Innovation is anything that is new, useful, and surprising. “Surprising” means that the idea makes you slap your forehead and say, “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”

Here’s a great example. “Researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley have developed a new display technology that automatically corrects for vision defects — no glasses (or contact lenses) required.” It is a classic and clever example of the Divison Technique, one of the five techniques in Systematic Inventive Thinking.

From MIT News:

“The first spectacles were invented in the 13th century,” says Gordon Wetzstein, a research scientist at the Media Lab and one of the display’s co-creators. “Today, of course, we have contact lenses and surgery, but it’s all invasive in the sense that you either have to put something in your eye, wear something on your head, or undergo surgery. We have a different solution that basically puts the glasses on the display, rather than on your head. It will not be able to help you see the rest of the world more sharply, but today, we spend a huge portion of our time interacting with the digital world.”

In hindsight, it makes so much sense to “divide” the function of your glasses (vision correction) and place it somewhere else. For example, this technology might be applied to televisions, car windshields, windows in your home, or just about anything that you have to focus on.

To get the most out of the Division technique, you follow five basic steps:
1.  List the product’s or service’s internal components.
2.  Divide the product or service in one of three ways:

  • Functional (take a component and rearrange its location or when it appears).
  • Physical (cut the product or one of its components along any physical line and rearrange it).
  • Preserving (divide the product or service into smaller pieces, where each piece still possesses all the characteristics of the whole).

3.  Visualize the new (or changed) product or service.
4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge?
5. If you decide you have a new product or service that is indeed valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create this new product or perform this new service? Why or why not? Can you refine or adapt the idea to make it more viable?
Keep in mind that you don’t have to use all three forms of Division, but you boost your chance of scoring a breakthrough idea if you do.