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3.4 Experience – making distinctions based on a tradition and constructing a history

Experience, and learning from experience, will be a major theme throughout this unit. The model of experiential learning developed by David Kolb is increasingly well known and used as a conceptual basis for the design of all sorts of processes from curricula to consultancies (Figure 32
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3.3 Appreciating your basis for understanding

In my experience, the explanation that Fell and Russell suggest (i.e. that we each construct our own version of reality and therefore cannot be an objective observer; which in turn means we have to take responsibility for our observations and explanations) is challenging for many people. When I attend workshops where these ideas are expressed for the first time, people often become angry. You may be able to identify with them. If so, please try to use your discomfort productively for your own
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9.4 Influence diagrams

I want to return to the definition of a system I used earlier: an assembly of components interconnected as if they had a purpose. In the last section, I used purpose as a way of structuring the complexity of the case study. In this section, and the sections that follow, I want to turn to the idea of interconnectedness as another way of structuring the complexity. In the case of influence diagrams, I search for interconnection in the form of influence to hold together a structure
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9.1 Making sense of complexity

This section is about finding ways of thinking about complex situations – making sense of complexity. This is a process of discovery. It involves thinking about complexity in an orderly way that allows you to enter a deeper understanding of the complexity. It goes beyond immersion in, and representation of, complexity.

The invitation I am making in this section is to move into the possibility of structuring complexity. Notice I am not suggesting there is structure in the
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7.3 Getting out of traps

Remember to date your rich picture and not to throw away any previous versions. Old versions of rich pictures provide you with a record of your developing understanding.

The next activity is an invitation to improve your rich picture by digging yourself out of any of the traps you may have fallen into. In this activity, I suggest a certain ruthlessness in reviewing your efforts so far. You should not, however, see this as an evaluation of your performance in the task. My experience is t
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18.5 Government regulations and legislation

You saw earlier in Part 2 how governments can stimulate invention by providing incentives for manufacturers to develop new products. The example given was in the field of alternative fuel vehicles in the USA and Europe. As well as influencing the development of innovations, government legislation and regulations can also affect diffusion by creating conditions that encourage consumers to buy and use particular innovations.

In the UK the government has introduced a mixture of incentives
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18.1 Introduction to diffusion

Having managed to get an innovation manufactured and ready for the market, there are a number of factors that influence how well it will sell and how rapidly it is likely to diffuse:

  • characteristics of the innovation itself

  • nature of the market

  • relevant government regulations.


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11.5.4 Analogy

Analogy draws on similar situations to provide ideas for invention and design. Alexander Graham Bell used the analogy of the human ear when designing telephone apparatus to receive sound. As mentioned above, his first receivers were much better than his transmitters where the analogy with the ear didn't work as well. When devising their flying machine, the Wright brothers used the analogy of soaring birds twisting their wings to restore balance. They designed the wings of their aircraft to be
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11.5.2 Transfer

Transfer is where a technology, manufacturing process or material is transferred to another field to provide the basis for an invention. Earlier we saw how laser technology, originally thought to have few practical uses, was transferred to a variety of different applications including surgery, welding and cutting metal, bar-code readers, and audio CDs.


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11.5.1 Adaptation

Adaptation is where a solution to a problem in one field is found by adapting an existing solution or a technical principle from another. For example Karl Dahlman adapted the hovercraft principle embodied in land and sea vehicles for use in the first hover lawn mower, the Flymo, in 1963 (Author(s): The Open University

11.3 Step 2 – exploration

This is the period when, following the identification of the problem, attempts are made to understand it better and to make a stab at designing a solution. This might be a short process or it could take years and involve a detailed search for information, experimenting with different designs, even redefining the problem as a result of this activity.

Alexander Graham Bell adopted a problem-focused strategy when exploring the problem of designing a working telephone. This strategy is one
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10.10 Government policy, legislation and regulations

To a certain extent it's possible for governments to stimulate invention by providing incentives for manufacturers to develop new products and for consumers to buy and use them. One example of this process is in the field of vehicles powered by alternative fuels.

In the USA the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) was passed to reduce US dependence on imported petroleum. The EPAct required federal and governmental departments with fleets over a certain size to acquire a percentage of alter
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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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10.7.2 Follow the leader

Some companies have a defensive strategy and aim to follow the leader. Such companies hope to profit from the mistakes of the first-to-market company by devising incremental design and performance improvements and cost reductions compared with the original product. In addition they hope to exploit the new market that has started to grow, so timing is important. In the area of consumer electronics, for example, most of the inventions (radio, television, audio and video tape recording) w
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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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10.4 Desire to make money

While most inventors might dream of growing rich from their inventions few invent for that reason alone. There are some exceptions though.

Take the case of the safety razor. One person, a travelling salesman named King Camp Gillette, was primarily responsible for the original invention and prototype. Unlike many lone inventors Gillette was not inventing something arising from a hobby or a field of technology with which he was already familiar. He was deliberately searching for a winner.
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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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9 Part 2: Invention

Having taken a broad look at the whole innovation process from invention to diffusion, I'll go back and look more closely at what motivates individuals and organisations to invent. Then I'll consider how people generate ideas for inventions and the designs based on the inventions.


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1 Part 1 Investigating the innovation process

In Part 1 I invite you to look around at the technological products in your home or at work and consider their development history and their impact on the lives of you and your family. I then define the key concepts associated with the process of invention, design, innovation and diffusion.


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Introduction

This unit aims to provide an understanding of invention, design, innovation and diffusion as ongoing processes with a range of factors affecting success at each stage. You will gain an understanding of the factors that motivate individuals and organisations to invent, and the creative process by which individuals come up with ideas for new inventions and designs, and you will gain an understanding of the obstacles that have to be overcome to bring an invention to market and the factors that i
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