Anatomy of Innovation Panel

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Prof. Ali Hajimiri presents at ISSCC 2014 Panel on Innovation.


Panel digest: As process scaling slows down, circuit innovation is becoming one of the most important differentiators. We can point to great inventions of the past that were accidental, or failed attempts to solve other problems (bugs), as well as those from logical thinking (features). Which is more effective? In this panel, top analog circuit innovators describe the process by which their best innovations were conceived. They give interesting examples, such as turning a bug in the circuit into a feature. Then they argue if innovation is more effective as a result of accidental discovery or logical thinking.

Prof. Hajimiri’s position: Although imagination is often linked to creativity, in the absence of proper mental and educational discipline it only occasionally leads to useful innovations. The vast majority of “novel” ideas are not useful in solving a given problem. The key is to generate as many new potential solutions as possible and not to close the door on them too early, so they can be critically evaluated and pruned, hopefully leaving one with a non-empty set of solutions. On the other hand, the idea generation process itself is truly affected by various factors such as the breadth of experiences and knowledge one has been exposed to and the amount of truly free reflection time one has had to connect those seemingly unrelated matters in one’s mind. Orthogonal experiences and observations, such as bugs, enhance this process from time to time. Perhaps as Oscar Wilde said: “The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.”