Defining innovation

Flare Pan

The jet inspired Flare Pan design

I was stunned when, after posting this article on Facebook the other days, I got pushback that it wasn’t really an “innovation” because it was too simple: www.eng.ox.ac.uk/about/news/oxford-designed-flare-pan-uses-40-per-cent-less-heat-than-conventional-pans.

The design came about this way. Professor Tom Povey – who actually works as an engineer researching the design of high-efficiency cooling systems for next-generation jet-engines (he’s a real rocket scientist!) – was waiting for a pan of water to boil. As he waited, he mused on how much energy was being wasted by heat loss from inefficient pan design. Using his training and background, he developed the “Flare Pan” which basically increases the amount of contact surface with cooking heat, speeding up how fast things cook and using less energy in the process.

I think that’s really cool. Think about it: the shape of pans basically hasn’t changed in a millenia. Millions of people have used pans and while the Chinese *did* helpfully come up with a useful aphorism to explain the process (a watched pot never boils) very few have actually done anything to improve on it.

His design is so simple, so elegant…and indeed – obvious! And it solves a real challenge, provides a real benefit.

But isn’t that what innovation is all about? It doesn’t have to be radically different to be truly revolutionary. So I respectfully disagree with the naysayers: this is the *essence* of innovation.

What do you think?

 

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