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1.4. Purpose Analysis


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 1. Analytic Invention > 1.4. Purpose Analysis

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A good question to ask when investigating a device or system of any sort is ‘What is it for? What function does it perform?’ This may seem an easy question but it can be surprisingly difficult to answer.

For example, if we ask ‘What is the function of a light switch?’ you might answer ‘To turn the light on and off.’ But this does not really give much of a clue to enable a creative spotlight to be turned on improving the light switch. We could chunk in and answer ‘to make an electrical connection’ which might lead us to electronic switching. We can also ask more radical questions such as ‘What if we did not have a light switch, leaving the light permanently on?’ It would run up the electricity bill, so an alternative purpose might be ‘To save electricity’. This could lead us towards dimmers or people detectors that automatically turn off the lights when nobody is there (who needs a switch?).

We can also ask the question ‘Why?’ when inventing around intangible situations, where the lack of a physical item can make the original purpose even more difficult to identify. What is the most fundamental purpose of the fire service, business consultancies or journalism?

Other logical/analytic tools:

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