Your Inventiveness Vectors
May 16, 2022
By Robert Cantrell - Registered Patent Agent
Engineers often silo themselves vertically within a technical discipline. They view themselves, for example, as chemists, electrical engineers, or data scientists, sometimes narrowing their discipline further to one industry such as petrochemicals, telecommunications, or supply chain. If you are an engineer, narrowing your focus can ease your ability to master your technology discipline. But such focus can also limit your span of inventiveness.
Whereas mastering a technology discipline is vertically focused, inventiveness stems from a horizontal orientation. Inventive principles used to solve problems in one technology discipline usually appear across most, if not all, technical disciplines. For example, a universal and horizontal principle of technology evolution from which to frame inventing is the principle of moving from higher energy states to lower energy states. The mathematics behind this principle are formally described in the laws of thermodynamics. You can measure such energy states as an inventor using the resource of your choice, be it a concrete measurement of electrical power needed to move from A to B to more abstract notions such as time commitments and the mental engagement required for users to operate your invention.
Solutions aligned with the laws of thermodynamics often develop their direction from multiple technical disciplines. For example, a car can be made more fuel efficient than its predecessors by way of inventions in structural engineering that reduce weight, or through chemistry that allows engines to stay lubricated at superior temperatures, or through algorithms that optimize fuel mixtures, and many more. The better you can venture into other technical disciplines, the greater the number of useful combinations you will likely see—and the more inventive you will likely be. To take it a step further, such combinations may actually generate synergistic outcomes that are not only commercially successful but are very likely patentable. You will also be better able to engage people specialized in other technology disciplines to create cross-disciplinary solutions along common evolutionary pathways. To be an inventor, to put it another way, it’s good to be a jack of all trades while also mastering one.
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