Diffusion 10 Heterogeneity of potential adopters (size, location, land quality, and human capital). The individual decision process aimed at improving well-being (profitability, well-being, risk minimization). Dynamic forces that make technology more attractive (learning by doing, learning by using, network benefits).
  11. 11. And Suddenly, the Inventor Appeared 11 By Genrich Altshuller (TRIZ method) Suggests methods of thinking that can resolve many technical contradictions:      Do it inversely Change the state or physical property Do it in advance If it cannot be done completely, do it partially Fragment and/or consolidate TRIZ focuses on physical and chemical solutions
  12. 12. Elements of Invention 12 Technical solution to a problem New Distinct from known solutions Produce useful effect
  13. 13. How to invent? 13 Consider a problem worth solving  Ex: gooey candy melts at high temperatures. How to dip in warm melted chocolate to form chocolate covered candy? Identify physical/technical contradiction Resolve them without creating new contradictions!  One solution can be to separate conflicting requirements using time or space.  Ex: first freeze the candy center. Dip into chocolate. Store at room temp to defrost center. Source: And Suddenly, the Inventor Appeared, by Gentrich Altshuller
  14. 14. Discovery Inventions 14  Mental Process and Real World Testing  The Scientific Method          What is the Problem? Hypothesis Methods of observation Experimental methods Obtain results Interpret results: hypothesis testing Revise hypothesis Modify study design Reiterate
  15. 15. How to Identify the Real Problem 15 Rewrite the problem in 10 different ways List causes of the problem Look at what is influencing the product Redefine the problem in order to come up with different, innovative solutions  “service is too slow” vs. “customers are too demanding” Set innovation goalposts that have a variety of solutions to your problem between them
  16. 16. Most inventions improve existing systems 16 How to improve a perfectly functional mechanism?  The 4 “periods” of technological improvement 1. 2. 3. 4. Selection of parts for the system. (Make it work) Improvements of parts. (Make it work faster/cheaper/smaller) Dynamization of the system. (Make it dynamic/adaptable/mobile and moveable) Self-development of the system. (Make it self-adaptive) Source: And Suddenly, the Inventor Appeared, by Gentrich Altshuller
  17. 17. Improve without impairing! 17 Inventors improve a single part or characteristic of the system without impairing other parts or characteristics of the system or adjacent systems Source: And Suddenly, the Inventor Appeared, by Gentrich Altshuller
  18. 18. Improvements from organizational perspective 18 • Cost leadership path • Separating the organization from others by providing the lowest cost option • Product/Service differentiation path • provide the most unique products/services available • can be achieved by marketing unique products, branding these products, or holding a specialized patent • Customer segmentation path • Being the only organization to target a unique customer segment within a market
  19. 19. Improvements from organizational perspective 19 • Superior process path • Offering the fastest, highest quality, or most desired customer service in the marketplace • Superior distribution path • Offering the customer a preferred distribution and delivery option
  20. 20. How to Decide upon Future Destination 20 • • • • • • • Identify key factors to the success/failure of your organization in the marketplace. Identify how to take advantage of future marketplaces, trends, and key success factors. Change your view of the customer, product line, service level, etc. Find new options by asking extreme questions. What if the customer does not need us anymore? Determine what you want your organization to be famous for. Define the organization’s future in a meaningful way.
  21. 21. How to Uncover Insights 21 Customer needs- select the customer group of your interest and list their needs/problems and how you want to solve those needs/problems Emerging technology- figure out how emerging technology can be advantageous to your customer base The marketplace- figure out how your industry is changing/growing Your organizational needs- find out what your organization would need to fill the customer needs with the new technology and changing marketplace
  22. 22. Successful Business Thought Process 22 yesterday’s problem  today’s solution  tomorrow’s problem  near-future solution future problem  future solution… Tomorrow’s problems can be predicted from the present situation.
  23. 23. Considering Trends 23 Fad- short term mania for a product/service that quickly dies off; good for quick cash Shift- easier to see and predict that Fads. Last longer. Change in direction (shifting from television to internet as source of entertainment) Leap- dramatic change in direction. Giant step towards future. Hard to predict (like Human genome product)
  24. 24. How to See the BIG Picture as an Employee 24  The BIG idea must be simple  The simpler it is the easier for customers to understand it  Idea must be “new and better”  Needs to have a quality that is important enough to be a selling point to clients  Idea must be proven to manager and potential customers  Even if it is a new idea some parts of it will have existed before in some industry  Idea must be quickly and easily implemented to the existing system
  25. 25. How an Individual can Achieve Systems Thinking 25  Look at how your task is related to part of a bigger process  Figure out how your project is related to the organization in which you work  Look at how your work relates to the market place How will it affect your company’s other products in the marketplace?  How will competitors react? 
  26. 26. Where do ideas come from? 26 Over 60% of inventors get their ideas from: Brainstorming Collaboration Experimentation The study of other fields Journaling (writing down their thoughts) Source: The Myth of Innovation, by Scott Berkun
  27. 27. Seven Sources of Innovation 27 • “The unexpected —the unexpected success, the unexpected failure, the unexpected outside event; • The incongruity —between reality as it actually is and reality as it is perceived to be or as it ‘ought to be’; • Innovation based on process need; • Changes in industry or market structure that catch everyone unawares... • Demographics (population changes); • Changes in perception, mood, and meaning; • New knowledge, both scientific and nonscientific.” Peter Drucker: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  28. 28. Deciding Which Ideas to Pursue 28 Identifying the real problem is important in finding the real, lasting solution to the problem. Questions to ask from a business perspective: Is there a customer need?  Is it feasible?  Can we generate significant revenues and profits from this?  Does it play to our strengths?  What technical challenges would we face to do this in the real world? 
  29. 29. How to Sell your idea 29 Understand your audience- there are four different type of people 1. cares about the numbers 2. cares about the tasks 3. cares about the people 4. cares about the BIG-picture strategy Distinguish between adults and kids Adults care about the product’s features first and brand second  Kids care about branding first and features second (kids wants what’s cool) 
  30. 30. How to Sell your idea Cont. 30 Understand that everyone goes through multiple phases before buying an idea/product Prepare a prototype- this will help your ptential buyers fully understand your idea Presentation- keep it simple Don’t overload the buyers with facts  Limit your use of jargon Create a demand for your idea as a solution to a  problem  Sell the problem so that the buyer will WANT the solution
  31. 31. How to Sell your idea cont. 31 BE passionate Connect with your potential idea-buyers
  32. 32. Assessing Value – Influential Factors Likelihood of third parties using the solution (now or in the future) Demand for the solution (cost reduction and/or new feature) Whether “base invention” patented (fundamental v. improvement) Key enabling/lynchpin solution Whether the invention is of general applicability Whether the invention is useful to a key competitor 32
  33. 33. Assessing Value – Influential Factors (cont) Breadth of the solution (available alternatives) Likelihood of solution being an essential feature of an industry standard Whether infringement is detectable Whether invention outside core industry Simplicity of solution Importance of innovation to future company products and/or services 33
  34. 34. Technical Documentation of Inventions 34  Conception:  “Formation in the mind of an inventor of a permanent embodiment of an operative invention.”  Invention  Creative Inventions • E.g., a space ship, computer software design, new pencil, etc.  Discovery Inventions • Asking questions of the real world and getting answers • Design an experiment
  35. 35. Technical Documentation of Inventions 35  Actual Reduction to practice    For “self-enabling” inventions, draw it.   Test the hypothesis; provide “working example:” “A did B” (strong) Interpret the results   E.g., a pipettor, a gene chip, a bioinformatics program, new chemical structure. If you can draw it, you can make it. Do the Experiment   (for Inventorship, Novelty and Non-Obviousness) E.g., build it, clone it, sequence it, express it, test it Eliminate confounders in the experiment (stronger) • Negative controls • Positive controls • Calibrate the study methods, reproduce results Generalize the discovery to other areas  Provide a variety of working examples (still stronger)
  36. 36. Technical Documentation of Inventions 36 Constructive Reduction to Practice (Filing date)    (For Novelty, Prior Art and Inventorship) File a patent application Description State of the filed before the invention  Contribution embodied by the invention   Prophetic examples “A does B” If it is not apparent that A does B and there is no proof, then this is merely a “place holder”. “Prove up” the invention later (CIP, Declarations showing actual results)  Teach others to make and use  Don’t keep the “best mode” secret   Claims  Metes and bounds of the “property right”
  37. 37. Technical Advice on Scope 37 Is the invention complete?     Theory may be incorrect or subject to revision Methods may have problems (reproducibility, accuracy) Results may be inconclusive (e.g., scattered data) Conclusions may not be fully justified (wishful thinking?)  Scope of invention is hard to ascertain in advance  More study is always needed in other/related areas   E.g., breast cancer, prostate cancer, adenocarcinomas, etc. Revise hypotheses or theories  Broaden based on mechanism?  “Equivalents” are hard to ascertain  Infringement under the Doctrine of Equivalents:  Function, way, result
  38. 38. HOW TO KILL A CREATIVE IDEA 38 Our own self-criticism is often so strong that many novel and unusual ideas never even reach our conscious awareness. 1. Don't be ridiculous. 2. We tried that before. 3. It costs too much. 4. That's beyond our responsibility. 5. It's too radical a change. 6. We don't have time. 7. We're too small for it. 8. That will make other equipment obsolete. 9. Not practical for operating people. 10. Our competitors are not doing it 11. We've never done it before. 12. Let’s get back to reality. 13. That’s not our problem. 14. Why change it, it's still working okay 15. You're two years ahead of your time. 16. We're not ready for that. 17. It isn't in the budget. 18. Can't teach an old dog new tricks. 19. Top management will never go for it. 20. We'll be the laughing stock. 21. We did all right without it. 22. Let's form a committee. 23. Has anyone else ever tried it? Adapted from Measurable Performance Systems, Inc.
  39. 39. Summary 39 Innovation is a skill that can be learned by practice Innovation-oriented thinking can help individuals, employees, and business-owners Realizing an idea’s potential requires “selling” on the part of all inventors.

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