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America and Innovation…

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In America, we have been told to think outside the box in order stimulate innovation, however, Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldberg believe that one should “Think inside the box”:   “We advocate a radically different approach: thinking inside the proverbial box, not outside of it.  People are at their most creative when they focus on the internal aspects of a situation or problem—and when they constrain their options rather than broaden them.”  (The Wall Street Journal, Friday, June 14, 2013)

 “Our method works by taking a product, concept, situation, service or process and breaking it into components or attributes. Using one of five techniques, innovators can manipulate the components to create new-to-the-world ideas that can then be put to valuable use.”  Please review their five techniques.”


Remove seemingly essential elements.

Consider a contact lens, an exercise bicycle, a package of powdered soup and an ATM. What do they have in common? They have all had something subtracted. Subtract the frame of a pair of glasses and you have the contact lens. Remove a bike’s rear wheel and you invent the exercise bicycle. Extract water from soup to make a package of powdered soup. Take the bank employee out of a cash transaction and you have an ATM.

Task unification

Bring together unrelated tasks or functions.

Samsonite, 1910.HK -1.53%the world’s largest travel-bag company, used task unification to expand into the college backpack market. Backpacks, especially for college students, cause back and neck strain due to the weight of their contents: textbooks, laptops, beverages and so on.

Instead of padding the straps like other backpacks, the Samsonite team created a way to use the heavy weight as a comfort advantage. The straps are shaped so that they press softly into the wearer’s shoulders at strategically located shiatsu points to provide a soothing massage sensation. The heavier the contents, the deeper the sensation and the more stress relief for the wearer.


Copy a component and then alter it.

In 1804, the British scientist William Hyde Wollaston invented the single-element concavo-convex meniscus lens, which has been used ever since in simple focus-free box cameras, including the famous Kodak EKDKQ -9.43%Brownie. Serious photographers need more versatility, however. So over the past century, camera makers have multiplied the basic lens and changed its shape to create an entire spectrum of lenses for different sorts of images: close up, far away, wide-angle or even blurred or grossly distorted. Each works with one click of a button, but with dramatically different effects.


Separate the components of a product or service and rearrange them.

Instances of this technique abound, from airline check-in procedures that now have you print your boarding pass at home to the TV remote control whose functions used to be attached to the box itself. Or consider central air-conditioning. The first air-conditioning units contained all the necessary components in a single box: thermostat, fan, cooling unit. But once the motor and fan of the cooling unit were separated from the other pieces, they could be placed somewhere else—like outside a house, thus reducing noise and heat and eliminating the need to block a window with a bulky integrated unit.

 Attribute dependency

Make the attributes of a product change in response to changes in another attribute or in the surrounding environment.

An excellent example of this technique is eyewear with transition lenses, which change from light to dark in the sunlight. So, too, are windshield wipers that speed up as it rains harder.


 Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldberg stated, “Using any one or all of these “inside the box” techniques involves retraining the way your brain thinks about problem solving. Most people think innovation starts with establishing a well-defined problem and then thinking of solutions. Our method is just the opposite: We take an abstract, conceptual solution and find a problem that it can solve”

Innovation and creativity is not only for a certain group of people.  We all can learn how to be more innovative.  There have been many times when I heard about some new ideas and inventions, and I said to myself, “I could have thought of that…”.  Think about it, we are all creative people, and it is statistically noted that we only use a very small percentage of our entire brain; therefore, we are very capable of becoming more innovative.

 For example, I received a U.S. Patent (Multi-media recording system and method) October 6, 1998, and without knowing it I used Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldberg’s technique called, “Subtraction”.  My idea was to have an easier way of listening to music while exercising without carrying a heavy cassette or DVD player.  I began by subtracting the non-essentials items from the portable music player in order to formulate my innovative idea.   I detracted the DVD’s and cassettes, a large portable player that is bulky, the extra buttons for operation, small storage space, and the lack of universal compatibility with other multi-media devices.   

 Thus, I invented a Multi-media recording system and method with a computer microchip/hard drive to hold a large amount of music, small and compact for easy use and storage, Universal compatibility so one can transfer music to another Mp3 or digital device.  Ultimately, there is no need to carry around DVDs or cassettes anymore.

 As mentioned by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldberg, most of us have the ability to be innovative.  Give it a chance and come up with a new idea at work, school, or home.  Try and think inside the box and be creative on your next endeavor and have fun…

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