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What to invent?

You, probably, have already chosen an area for your innovation
(if not, that post is for you) . What is it? Aerospace? Robotics? Or, may, be nano/biotech? Please share your passion in comments. I am really interested!

No matter is it relevant to your current profession or not. If it is, you have the advantage of experience. If not, you have the advantage of flexibility. Not both, unfortunately. Because we earn experience at cost of flexibility. This is a basic property of neural networks, and our brain is not an exclusion.

If you are not familiar with this area it is completely OK. Many great inventions were made in new fields for their authors.  But of course, you will have to study this area. And you have to be smart in your research. You can save years looking not for all abyss of information, but for answers to the right questions.

Let's listen to advice of Boris Zlotin and Alla Zusman - top class professional inventors, who solved great problems for companies like HP, Honeywell, Xerox, Lockheed Martin, etc. They state: asking right questions can provide you with deep and right vision of  key problems in some area in a few days. And this is truly amazing and has proven many times by them, others and myself.

This is possible due to one thing that most people, and even most inventors do not suspect: a deterministic nature of technology development. In simple words, there are objective historic tendencies, often referred as laws of technology evolution. They are of course not as rigid as physics laws, but it does not make them less powerful and less useful.

Ancient people did not believe in any order in nature. And, although they observed planets for centuries, and even tried to measure them, they couldn't understand their motion. Contrary, if you consider Newton laws, you only need to ask for a few numbers to obtain huge amount of detailed, instrumental knowledge about past, present and future of certain planet.

If one think about innovation in terms of insight and luck, he or she will need to gather infinite volume of information to obtain full picture of area. If you understand technology development laws, you need a very few data to derive all necessary findings.

Can I teach you how to do it? Definitely, yes. But, definitely, not in a single blog post.

The laws are formulated in terms of systems. Let's call a system any set of interacting objects. We can refer these objects as subsystems, because every of them is a system of some objects too. Every system have subsystems and is part of supersystem. Let's consider the next example.

Someone wants to invent new virtual reality glasses. And he or she doesn't not know yet, what to invent here certainly. New OLED matrix? Or new exterior design? Or, may be, just a kind of new firmware? Let's use system approach to identify substantial objects here. VR glasses are a system of case, controller, displays, optical subsystem, mechanical adjustment subsystem, data transfer system, and may be some others. 

The picture below, found on the web, displays parts of VR glasses not in a system manner. It is not intuitive. In system approach you usually split subsystems by function. Thus this picture serve to depict "how complex and cool are the glasses", but picture, showing subsystems should show them split to functional groups or layers. 

System approach is about obtaining clarity from complexity, not contrary.

VR glasses are a part of several supersystems. One of them is " entertaining user", including evident objects: glasses, user, computer, multimedia software, content, room, may be, armchair, as far as not so evident like air, moisture (I hate sweating of lenses), gravity, etc. The threshold for inclusion object to system or excluding from it is a bit arbitrary, but general rule is importance of interaction of this object with others. Does it substantially influence system working, or not? 

Another supersystem is "retail store", including glasses, shop shelf, seller (with more or less ability to explain features of this glasses to buyers), lighting, dust, etc. Other supersystems can be found in situations of transportation, application development, manufacturing, utilisation, medical approval and certification, etc. These supersystems aggregate to super-supersystems, like "glass lifecycle", "our enterprise", "environment", "media industry", etc - ending at "the Universe".

You can discriminate a sub-subsystems in a subsystems. Optical subsystem consists of a number of mechanical and optical parts. Case is an assembly of different metal, plastic, leather and other parts. Diving into a matrix, you find a pixel, consisting of semiconductor layers, which contain different kinds of atoms, consisting of electrons and nuclei, etc. 

Systems form a kind of  "multihierarchy" reflecting their interaction and co-ordination. It is a very powerful tool of situation understanding, widely used by professional inventors. You may want to apply this approach to your beloved area. Please determine subsystems and supersystems for all things you want to enhance by invention. As you, probably, have already understood, in any good (or service) there are thousands of systems at different levels, where invention can take a place. Try to generate as many as possible system views at different levels of detail. In the next post we are going to apply exhaustive filters to leave just prospective (for your invention) ones.

Generation of abundance of ideas and filtering best of them is essential nature of creativity. We find it at every step of invention process. It is just a skill and it can be trained. Thus the better moment to start training it is now.

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