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12.1. The TAO Spiral


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 12. The TAO Design Process > 12.1. The TAO Spiral

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Imagine that you are looking to make your fortune by discovering gold in ‘them thar hills’. You cannot just go and dig somewhere, first you need to broadly explore, just getting a feel for the hills and creating a big picture of the territory. You can then start using your experience and knowledge to find a likely-looking place. When you have narrowed it down further, you might do some test digging and finally dig out the mine, extract the gold and refine it down to glorious ingots.

Fig. 12.1 Spiralling TAO process

Inventing is a bit like looking for gold and there is seldom a direct route to the answer you want, but there are broad stages that you may use. It is often like Fig. 12.1, where you gradually spiral in towards the solution, yet can also be throw back out to previous stages. Like the children’s game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’, luck can be both kind and cruel.

Overall, there are five broad stages you might go through to find the pot of gold that is the final invented solution. Although these could take roughly similar times to complete, different problems are more likely to result in very different time profiles through each of the stages.

The process may well also be a spiral, repeating the stages as you home in on the final innovation. This is because innovation is often best done incrementally rather than quickly jumping to a final solution. In fact it is a characteristic of many innovations that, due to the realities of unexplored new territory, there is no 'golden path' to the answer and a spiral inwards is the best approach.

The stages of the TAO Process are:

Other sections in this chapter are:

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