Invention harvesting

To invent means to produce or contrive something previously unknown by the use of ingenuity or imagination. An inventor is therefore someone who invents, someone who devises some new process, appliance, machine, or article. When a new product appears, the person who first thought of it, and who first defined what the product should be, is recognised as the inventor. While many people may be involved in building the product and bringing it to market, the innovator is the person who provided the original idea that helped to define and shape the product.

Inventive ideas can take many forms. They can be disruptive, transformative, radical, breakthrough, incremental or step improvement in nature. They can be product, service, process or business model related.

Invention harvesting is a process designed to keep a group’s creative juices flowing and to involve everyone within that group in the creative process in order to come up with a a good set of possible inventive ideas.

A number of process steps need to be completed in order to guarantee  successful invention harvesting. The following process steps are recommended

  • Scoping
  • Sorting out the admin issues
  • Customizing the education material
  • Preparing a communication plan
  • Arranging the invention harvesting session
  • Conducting the actual invention harvesting session
  • Evaluating the ideas generated at the invention harvesting session
  • Reporting on the output from the invention harvesting session

Techniques and tools to help with idea generation:

A large number of techniques or tools exist which may be utilized to help with inventive idea generation at the actual invention harvesting session. A few examples are provided here just for reference …

  •  Brainstorming: Use an independent facilitator then follow the four rules – no criticism or debate, quantity over quality, freewheel and mutate & combine.
  •  Challenging: This works by simply posing a challenge, and then dissecting that challenge, and identifying possibly solutions. It is also useful to ask what are the challenges today, but what will be the challenges tomorrow.
  • Competitor analysis: This works by firstly providing details on the leading competitors – their products, services and key technologies, their business model and general mode of operation plus their customers, partners and supplies with special focus on their customer intimacy, and secondly then poses the challenge of what is required to surpass these competitorsConvergence: Think about the possibilities when two or more known things converge, and what might emerge from such an coming together.
  • Convergence: Think about the possibilities when two or more known things converge, and what might emerge from such an coming together.
  • The Kipling method (5W1H)) or Six Hats method: Ask simple questions (what, where, when, how, why and who) for great answers. It is extended by going beyond the use of the raw single word questions.
  •  Mind-mapping: This is a technique based on the hierarchical break-down of an issue. It is drawn in a tree shaped format. At the beginning of the session, one identifies the main problem or topic that you want to explore and write it, in a short phrase, in the middle of a blank piece of paper. Branches and sub-branches are added to then build up the mind-map. Different colours can be used to help with navigating the mind-map.

For further read of Donal O’Connell’s “Invention Harvesting”