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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Mechanical Fasteners - Airplane Fastener Failure due to Fatigue Challenge from IdeaCONNECTION

Whether materials scientists, engineers and technitions would or would not like to join virtual teams to solve industrial problems such this one:  Mechanical Fasteners - Airplane Fastener Failure due to Fatigue Challenge.

1. The challenge site is an excellent place to start when studying Aviation Assembly Fastners and the extremely demanding issues involving materials science and engineering; innovation,materials,design and assembly.

2. There are also many other industrial and other challenges to suit a wide panel of readers.

So please do not hesitate to visit IdeaConnection Site.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Physicists defy conventional wisdom to identify ferroelectric material | EurekAlert! Science News

"If you make a strontium titanate film very thin, all of a sudden it becomes ferroelectric at room temperature," "If you make it thicker, ferroelectricity disappears. That's very strange, as it goes completely counter to all the common knowledge regarding the thickness effect on ferroelectric properties." says Alexei Gruverman, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln physics and astronomy professor who worked on the research.

This incongruent materials ferroelectric behaviour is explainded in their communication cf link below

Physicists defy conventional wisdom to identify ferroelectric material | EurekAlert! Science News

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Life Cycle Management-from The Nickel Institute

Nickel Containing Stainless Steel from The Nickel Institute_Life Cycle Assessment

Friday, 21 August 2015

Abrasion Resistance Defined

Materials Selection for Resistance to Abrasion_eg. for applications such as Iron Ore Slurry Transportation

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Materials Selection for Resistance to Abrasion_eg. for applications such as Iron Ore Slurry Transportation

An impressive and succinct presentation of materials,mainly special steels for use in ore mineral transportation as slurry often over huge distances.

This most usefull graphical representation of types of materials that can be transported via pipeline, slurries, is given below. On the upper left (LHS) of the diagonal, the materials to be transported are plotted according their Mohr's hardness on a log10 scale (y-axis) against pipeline candidate materials mainly steels, with some ceramic (coatings) classified according to their hardness, both Brinell and Rockwell tests, on the lower right (X-axis)  The inclusion of  soft materials such as general plastics, talc and the more and more in view graphite, (nanoapplics)  provide a strong contrast which highlights the resistance of the steel tube contenders.

A table of contents from his short and to the point publications reads as follows:

     -Typical Mine Applications.
     -Types of Wear.
     -Piping Materials.
     -Material Alloying: metallurgy for strength and harndess.
               -Heat treatment (quenching technology) to harden inner surface,
                while maintaining a more ductile exterior surface.
     -Wear Tiles and Inserts: tiles are of course made from materials that are harder and more abrasion        resistant than the base steel piping.
     -Rubber/Poly Lined Pipe.
     -Double Wall Pipes.
     -BiMetallic Pipes. (advantages, but without the disadvantages of the double wall pipes).
     -System Design Considerations:
           Particle size, shape, and hardness, Particle Velocity,

A most instructive read (link to full paper by Robert E. Klemm, P.E. of UltraTech.  )


Monday, 17 August 2015

Non-Destuctive Testing-NDT_New way to find tiny flaws in aircraft parts - Info Centre - Research_EU

A new way to find tiny flaws in aircraft parts - Information Centre - Research: "new way to find tiny flaws in aircraft parts" reports collaborated work by the following 5 countries namely:  Belgium  |  France  |  Germany  |  Israel  |  Spain

EU-funded project claims, to have developed the first terahertz scanners for non-destructive testing of aeroplane parts. Outperforming existing technologies, these systems detect small defects on and deep within composite materials - improving safety in the air and helping manufacturers and airline operators optimise maintenance and lower costs.

EU-Research & Innovation.

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Sunday, 28 June 2015

MIT Technology Review’s 50 Smartest Companies 2015, from Tesla to Uber | MIT Technology Review

Nice work by MIT researchers and MIT Review team. Great graphics and graphical interactivity via the link to MIT Review's site beneath the picture:

MIT Technology Review’s 50 Smartest Companies 2015, from Tesla to Uber | MIT Technology Review: "50 Smartest Companies 2015"

Cheers.and enjoy the info.
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Thursday, 11 June 2015

Taking the heat off the chip_Global Thermal Interface Materials Report 2015 - Status, Opportunities, Market Forecasts to 2025 -- DUBLIN, June 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --

Here is a short rapid introduction and overview to a still hot topic-materials to markets 

"Overheating is the most critical issue in the computer industry. It limits further miniaturisation, power, performance and reliability. The escalation of power densities in electronic devices has made efficient heat removal a crucial issue for progress in information, communication, energy harvesting, energy storage and lighting technologies. As long as electronic systems aren't monolithic, but are built from a wide range of materials such as metals, polymers, ceramics and semiconductors, there will be a need for thermal interface materials." from PRNewswire

The contact area between high power, heat generating components and heat sinks can be as low as 3%, due to the micro-scale surface roughness. Thermal interface materials are required to enhance the contact between the surfaces, and decrease thermal interfacial resistance, and increase heat conduction across the interface. 

Proper selection of Thermal Interface Materials (TIM) is crucial for the device efficiency. Instead of sophisticated cooling technique, it is often better to invest in the interface material. Without good thermal contact, the use of expensive thermally conducting materials for the components is a waste. 

1. Innovation Drivers in this industry

2. Thermal Interface Materials 2015-2025 includes a technology appraisal of the ten key technologies: 

1. Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive Tapes
2. Thermal Adhesives
3. Thermal Greases
4. Thermal Gels, Pastes and Liquids
5. Elastomeric Pads
6. Phase Change Materials
7. Graphite
8. Solders and Phase Change Metals
9. Compressible Interface Materials
10. Liquid Metals 
3. Current and growing opportunities for these technologies

4. The Companies. 

- 3M Electronic Materials
- AI Technology
- AIM Specialty Materials
- AOS Thermal
- DK Thermal
- Dow Corning
- Dymax Corporation
- Ellsworth Adhesives
- Enerdyne
- European Thermodynamics Ltd
- Fralock
- Fujipoly
- GrafTech
- Henkel
- Indium Corporation
- Inkron
- Kitagawa Industries
- Laird Tech
- MH&W International
- Minteq
- Momentive
- Parker Chomerics
- Resinlab
- Schlegel Electronics Materials
- ShinEtsu
- Timtronics
- Universal Science 

Global Thermal Interface Materials Report 2015 - Status, Opportunities, Market Forecasts to 2025 -- DUBLIN, June 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --:

LINK_for more information.

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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

free Whitepaper on Effective Tolerance Management_EnginSoft

Any manufactured object differs in shape and dimension from its ideal design. This variation does not necessarily cause problems regarding functionality, but it always contributes to cost.
Find out why more and more companies implement GD&T as an essential element of their design process in this easy to understand whitepaper with examples.

Effective Tolerance Management | EnginSoft

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

EUROSUPERALLOYS 2014_ MATEC Web of Conferences. Open Access

 "EUROSUPERALLOYS 2014 – 2nd European Symposium on Superalloys and their Applications"
was held in Giens, France in May 2014.

Ten full sessions and eleven poster sessions were held on many (most) aspects of  Superalloys processing and properties. Superalloys, as the name implies, have superior properties.  They are used in applications involving high demands in performance and reliability namely strength high temperatures and corrosive environments such as those encountered especially in aircraft_aero-engines and improved energy production plant.

List of themes is as follows: please excuse the EU for allowing US spelling rather than the original and UK spelling behaviour

I did notice however that neither in these open access conference papers nor in web based available manufacturers specifications that the limits on such common trace elements as S (sulphur) and P (phosphorus) appeared high when compared with the practice and practise, of which I am aware. Admittedly dated! However I honestly report here that a couple of my ex-colleagues involved in such advance metallurgical processing and development in PM (powder metallurgy) requested "current S levels be lowered from a commonly specified 0.015%Smax. I was able to respond immediately and informed my client-collegues that the first trials had already proved successful as usual with "my" desulphurization  technique.

My peer reviewed paper is now freely available to our members of IOM3_The Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining entitled:

"Optimizing deoxidation and desulphurization during vacuum induction melting of  (Super) alloy 718. J.Alexander, Materials Science and Technology,(MST) published Feb. 1985.(MST's 2nd issue).

Now let's not be shy. My Indian colleagues (most of whom are retired today) from the MIDHANI, Ministry of Defence  plant in Hyderabad can honestly vouch for my desulphorization performance. As  guarent for the "three melt-shop know-how transfer contract, I was called upon to assist during start-up in Hyderabad. Unfortuneately the only raw material for the very low P (phosphorus) grade to be made had about 3times mor P than our recommended raw material. Well, under some pressure from the then, chairman no less, I accepted the challenge and brought the damed thing into the aimed spec.

I was never informed whether the final product achieved the result originally set in the "Know-how" agreement.

Post Scriptum:
Thing must have sorted themselves out considering that very recently India has also bought the french jet fighter The Rafale and for good or bad Mr. Mittal has bought over the company where I had enormous fun both at work and for pleasure. I took up my soccer game after a too long lay-off during studies and early laboratory research work..

I do hope you enjoy sharing my experience.

 Best regards.

EUROSUPERALLOYS 2014 – 2nd European Symposium on Superalloys and their Applications

MATEC Web of Conferences:  PS this is a window to a much larger peer reviewed open access web library

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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

LINK_Innovation union-A Free well illustrated pocket guide on Innovation & Growth_A Europe 2020 initiative_Update

Let me bring this free guide to the attention of my friends and colleagues in metallurgy, materials science and engineering, especially our members of  IOM3 (UK)  and SF2M (Fr)Let me thank the EU for the RSS feed which allows me to bring some very good summaries and overall views of our multidisciplinary subject.


Innovation union-A Free well illustrated pocket guide on Innovation & Growth_A Europe 2020 initiative

Kind Regards. JA.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Imphy Special Steels & Alloys Steelworks_Off the EU radar! & My Local weather here in the centre of France_Info Update

I have just included Meteo France's weather provision for my area. The meteo station is nearby (a couple of kms away) so is pretty reliable. Potential visitors will find the city of Nevers lies on the the famous N7 road and on the banks of the Loire river. Access to water from France's longest river La Loire led Colbert to choose the region for the "once"! famous steelworks at Imphy situated  15kms from Nevers. The much modernised factory where I had the privilege to work for many years researches and manufactures a huge variety of special steels, and alloys. They range from steels for aircraft undercarriage through delicate to manufacture iron-chromium(Fe-Cr) and iron-chromium-nickel (Fe-Cr-Ni) stainless, corrosion resistant steels.  They are the world reference for weldable iron-nickel (Fe-36%Ni) Invar sheet metal for liquid gas sea transportation. The range of Fe-Ni alloys, with or without cobalt (Co) runs from Fe-30%Ni to Fe-80%Ni with dilatometric, magnetic and electrical properties.  If this is not a sufficiently, highly sportive, endeavour then add the the aero-engine alloy family: The famous Superalloys; Inconels,Udimets, Waspalloys and an early competitor in power metallurgical research, development and manufacture; I personally had privileged fun with Superalloy development; melting and refining, introducing revert material into aeroengine alloys to meet the most stringent requirement of the civil aviation authorities and the major aeroengine manufacturers, GE-SNECMA,(USA-FR) Rolls Royce,(UK) Pratt & Whitney (USA), Turbomeca (Fr), MTU(Ger). Refs below

I know that at least one of my ex-colleagues must be pleased that France's Rafale Fighter Jet aircraft is now selling, namely Dr. G. Raisson who got the powder metallurgical manufacturing up and running. Unfortuneatly two others who deserve great credit are nolonger with us: My long time boss Y. Honnorat, (Ecole Centrale Paris) one of the most brillant minds I have ever encountered and my dear friend and ex-colleage Dr. James H. Davidson (ex Sheffield Univ.& Imphy Research Centre).

 (Cheers and Kind regards)

My presentation of the local weather here, has lead me to decline with many thanks this once proud special steels and alloys plant. Proud to have developed the ideas of  Charles Edouard Guillaume, whom my British metallurgical colleagues, members of IOM3_Institute of Mining, Minerals & Materials consider (tongue in cheek) to be the only winner of the Nobel Prize in Metallurgy (Physics of course)  Guillaume was based at the International Bureau of Weights & Measures (NPL-UK equivalent)and his "associate" in Industry (Imphy based) Pierre Chevenard. I have had the privilege of working with Research and Manufacturing Development Metallurgists who have personally known Pierre Chevenard.

Now I am reporting this due to my astonishment upon reading the EU-report: Metallurgy Europe –A Renaissance Programme for 2012-2022 list in Annex 2. Potential Beneficiaries from European Industry (non-exhaustive!) 

Non-exhaustive, is no excuse! This unique entity once"Imphy SA" Three melt-shops, Electric Arc mini mill at least 20years ahead of USA, It's own on site R&D centre, developing its own materials while others in France bought US technology and know-how. Plus three first class laboratories, 1 Chemical Analysis for production and quality requirements-cf. scope of materials above. 2. Mechanical properties, from cryogenic to high temperature corrosion and strength. Macroscopic and microscopic control and development. 3. Physical properties lab for dilatometric,magnetic and electrical control and development.    

That this once proud industrial innovator comes under the relatively unknown name APERAM-Chairman Mr Lakshmi Mittal. What it is today, I can hardly imagine. Last news I had was that the 1500 person strongly integrated Imphy site (Imphy SA) in my days appears to be a hotchpotch composed of : Steel melting-Mittal, Special Iron Steels, Stainless Steels  & Superalloys "Techphy-Eramet_Aubert & Duval". Will this new attempt to bring perhaps a sense of unity and the strong sense of identity of my days succeed?  Will the latest rationalisation demotivate under the still unknown company, called APERAM, unknown at least in the above referenced EU listing.  
I do  hope that success is on the agenda for the sake of current employees and for our relatively deprived region, easily forgotten also by our regional capital of Bourgogne (Burgundy) the city of Dijon. No help in view alleviated by transportation difficulties. Indeed it is much easier to travel to Paris or Clermont-Ferrand and should I dare say more useful? National plans for an enlarged Burgundy will penalise further our "West Burgundy" On the EU french divide we are as far from capitol Strasbourg as is possible (Grand Est-Greater East). Perhaps Paris in it's plans for the greater Paris_Isle-de-France will include our city Nevers and our department (county) La Nièvre and so benefit from the economic attaction, and over-populated capital, Paris.

If any of my readers can do a better summary of such industrial (passed-lost?) glory I would be please to hear.


1. Metallurgy Europe –A Renaissance Programme for 2012-2022

2. Optimizing deoxidation and desuIphurization during vacuum induction melting of alloy 718 (freely available to IOM3 members)
Article Type: Research Article
pp. 167–170 Preview | Abstract | PDF (433 KB)
Tried and Proven by melting bi-annually; 2 series of 6 VIM melts, each melt weighing  4.6(5)Tonne batches of lingot electrodes by bottom pouring by VIM for VAR Remelting. 

3. Reliable Source of Superalloy 718 revert material :

 Ireland Alloys Ltd, Scotland, UK.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

For Materials Science Soccer Players _How to hit a goal scoring free-kick thanks to COMSOL multiphysics simulation blog

Winning Soccer Free Kick explained_The Magnus Effect and the World Cup™ Match Ball | COMSOL Blog


Friday, 20 February 2015

Materials in Automotive Application, State of the Art and Prospects,Jan.2011, Free from Intechopen publications

Materials in Automotive Application, State of the Art and Prospects

by Elaheh Ghassemieh (2011). Materials in Automotive Application, State of the Art and Prospects, New Trends and Developments in Automotive Industry, Prof. Marcello Chiaberge (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-999-8, InTech

Thursday, 19 February 2015

METAL 2010 -Impressive List of free papers on: Steels & Steelmaking, Surface Eng. Non-Ferrous Metals & Alloys in English, from the Cech Republic's Symposium Metal 2010

This post, one of several to be done (TBD), was originally motivated by my search into manufacturing work on low density automotive sheet steel recently published in Nature. If readers wish to carry out their own reseach in this, or better, contribute to my approach, you will find the Nature publication, reference entitled "Brittle intermetallic compound makes ultrastrong low-density steel with large ductility" together with the abstract at the end of my post.

Now in the course of my search I unearthed quite an impressive librairy of freely available papers on Steelmaking,steel properties and metallurgy.

Please find a subject index and link to papers, in english, thanks to the Cech Republic's Symposium Metal 2010.

METAL 2010 - List of papers:  - List of papers by symposia


List of Symposium and Poster Sessions by Theme:







Publications without attendance

Workshop -

LINK to Metal 2010

Reference to Nature: 

Brittle intermetallic compound makes ultrastrong low-density steel with large ductility
Nature 2015, 10.1038/nature14144

Although steel has been the workhorse of the automotive industry since the 1920s, the share by weight of steel and iron in an average light vehicle is now gradually decreasing, from 68.1 per cent in 1995 to 60.1 per cent in 2011 (refs 1, 2). This has been driven by the low strength-to-weight ratio (specific strength) of iron and steel, and the desire to improve such mechanical properties with other materials. Recently, high-aluminium low-density steels have been actively studied as a means of increasing the specific strength of an alloy by reducing its density. But with increasing aluminium content a problem is encountered: brittle intermetallic compounds can form in the resulting alloys, leading to poor ductility. Here we show that an FeAl-type brittle but hard intermetallic compound (B2) can be effectively used as a strengthening second phase in high-aluminium low-density steel, while alleviating its harmful effect on ductility by controlling its morphology and dispersion. The specific tensile strength and ductility of the developed steel improve on those of the lightest and strongest metallic materials known, titanium alloys. We found that alloying of nickel catalyses the precipitation of nanometre-sized B2 particles in the face-centred cubic matrix of high-aluminium low-density steel during heat treatment of cold-rolled sheet steel. Our results demonstrate how intermetallic compounds can be harnessed in the alloy design of lightweight steels for structural applications and others., Hansoo K. et al

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Monday, 16 February 2015

Steel Basics

Steel Basics

The ever-expanding list of Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS) is what makes steel ideal for the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s vehicles.  This section is for the detail people out there–students, metallurgists, engineers and materials people, who need to know more about these new steels.  Here you can find the definition of AHSS, details on the metallurgic make up some AHSS grades, example mechanical and chemical properties and an explanation of AHSS types. Follow the links to learn more.

- See more at:

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Science and Technology of Advanced Materials from The Institute of Physics, IOPScience collection

I hope readers will appreciate my links to the Institute of Physics Journal(s): Science and Technology of Advanced Materials one of  several impressive Journals on Materials Science, Physics, Modelling and more. IOPScience collection is a welcomed addition to our own Institute: IOM3-Maney Press publications

I have included the IOP journal's feed  in my RHS-right hand side scroll column. and look forward to the same from my home Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining (IOM3).

Such is the scope of available "materials" from our colleagues at IOP, I shall certainly add further direct links. In the meantime please go ahead and peruse these rich materials resources

IOP Science full collection of Journals


Monday, 9 February 2015

New Hope for progess to master CC

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Printing in Three Dimensions with Graphene GarcíaTuñon 2015 Advanced Materials Wiley Online Library

This innovation could hopfully be the long awaited leap in technology required to bring this marvelous material,graphene, from the realms of dashed dreams fulfill its multiple predicted properties and uses.   Join me in archiving this work and for rapid exploitation. NB. Its Carbon,its abundant, its economic and ecological, (eg. can be obtained from GHG -CO2!

Printing in Three Dimensions with Graphene GarcíaTuñon 2015 Advanced Materials Wiley Online Library

Friday, 16 January 2015

Where to Look for Insight-Innovation = Insight _ don't keep a good thing to yourself.


Where to Look for Insight:

Image ref. MATT CHASE

Hear the word “innovation,” and you might think of an R&D lab, a design group, or a start-up venture. But today innovators are in demand everywhere—from the factory floor to the salesroom, the IT help desk to the HR department, the employee cafeteria to the C-suite.

Innovation isn’t a department.
It’s a mindset that should permeate your entire enterprise.

No matter the venue, the feedstock for innovation is insight—an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue, or boost engagement. Insights can be about stakeholder needs, market dynamics, or even how your company works.
Several Fortune 500 companies have been founded on a single insight about what customers want. Starbucks brought a little bit of Italy to coffee shops. Home Depot gave do-it-yourselfers access to professional supplies. The Body Shop was built on the notion that buyers of beauty products care about humane animal-testing practices. Inside your company, insights can lead to more-efficient operations, simplified processes, or leaner structures.
Insights can be powerful, but how do you find them? Should you brainstorm with colleagues? Sift through masses of data? Simply introspect? Or carry on as usual and wait for the proverbial apple to fall on your head?
In our combined half-century of working with innovators at start-ups and within large corporations, we’ve found that the best insights tend to come from sources that can be categorized. We recognize that many people arrive at great ideas more or less serendipitously, but we nevertheless believe that it’s possible for individuals to approach innovation in a more systematic way.
On the basis of our experiences with and research into entrepreneurial ventures and product-development groups in varied industries around the world, we have outlined seven “insight channels” that can be used by would-be innovators in any function or role. They are listed below. By periodically tuning in to these channels and methodically running through them, you can focus your imagination, organize thinking, spur creativity, and find valuable ideas for growth.


Businesses today are awash in data. Innovators pore over this information looking for promising ideas, but often they focus on means and averages, which lead to broad conclusions. Sometimes the real opportunities lie in the results that deviate from business as usual.
Consider an anomaly in global e-commerce. One might think that Russia, with more than 100 million middle-class consumers and 75 million internet subscribers, would be an attractive market for online retail. However, e-commerce accounts for a paltry 1.5% of total retail sales in the country. The entrepreneur Niels Tonsen recognized why: The Russian postal system is very unreliable, and few consumers have credit cards. This insight led Tonsen to create an online clothing store, Lamoda, which employs an army of couriers to deliver customers’ purchases to their homes, pick up cash on delivery, and even offer fashion advice. By providing an innovative experience that effectively brings the store, the style consultant, and the cash register to the customer’s front door, Lamoda built a very successful e-commerce business, uniquely suited to the Russian market. (See also “The CEO of Ozon on Building an e-Commerce Giant in a Cash-Only Economy,” HBR, July–August 2014.)
The smart innovator knows to notice and then follow up on surprising data. To look for anomalies, ask questions such as: Is your market share or revenue abnormally low or high in a geographical market? Are
you having unusual success with a specific customer segment? Are some of your salespeople unusually productive? Are some of your suppliers able to deliver unusually quickly? Then dig deeper. The deviant numbers may be the tip of the iceberg, hiding a valuable insight below.


When several trends come together, their intersection can be fertile ground for insights. For instance, the confluence of mobile telephony growth, social networking, and increasingly short attention spans has spurred the creation of social media applications including Vine, which allows the sharing of short videos; Tinder, a GPS-linked matchmaker; and Snapchat, which deletes anything sent through it from the receiver’s phone in a matter of seconds. Evan Spiegel and his Snapchat cofounders built on two more-specific social media trends: the urge to broadcast life as it happens and growing concerns over privacy. People express themselves spontaneously on Snapchat without worrying about self-censorship.
New social habits, technologies, and areas of interest are forming all the time across all facets of life. The smart innovator looks at how they fit together. Ask yourself: What are the major economic, demographic, and technological trends affecting my organization, industry, or market? How do those trends intersect? For instance, if you combine an aging population (a demographic trend) with mobile connectivity (a technology trend) and rising health care costs (an economic trend), you can mine the intersection to create services such as remote health care monitoring for seniors. Similarly, if you combine the rising costs and difficulty of sourcing talent with the widespread availability of mobile video, you can see an opportunity to create a video-based recruitment application to screen a large number of candidates at a low cost.


Life’s irritations are often a terrific source of ideas. In the late 1990s Mark Vadon, a young consultant, went shopping for an engagement ring and found the experience intimidating and difficult. The system for categorizing and valuing diamonds is complicated, and eager salespeople only add to the pressure. Vadon reasoned that many other men were equally put off—an insight that led him in 1999 to found Blue Nile, an online jewelry dealer that offers useful tutorials and information on gems. Today the company is the largest online retailer of diamonds and sells some $250 million worth of engagement rings a year—more than 4% of total sales in the U.S. market.
Many people arrive at great ideas more or less serendipitously—but it’s possible for individuals to approach innovation in a more systematic way.
Vadon’s experience shows the value of paying attention to what annoys people and then fixing the problem. Put yourself in the shoes of customers, colleagues, or suppliers and ask: What’s most frustrating about your products, processes, or workplace? What bothers you personally about your business? What work-arounds do people use to get their jobs done? How could they be improved upon? Can you make customers’ lives easier or company meetings less painful? Can you reduce the hassles your suppliers face? If you feel people’s frustrations, you can find valuable innovation opportunities.
When something has always been done the same way on your team or in your organization or industry, it’s worth asking if there’s an alternative. Traditions often block potential innovations because people are reluctant to abandon the tried-and-true. But when conditions change, so must traditions.
In the defense industry, for example, manufacturers have long focused on building expensive and sophisticated missiles, such as Raytheon’s Tomahawk, that sell for more than a million dollars; even the cheapest offerings, such as Lockheed’s Hellfire, cost upward of $100,000. These missiles are developed with customer funding (from the U.S. Department of Defense) and are custom-designed to be smart and powerful so that they can take out tanks and other large targets. But at Raytheon (a company to which Mohanbir Sawhney has provided consulting), the 25-year veteran Steve Ignat and his team recently upended that status quo.
Knowing that the United States and its allies needed cheaper, stealthier missiles to effectively target small groups of terrorists on the ground, they created a low-cost manufacturing facility (dubbed the Bike Shop) and, without even courting a single customer, used parts from existing production programs to assemble exactly those sorts of weapons. One of the missiles they built, the Griffin, is now in high demand.
Orthodoxies hide in every organization, industry, and market. To uncover them, ask yourself: What beliefs do we all hold sacred? Why do things have to be this way? What if the reverse were true? What opportunities would be opened up if we abandoned those assumptions and beliefs?


Businesses, appropriately, spend most of their time concerned with their mainstream stakeholders. But sometimes it is the “positive deviants,” as Oxford University’s Richard Pascale calls them, who are a rich source of ideas or insights, teaching us innovative ways to overcome incredible odds or solve seemingly intractable problems.
In May 2014 the famous Harvard law professor and activist Larry Lessig created Mayday, a political action committee to address the issue of corporate money in politics. The PAC would use community- and internet-based “crowdfunding” to raise similar amounts of money directly from citizens. As of August 25, 2014, it had raised $7.92 million from more than 55,000 contributors.
Positive deviants may be visionary customers who can help you see trends before they become mainstream. They may be manic coworkers who are passionate and don’t take no for an answer. They may be enlightened shareholders who can help shape your company’s strategy. Innovators must look at the fringes of stakeholder groups and ask: What can we learn from those who are most intense in their complaints or enthusiasm that we could apply to our company or our role?


When business turns stale, innovators get out of their own offices to visit “customers”—whether that means employees they manage, colleagues who rely on their work product, or the people who buy their goods and services. These “voyages” into different worlds are necessary because all behavior takes place within a rich sociocultural context; it’s impossible to understand what others are thinking when you’re sitting alone at your desk. Designers and product developers have long understood how important it is to take this anthropological approach.
A few years ago, Jennifer Hargreaves, a manager at the financial software company Intuit, was tasked with creating a new version of the company’s popular QuickBooks product for nonprofit organizations. Her first step was to volunteer at a local charity. After immersing herself in the new context—helping to manage the organization’s accounts for a few months—she noticed sharp differences between for-profit and nonprofit financial management processes. The focus was fundraising, not sales, and donors, not customers. This on-the-ground research helped her brainstorm extra features—such as the ability to track donations, pledges, and grants separately and to allocate expenses to particular initiatives or programs—for the new QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit, which she later launched to positive reviews and sales.
Anyone can make similar voyages. Learn how your stakeholders live, work, and behave. Ask yourself: What are the social, cultural, and environmental factors that affect their preferences and behaviors? How can we create solutions that respond to those factors?


Sometimes other teams, business units, companies, or industries have adopted useful ideas or systems that haven’t crossed the border, so to speak. Can you import innovation—even from a place that seems far removed or exotic?
Greg Lambrecht came up with his Coravin Wine Access System by co-opting ideas from the world of surgery. An MIT-trained engineer and an oenophile, he grew tired of uncorking bottles that he didn’t want to finish in one night, only to have the fine wine start to oxidize and deteriorate. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to drink just one glass while leaving the rest perfectly preserved? He knew that surgeons had started using extra-fine needles to ensure minimally invasive surgery and wondered if the same type of needles could be used to draw wine from a bottle. He tested and developed the idea over more than a decade, and despite a few setbacks, Coravin has been well reviewed and is now widely available.
We advise innovators to study a wide range of unrelated functional groups and industries to look for analogies that they can adapt to their domains. After all, innovation is not about bringing something new into the world. It’s about usefully applying something that is new to the situation, no matter the purpose for which it was invented.Our list of insight channels has evolved over the years and will no doubt continue to change and grow. Other observers could probably add a few categories of their own. But we’ve consistently found in our research and work that these seven are powerful drivers of innovation. Although they’re most commonly used by entrepreneurs, developers, and designers, they can help you in any role and any context where new thinking is required. Few people find great ideas on a blank canvas. Most of us need our imaginations channeled.

Mohanbir Sawhney ( is the McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology and the director of the Center for Research in Technology and Innovation at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, in Evanston, Illinois. They are the authors of a book on network-centric innovation (coming in October from Wharton School Publishing).

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