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Invention and innovation: An introduction
Invention and innovation: An introduction

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11.4 Step 3 – incubation

Incubation is a period when the inventor, having been working on the problem for some time during identification and exploration, is no longer giving it conscious attention. The problem and its solution have been put to one side, on purpose or not, but the subconscious mind is capable of holding on to the problem. During this time, according to Roy (Open University, 2004, p. 34), ‘the relaxed brain [is] repatterning information absorbed during the period of preparation often after receiving a new piece of information that is perceived as relevant’. I think what Roy means about repatterning is that the brain can make links between information – a new piece of information can cause a new link to be made and a new insight achieved. Although it's not often possible to demonstrate incubation taking place, there are numerous examples of inventors doing something unrelated to their invention when a breakthrough insight is triggered.