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Inventions: Process of Invention

Usher's Phenomena of Innovation

"Usher is an invaluable guide to the world of inventing... To him, every invention inevitably followed a four-step sequence:

  • Awareness of an unfulfilled need.
  • Recognition of something contradictory or absent in existing attempts to meet the need, which Usher called an "incomplete pattern."
  • An all-at-once insight about that pattern.
  • A process of "critical revision" during which the insight is tested, refined and perfected."

- from The Most Powerful Idea in the World by William Rosen

Smart Foraging Model of Invention

Invention can be characterized as a heroic quest:

  • Heroic persistence: the inventor persists for a considerable period with little progress.
  • Unexpected encounter: the inventor eventually encounters a subtle clue from an unexpected direction.
  • Gift of insight: the inventor has the insight to seize on the clue and make something of it to complete the quest.

However, this explanation relies upon the whims of fate, thus failing to fully acknowledge the environment of invention. With the belief that invention can be cultivated through a prepared mind, and the use of problem spaces, the smart foraging model offers a different view. To learn more about the "Topography of Invention," take a look at Inventive Minds edited by Weber and Perkins.

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