Using a new search method designed specifically for innovation, we have come up with a radical new solution to reducing concussions that reliably transforms direct helmet hits into glancing blows. We are moving to patent our idea that has been evaluated by two physicists and one mechanical engineer. But what kind of search engine could have possibly helped us glimpse into the future?
This new search engine accepted “reduce concussions” and exploded it into over two dozen ways to phrase the goal that are far-removed from the world of football, including the following phrases: reduce energy, minimize force, exchange forces, substitute energy, oppose energy, repel energy, lessen momentum, and alter direction. A simultaneous search on this extensive collection of loosely-related goals returned solutions from diverse fields and easily thrust us into unexplored territory. Quickly, we identified a known solution from a distant field that would do the trick. Quite likely, there are more hidden treasures within our search results, but we took a break after finding the gem we did.
The trick to peering into unexplored territory is to look laterally as opposed to focusing in depth on one area. We humans easily get stuck on the particular details of a problem. This tendency keeps us close to the areas where our search started: football helmets, sports helmets, brains, and craniums. Psychology research confirms that without help, it is very difficult for us to think broadly. My research has found that rephrasing the goal in vastly different, somewhat-synonymous ways is an easy way to break free from the shackles of the details of the problem. It turns out that when you look broadly across the vast horizon of the manifold areas of human research, there are many ways to achieve something like “reduce concussions.” It just takes the right method to liberate us from the minutia of the problem and send us to the right altitude from which to view the overall landscape.
Every goal can be described in short structured phrases, such as reduce concussions in football players. The first item is always a verb (e.g., reduce), which describes the change you desire. The second item is a noun (e.g., concussions) or noun phrase (e.g., a concussion), which names what you want to change. The remaining items are one or more prepositional phrases (e.g., in football players), which articulate important constraints or relations. To look laterally, the first thing to do is to discard the prepositional phrases (e.g., in football players) that tie you down to the specifics of your problem. With just the verb and the noun remaining (e.g., reduce concussions), you have named the essence of your goal and are poised to freely move laterally by considering the many closely associated terms (i.e., synonyms and causally-related terms) of these two words.
You can partially perform this goal-explosion process manually by using a thesaurus, but you will miss out on many relevant close associations. And, you can, of course, perform a search on each phrase individually and attempt to group all the search results in meaningful ways. Our research has resulted in a search engine that does all this and more while targeting the resources of your choice: patent databases, scientific journals, your own corporate data, etc.
Being truly innovative requires peering into the uncharted territory of untried ways to solve your problem. Google-style searching cannot help you because it is chained to finding the known approaches. Lateral-searching is the way to maneuver at the right altitude to reach the clearing of unexplored approaches to your problem. Innovation requires lateral-searching and there are now lateral-search engines that can help you gaze into the landscape of the future.
Contact Dr. Tony McCaffrey (email@example.com) for more information.