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

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14 Part 2: 5 Self-assessment questions

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What are the four main factors that motivate individuals to invent?


Individuals are motivated to invent by one or more factors:

  • (a) scientific or technical curiosity;

  • (b) constructive discontent about the way a technological product performs;

  • (c) desire to help others;

  • (d) desire to make money.


What are the four main factors that motivate organisations to invent?


Organisations are motivated to invent by one or more factors:

  • (a) as part of a chosen business strategy;

  • (b) the need to improve existing products and processes;

  • (c) the appearance of new materials, technologies and manufacturing processes;

  • (d) government policy, legislation and regulations.


From the brief description of Carlson's invention of xerography given earlier, how do the five key steps of the Usher-Lawson model fit that particular example?


  • (a) Identification of the problem. Carlson was dissatisfied with existing methods of copying documents by photography and by hand.

  • (b) Exploration. Carlson consulted existing patents and other information in a search for a solution to the problem.

  • (c) Incubation. The brief account above doesn't give any detail about the precise creative process involved in this invention.

  • (d) Act of insight. Carlson's act of insight involved the ‘transfer’ of techniques quite different from conventional photography and not previously used for copying. This is an example that shows that insight doesn't always come in a flash.

  • (e) Critical revision. Carlson's first electrostatic copier was the outcome of almost 10 years of developing and refining the technology. This process of critical revision is still going on more than 50 years after the launch of the innovation.


To what extent would you describe the following inventions as predominantly arising from technology push or from market pull?

  • (a) early motor cars

  • (b) car airbags

  • (c) the photocopier

  • (d) high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice

  • (e) the laser.


  • (a) Early motor cars – push.

    The invention of the motor car involved technology push with enthusiasts trying to improve the technology and persuade people of the viability of the invention. It was regarded as a toy until improved performance and falling price made it an attractive product and market pull became an important factor encouraging further innovation.

  • (b) Car airbags – pull.

    Predominantly pull, arising out of the need for greater safety.

  • (c) Photocopier – pull and push.

    It has been subject to both pull and push. It started with the pull from the need to improve the method of copying documents. Once the technology had been developed it had to be ‘pushed’ onto a market that was uncertain of its need for the innovation.

  • (d) High-yielding varieties of wheat and rice – pull and push.

    Pull was from the human need to feed people more efficiently and the economic incentive to capture a share of a steady market. Push was from the outcome of scientific research into biotechnology and gene manipulation opening up new possibilities.

  • (e) Laser – push.

    Predominantly push because it arose out of mathematical theory and scientific research and in the early stages of its development had no obvious application. Only later, as possible uses began to be realised, did pull begin to provide an incentive for further improvements to meet the emerging needs of new applications in medicine, industry and commerce.

These examples suggest the innovation process involves elements of both push and pull at different stages. Sometimes both are at work at the same time when there is a coupling between push and pull.