Saturday, 7 January 2012

Why I Laiku But Others Won't

As part of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving(TRIZ), Genrich Altshuller, by studying patented inventions, came up with five levels of inventiveness, as pictured. I think that he called it the Pyramid of Inventiveness. The idea there being that if every level represents a standard deviation, the distribution is similar to a normal curve. As you can see, however, there are more inventions in level 2 than level 1. The missing inventions* from level 1 often go unpatented due to the following: being of limited usefulness; being treated as suggestions rather than inventions; failure to meet patent requirements.

* I have been looking for a term for missing data in a population. For example, not every country plays rugby or cricket. When you look at the top 100 players in the world, there are people who should be in this list but are not because of a lack of opportunities, or maybe just more lucrative ones like MLB or NFL.

The following summarise in general terms the different levels:

Apparent Solution:
Level 1 is where an object or system remains the same but features are improved. The invention is made possible using knowledge within the trade or profession.

Level 2 is a minor change is made to an object or system that results in a major improvement in quality. This requires knowledge from different areas from within the industry.

Major Change:
Level 3 invokes a major change in the object or system. This requires knowledge from outside industries and involves the resolution of a technical or physical contradiction (i.e. makes something bigger without taking up more space).

New Application:
Level 4 involves a concept for a new generation of an existing system or object by changing the principle by which the primary function is performed. The solution can be obtained in science but not in technology.

Level 5 involves the replacement of both the object or system and the methodology it is based on.This requires a breakthrough in science.

So, I have a new idea for you. Do you think this is patentable? I call it a laiku and the word is a portmanteau of 'longer' and 'haiku'. That sums up the idea nicely as it is a longer version of a haiku. The first line is seven syllables, the next nine, then the final line is seven. Here is an example:

Laiku longer than haiku
Decreased utility per word
Better value printing costs.

A big risk for anyone who invents something is that they fall prey to the thrill of discovery - or worse, the faux thrill of discovery - and overvalue the object. Before I retire to a cabin for a year to write my breakthrough book of romantic poetry, I had better check which level this is on. As such, there is no real invention here or problem overcome. Low-level inventions are simple to implement and offer no competitive advantage or opportunity for significant ROI. I guess if I am going to follow my dream I will have to wait for a breakthrough in the science of poetry.
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