Electronic Product Design

06/03/2012 - Innovation, design and profit (part 1)

Steam Engine

Some bright sparks

We are taking a walk on the wild side over the next 3 weeks. There's no need for a back pack but we will be covering a different form of ground. In essence we are looking at how innovation is formed and utilised. Most important of all the steps is the successful conclusion.

Definitive start

Wikipedia's definition of innovation is enlightened and informative: “Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society.” Design on the other hand is much harder to define. In a rational model of design it a plan driven process to optimise the eventual construction according to the objectives and constraints.

Whilst design takes place in a series of predictable stages, innovation is often a non-linear, chaotic (more in the sense of chaos theory) and “disruptive” or challenging with its propositions. We already have a wealth of information on the design process which can be downloaded here. To move forwards, we actually jump back a step – “what came before the design brief?”.

Myth: Debunk or support?

It appears that electronics designers have a hard time trying to describe what they do amongst family or at parties. There is a more widespread “understanding” for bankers, accountants, postmen, plumbers and writers. Often the comprehension of the individual's role and activities is no more than superficial. In a social environment this limited view is entirely acceptable as it avoids the dreaded boredom creation.

If we are in the position of trying to harness innovation then a superficial view needs to add a little more to the picture. In the case of the writer, the concept of writer's block is widely acknowledged. It has been cited as a reason why even design, let alone innovation is a risk prone commercial activity. What do we think of the less tangible challenges encountered by the plumber? Does he have any? (Almost certainly at some level.) Are we going to let our plumber wait weeks mid-job to come up with a solution?

A writer may indeed suffer from writer's block and so it becomes a real concept. You can also debunk the myth to an extent. Writer's block is a transient condition whilst the author tackles a conflict or an omission in his (there is no gender assignment here) opus. Provided that he has the time and mental freedom to contemplate or research he will find a resolution. However, writers are frequently cursed with distracting pressures, emotions and requests that inhibit this opportunity. Hence the block will remain in place (transient time extended) and become a major challenge.

Our first rest

This week we have tried to identify what innovation is. We have broached the idea that it may not be as definitively processed as some other activities. The factors that affect creativity include emotion and distraction, which could be considered too “touchy-feely” for business.

Next week we will look at the foundation of innovation. Then we look at the gulf between raw ideas/concepts and the business world.

Posted by: Peter Hawkins on 06/03/12.

Image: MR LIGHTMAN / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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