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10.7.3 Opportunist

Some companies have an opportunist strategy and aim to identify new market opportunities, needs and demands. Rather than developing new products though, the inventiveness of such companies lies in finding new outlets for existing products. UK examples include Sock Shop and Tie Rack from the 1980s, and more recently the small companies that have made a profit selling a variety of ring tones for mobile phones.


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10.7 Business strategy

Invention can be driven by a company's business strategy. In descending order of inventiveness the main strategies are first to market, follow the leader, and opportunist.


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10.6 What drives invention in organisations?

Much invention and nearly all innovation nowadays take place inside organisations – from small start-up companies to well-established multinationals. This is mainly because increasingly invention and innovation require access to technology and resources beyond the scope of most individuals. But it is also because competitiveness and survival depend on the continual improvement of a company's products and processes. This provides a strong incentive for companies to invest in both the increme
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10.5 Desire to help others

This is a less common motivation but it shows not everyone is driven by money.

In 1991 the inventor Trevor Baylis saw a BBC documentary about the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. What was needed was a way of broadcasting the safe-sex message to people in areas without electricity and where batteries for a radio could cost a month's wages. Solar power wouldn't necessarily help as most people who could get to a radio listened in the evening after work. While absorbing this information he ima
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10.3 Constructive discontent

Inventive ideas often arise because existing technology or design proves to be unsatisfactory in some way – perhaps too costly, too inefficient or too dangerous. Using a product or process for a while can reveal inadequacies in its performance and is often vital preparation for producing ideas for improvements. You may have become dissatisfied either with an existing product or process or with the fact that something doesn't exist to meet a need you've identified. But creative individuals g
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1.2.1 Influences on how we perceive diagrams

A few people find diagrams unhelpful; but many people who regularly use words find the discipline of conveying ideas in diagrammatic form both sharpens their understanding of the ideas and opens their eyes to alternative views. Diagrams are, like words, intensely personal ways of sharing information and seeing someone else's ideas in diagrammatic form can give a new view of what they are trying to communicate. Diagrams can also suggest new and unexpected relationships between ideas about a si
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Introduction

Pictures speak louder than words. But how can you use diagrams to help you? This unit looks at how diagrams can be used to represent information and ideas about complex situations. You will learn how to read, draw and present diagrams to help illustrate how ideas or processes are connected.

This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Systems thinking and practice: diagramming (T552) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us
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12.1.1 Survey questionnaires

Questionnaires are lists of questions that enable information to be gathered efficiently from a relatively large number of respondents. Most questionnaires require a fixed type of response, such as a choice between available answers, or along a scale of response. For example, a product design questionnaire might suggest, ‘I found the product easy to use’ and provide a five-point scale of response from ‘agree strongly’ to ‘disagree strongly’. Or a question might be, ‘how often do
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10 User research techniques: observing users

This section introduces an alternative to basing user research on yourself. This is observation of experienced and inexperienced users either in experimental or natural situations.

One way around the difficulties of basing research on oneself is to observe other people acting as users and to choose naive or different kinds of experienced users, depending on what information you want to gather.

Begin by identifying those experienced users who will be able to provide you with releva
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9.1.1 Point of view

Decide first of all which user's point of view you are taking: consumer, operator, maintenance person, and so on. You may want to make several trips, from different user perspectives, or try special user perspectives, such as that of a disabled person. It is usually easiest to take a consumer's trip because you may need special permission, access, and perhaps skills, before you can take any other.


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8.1.1 Visibility

Recall that a key usability design feature identified by Donald Norman – from his analysis of using everyday objects such as doors – was visibility. An everyday object such as a door, or a control such as a button on a product should appear to be obvious about how it is used, and indeed it should perform that obvious function. For example, is it obvious how you insert a disc into a player? Is it obvious how you switch the machine on, adjust volume, and so on?


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8.1 Making usable products

This section reveals that many modern products need to usable by our minds as much as our bodies. Products need to be understandable, and present information and feedback in meaningful ways.

A lot of ergonomics research is aimed at establishing guidelines, standards or rules that can be applied by designers in a variety of situations. Where this applies to the physical use of products, much of it is based on standard body measurements. These body measurements are known as anthropomet
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4 Who are the users?

This section reveals that ‘users’ can include a wide variety of people – not just the final purchasers or consumers of a product. The section also makes the case for strong user representation in the design process.

Of course, it is not only me who uses the various products in my home; other people use them as well, both members of the family and visitors. Sometimes the range of users of a product, and their different needs, can be diverse. And in addition to the obvious or intend
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5.7.1 Mixed oxidant gases system

This is a relatively new system of disinfection. It involves electrolysis of high-purity NaCl brine to produce a mixture of chlorine dioxide, ozone and hypochlorite. This mixture is separated within the electrochemical cell by a membrane, or by exploiting density difference, and is then metered into the water requiring disinfection. The mixed oxidant gases are generated on demand and this is a great safety advantage, compared with having storage tanks of chlorine on site. The source for the d
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3.5.3 Protozoa

Protozoa are microscopic single cell animals. They utilise solid substances and bacteria as a food source. They can only function aerobically, and in a stream which contains little organic degradable matter they can become a predominant microbial type. They play an important part in sewage treatment where they remove free-swimming bacteria and help to produce a clear effluent.

In an aquatic environment, there are three main types of protozoa:

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3.5.2 Bacteria

Bacteria are organisms of special significance to the study of clean and polluted waters because they break down organic matter. While most of them are not harmful to humans, some bacteria (e.g. Clostridium) are pathogenic. Most bacteria are retained on a filter of pore size 0.45 μm and all bacteria are trapped on a filter of 0.22 μm. They are important in sewage treatment, and in solid waste disposal. They are extremely abundant in almost all parts of the aquatic en
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3.5.1 Algae

Algae are photosynthetic organisms that are generally aquatic; they are primary producers. Many freshwater algae are of microscopic size, but when amassed can be seen as a green, brown or blue-green scum. Blue-green algae are capable of producing toxins and these have caused the death of wild animals, farm livestock and domestic pets which have consumed the contaminated water. The toxins can produce a painful rash on human skin. The extract below shows what happened off the west coast
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3.5 Biological characteristics of natural waters

In addition to the easily visible plants and animals which live in or on a river, there are many small and often microscopic species which play a vital role in maintaining the health of a river. Their relevance to water quality is discussed further in the sections that follow.


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3.3 The experiential model of learning

The main proponent of this approach to learning, David Kolb, put forward a theory which he intended to be sufficiently general to account for all forms of learning (Kolb, 1984). He argued that there are four distinctive kinds of knowledge and that each is associated with a distinctive kind of learning. The four kinds of learning are:

  • concrete experiencing

  • reflective observation

  • abstract analysis

  • activ
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2.2.3 Doing

Finally, learning how to act or perform in particular ways is essential for the development of all kinds of intellectual and physical skills. For example, we need to be able to learn how to create a variety of kinds of written communication, or how to present complex information in a clear diagram, or to decide how a team will structure its work, and so on. No amount of explanation of how to compose a clear technical report, for example, would provide convincing proof that we could actually p
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