Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal (KM&EL), Vol 4, No 2 (2012)

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Behind every innovative solution lies an obscure feature

Tony McCaffrey, Lee Spector (ISGEC Fellow)


The Obscure Features Hypothesis (OFH) for innovation states that a two-step process undergirds almost all innovative solutions: (1) notice an infrequently observed or new (i.e., obscure) feature of the problem and (2) construct an interaction involving the obscure feature that produces the desired effects to solve the problem. The OFH leads to a systematic derivation of innovation-enhancing techniques by engaging in two tasks. First, we developed a 32-category system of the types of features possessable by a physical object or material. This Feature Type Taxonomy (FTT) provides a panoramic view of the space of features and assists in searches for the obscure ones. Second, we are articulating the many cognitive reasons that obscure features are overlooked and are developing countering techniques for each known reason. We present the implications and techniques of the OFH, as well as indicate how software can assist innovators in the effective use of these innovation-enhancing techniques.

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Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal (KM&EL)
ISSN 2073-7904


Maintained and Developed by:

Laboratory for Knowledge Management & E-Learning

Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong