What does it mean to invent? To be original or novel? To prototype? To create? I’m not even sure the inventors themselves really know but I do think it may be unlikely to create something truly new without first ‘failing’ at first, likely many times at that too. It’s almost as if invention is a “zooming in”, and “zooming out”, of ones attentional focus while iterating on the possibilities of ones imagination in “concept space”, which can’t help but be influenced by a times social and cultural context. I can’t claim to know anything for certain but can anyone really claim that feat yet?

any given concept in any given language has a real world example that best represents this concept. For example: when asked to give an example of the concept furniture, a couch is more frequently cited than, say, a wardrobe. Prototype theory has also been applied in linguistics, as part of the mapping from phonological structure to semantics.

Prototype theory - Wikipedia

Walk into the studio of any artist and one of the first things that you may notice are the numerous paintings or sculptures lying about. Some pieces are finished, others are on the easel being worked, some are in progress, and others appear to be dead-ends. Some may also be preliminary sketches used in planning a work of art while others may be experiments with colors and materials. All of these pieces of art in the artist’s studio reveal to us that the creative process means experimenting and manipulating lots of alternative versions.

an inventor’s workshop or laboratory littered with prototypes; intuitively we know that prototypes belong there, that they are part of the invention process.

artifacts are shaped by the interactions of individuals and groups.

Invention as the Mingling of Ideas and Objects

Prototypes for Thinking, Learning, and Doing

shifting an invention from being something that only an inventor is able to use to being something that others can use as well

a direct examination of prototypes can reveal the “palette” of materials and techniques available to an inventor, or rather, an inventor’s social and cultural environment;

look at how the parts work together as a system

Documenting Invention: Prototypes and Invention—An Inquiry into How Inventors Think and Communicate

Abstract - 09 August 2008

Visuospatial attention can either be “narrowly” focused on (zooming in) or “widely” distributed to (zooming out) different locations in space. In the current functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated the shared and differential neural mechanisms underlying the dynamic “zooming in” and “zooming out” processes while potential distance confounds from visual inputs between zooming in and zooming out were controlled for. When compared with zooming out, zooming in differentially implicated left anterior intraparietal sulcus (IPS), which may reflect the functional specificity of left anterior IPS in focusing attention on local object features. By contrast, zooming out differentially activated right inferior frontal gyrus, which may reflect higher demands on cognitive control processes associated with enlarging the attentional focus. A conjunction analysis between zooming in and zooming out revealed significant shared activations in right middle temporal gyrus, right superior occipital gyrus, and right superior parietal cortex. The latter result suggests that the right posterior temporal–occipital–parietal system, which is known to be crucial for the control of spatial attention, is involved in updating the internal representation of the spatial locations that attentional processing is associated with.

Zooming In and Zooming Out of the Attentional Focus: An fMRI Study

Abstract - 11 November 2019

This paper presents an exercise on theory building to characterise design ideation. It starts by examining how early ideas are defined and evaluated in the literature. An essentialist view is identified that explains the creativity of a final design solution by the creative qualities of early ideas attributed by external judges. Criteria for a theory of ideation that does not rely on the primacy of essence are enumerated. Advanced professional practice is examined to understand evaluation of early ideas ‘in the wild’. Accretion is then introduced as an analogical model to imaginatively drive definitions and conjectures about idea formation in the co-evolution of problem and design spaces. Vignettes from ideation episodes are used to illustrate an accretion theory of ideation. An accretion theory supports new ways to think about ideation as a complex formation process where creative solutions emerge from the synthesis of a multitude of fragmentary and partial ideas – or ‘ideasimals’. An accretion theory of ideation helps to explain the creative value of a final design solution without relying on early ideas having a creative essence, because the creativity of a solution is viewed as emergent rather than present in early versions. An accretion lens is used to suggest new ideation metrics to study the qualities of idea fragments and the process of idea formation. Definitions and relevant assessment regimes for different stages of ideation are discussed. The paper concludes with a discussion on entailments of an accretion theory and next steps for this theory building enterprise.

when evaluating ideas in their earliest state (idea fragments), an accretion theory explains why practitioners avoid making substantive claims about creative value, i.e., the delay judgement rule

ideas can be evaluated for their capacity to attract interest, trigger and sustain conversations, promote trust and participation, and spark new ideas. This can be called the fertility of early ideas.

early ideas such as ‘reuse car parts at home’ attracted discussion for longer periods and in higher intensities than most other ideas. …specific ideas attracted more feedback, energised people, and fed the ‘virtuous collaborative cycle’ of building, sharing, testing, giving and using feedback to make improvement

high fertility, and if so, to mark them as spaces for further exploration of connections and expansion, rather than select specific individual ideas

identify conditions that promote idea collisions and growth

identify ideasimals that attract feedback and spur other ideas thus promoting a focused progress which aligns well with the expectation that in early stages ‘focused creativity is more important than more creativity’

Idea potency can also indicate the capacity to draw people into collaborative practices to synergistically combine knowledge and skills to tackle and explore the unknown.

evaluate ideas over time through lived experience (‘to live in’ them) rather than simply judging them early and once.

a small idea have transformative effects on an embryonic or even a near-to-final design solution

the role of conversations as ‘a site of design space exploration that deserves more attention’

the creative value of a final design solution may not be measurable in its earliest origins because it need not be present in embryonic or scattered ways in them

creativity may be heavily execution-dependent, and thus shaped by ideas colliding over relatively long time period

Experts seem to define an initial focus of attention on a limited set of constraints

an ideaspace as they ‘can in fact be a group of related concepts rather than a single idea’

Abductive reasoning in design aligns with accretion, as this ‘logic of discovery’ is used to generate rather than evaluate hypotheses

adherence to an initial concept… …rather than generating good early ideas, they exhibit advanced skills ‘to modify their concepts rather fluently during development’

essentialist thinking, the problem remains fixed and evaluation of early ideas is based on well-defined criteria, which contradicts the co-evolution of problem and solution space

creative design as a situated, collaborative, and embodied activity

theory building is ‘ideational trial and error’

our exercise presents several limitations and is likely to undergo significant transformations in future work.

Threshold concepts are considered by learning scientists as ‘akin to a portal opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking’

Accretion theory of ideation: evaluation regimes for ideation stages