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

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5.9 Robust design and lean design

In the case of the incandescent lamp the first dominant design had emerged by 1884, only 4 years after the first lamps had gone on public display around Menlo Park. It consisted of a screw-in metal base, a carbonised bamboo filament with platinum electrical wiring attached to a glass stem, all of which was sealed into a pear-shaped glass bulb that had been evacuated. This design was so successful that competitors did not try to devise a different design but merely copied Edison's; the company spent the next 7 years repeatedly suing rivals for infringement of the patents until its dominance was clearly established.

Further, a new product is more likely to be commercially successful if it is a robust design and suitable for different uses. A new product is likely to be less successful it if is a lean design, too highly optimised and only suitable for specific uses. So Edison's lamp was a robust design because it could fit into existing gas lamp brackets, and this increased its chances of catching on because it could make use of some of the existing infrastructure in homes and offices.