Problems as Solutions

Technology moves at such a rapid pace as Gordon Moore postulated back in 1965 in his now famous paper, “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits,” the number of components in integrated circuits double roughly every 18 months. This pattern continues to drive the growth and diversification of the electronics industry. One of the primary questions on every technologists mind (including mine) is how can we continue to be innovative in such an environment that moves so rapidly. The question prompted me to read, “Where do Good Ideas come from,” by Steve Johnson.

Johnson does a good job explaining that most innovative ideas do not come from Eureka moments but rather are slow hunches that build up into substantive ideas over time. He also talks about how the Internet has also changed the pace of innovation where the traditional development of a product took 10 years and adoption took another 10 years. With the rise of APIs (Application Programming Interface) web development now only takes about 1 year and about 1 year for adoption due to the widespread available of an application almost immediately. When we examine websites that have seemingly pop-up overnight such as twitter and facebook both are using tools from a platform that already exist.

So the question is how do we technologists keep up? The short answer is to be innovative, well-read and make problems opportunities. What do I mean by making problems opportunities? At work I’m faced with new electrical and material science related problems arising from the unique integration of different polymers, metals, and films that are used to synthesize complex integrated circuits (or chips). Immediately, our first concern is of course figure how we fix the problem that is compromising the expected performance. In parallel, while trying to fix the problem at hand we might think about how this problem might actually be ideal in another scenario. This lateral thinking helps us generate new ideas and solutions that might be used in future applications.

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