Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Innovate First, Inventor Advises

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Innovate First, Inventor Advises

Article excerpt

"Invent as a last resort," prolific inventor Dean Kamen told a meeting of the Licensing Foundation in Washington, D.C., in March. Would-be inventors are better off focusing on innovation first, advised the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, the IBOT stair-climbing wheelchair and hundreds of other, mostly medical, products. "Find the stuff on the shelf and figure out how to be a systems integrator that solves the problem. If you can't, go into the murky unknown and invent."

As an example, Kamen cited the "South-pointing chariot" invented by the Chinese thousands of years ago to help them navigate across the Gobi desert at night to sneak up on their enemies. The chariot was a cumbersome contraption that accomplished the task of keeping them headed South, but the Chinese overlooked a much easier solution.

More than 1,000 years earlier the Chinese had already discovered that if loadstone was placed in a container of water, magnetic force would cause the stone to drift to one side, acting as a compass. By innovating this discovery--instead of inventing the South-pointing chariot--the Chinese could have had a much more efficient tool to solve their problem. …

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