Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Books Technology

Ask Slashdot: What Are Good Books On Inventing, Innovating and Doing R&D? 102

dryriver writes: I've signed up to a project that involves inventing new ways to do things and also performing the technology R&D required to make these new ways a reality. So, dear Slashdotters, are there any good books on inventing, innovating or doing R&D? Books that describe different ways to approach inventing/R&D? Books on managing a team effort to invent, innovate and research? Or even good books about the history of past inventions -- how they were created, why they were created, how and why they succeeded or failed in the real world? Thanks!
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: What Are Good Books On Inventing, Innovating and Doing R&D?

Comments Filter:
  • The Bible? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Book of Genesis, specifically.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Take you pick []. So find a bunch of irascible geeks with a mind bent in the direction of you problem. The present them with you problem and care and nuture them, whilst offering them a reward for the solution (negative reinforcement will fail as it does not feed creative outcomes). Geeks, inventing, innovating and research and development is what they are really good at, it's the way their brains work. You will need to focus their thoughts on the desired goal (it is much easi

  • so (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    you signed up for an R&D project and have no idea where to start... I am sure this project will be successful

    • I agree, from what I've observed the drive to invent is an innate ability not something you learn in school. Training certainly hones this ability but I've never seen training create it where it did not previously exist. Go hire some people that show talent for inventing things in your field and then surround them with people that can take that invention to market. Also - inventing by committee is probably the worst possible way to do it.

      • Re:so (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @08:14PM (#54266895)

        A young man wrote to Mozart and said:

                        Q: "Herr Mozart, I am thinking of writing symphonies. Can you give
                        me any suggestions as to how to get started?"
                        A: "A symphony is a very complex musical form, perhaps you should
                        begin with some simple lieder and work your way up to a symphony."
                        Q: "But Herr Mozart, you were writing symphonies when you were 8
                        years old."
                        A: "But I never asked anybody how."

  • Read about TRIZ... it's about how inventions evolve in predictable ways. []

    and this is a book by it's creator:
    And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared: TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Secrets from an Inventor's Notebook: Advice on Inventing Success"
    by Maurice Kanbar
    (invented SKYY vodka)

  • You can try "How to get rich quick, by inventing the shit out of things'

    By yours truly.

    Only $99.95

  • The first rule of inventing stuff is to define specifically what exactly do you wish to achieve.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      The first rule of inventing stuff is to define specifically what exactly do you wish to achieve.

      I have to partly disagree. Sometimes you have to experiment and road-test ideas. Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that being nimble based on customer feedback and market trends is important.

    • Nah, finding a purpose for a quirk can be an invention too

  • This is a great book about understanding the scientific method. It has allowed me to invent many things over the years. Here are some starter links: [] [] []

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @07:46PM (#54266769) []

    Also, you might want to go get: [] []

  • by volvox_voxel ( 2752469 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @07:48PM (#54266775)
    "Building scientific Apparatus. A practical guide to design and construction" by Moore Davis and Copland - This is book is perfect for the experimentalist - it goes into the basics of mechanical design and fabrication, working with glass, vacuum technology, optics/lasers/detectors, charged particle optics, electronics, measurement and control of temperature, etc. It's a great and easy read.

    I'm sure many graduate students have poured over this book to gain insights about how to make their ideas and experiments come to life. I've seen this book in quite a few labs.

  • There is no such thing. There are some (poor) books on project management but managing, inventing and innovating isn't something you learn, it's something you spend lots of time on without reward for 9/10 of "inventors".

    Goal-oriented R&D is called engineering and manufacturing. You probably need to be more specific about the branch you need engineers in.

  • 1) Brian Tracy "The Psychology of Success"

    2) This video [], by John Cleese

    3) Anthony Robbins, "Get The Edge"

    Each of these addresses the psychological aspect of creativity.

  • Another classic - (Score:4, Interesting)

    by volvox_voxel ( 2752469 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @07:55PM (#54266815)
    An Introduction to Scientific Research

    http://store.doverpublications... [] From the dover-books website :

    "This book is intended to assist scientists in planning and carrying out research. However, unlike most books dealing with the scientific method, which stress its philosophical rationale, this book is written from a practical standpoint. It contains a rich legacy of principles, maxims, procedures and general techniques that have been found useful in a wide range of sciences.

    While much of the material is accessible to a college senior, the book is more specifically intended for students beginning research and for those more experienced research workers who wish an introduction to various topics not included in their training. Mathematical treatments have been kept as elementary as possible to make the book accessible to a broad range of scientists. Its principles and rules can be absorbed to advantage by workers in such diverse fields as agriculture, industrial and military research, biology and medicine as well as in the physical sciences.

    After discussing such basics as the choice and statement of a research problem and elementary scientific method, Professor Wilson offers lucid and helpful discussions of the design of experiments and apparatus, execution of experiments, analysis of experimental data, errors of measurement, numerical computation and other topics. A final chapter treats the publication of research results.

    Although no book can substitute for actual scientific work, this highly pragmatic compendium contains much knowledge gained the hard way through years of actual practice. Moreover, the author has illustrated the ideas discussed with as many actual examples as possible. In addition, he has included notes and references at the end of each chapter to enable readers to investigate particular topics more deeply. E. Bright Wilson, Jr. is a distinguished scientist and educator whose previous works include Molecular Vibrations and Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (with Linus Pauling). In the present book, he has distilled years of experiment and experience into an indispensable broad-based guide for any scientific worker tackling a research problem. Reprint of the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York, 1952 edition. - See more at: http://store.doverpublications... []"

  • The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. History of Bell Labs from the founding to around the 80s.

  • Michael A. Hiltzik - Big Science Lawrence Goldstone - Drive! Kevin Ashton - How to Fly a Horse
  • There are no good books unless you include religious texts. I've been coming up with ideas for 18 years working in research at a college and the things that help me are: writing down ideas as soon as I get them (always have paper and pencil handy, even at night and when showering and traveling), absorbing knowledge from everywhere (read farm catalogs, listen to the lyrics of music, delve into sociology, psychology, physics, chemistry, business processes, finance, everything), and get rid of clutter in your
  • Read up on Marketing. You will likely have to "invent" something that brings value to an internal or external customer. So find out what this value is! Then read up on gradual vs. radical invention and what it means for how you run your R&D operations. The topic is also covered in operations management research (i.e. in books you read at business school). Having some knowledge of how academics do research is also very useful. Read up on how prototyping and product design work. Finally you need some rele

  • by sims 2 ( 994794 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @09:24PM (#54267143)

    The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

    If you're going to make something please make it intuitive.

  • Check Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair website, he's been inventing stuff for decades. []
  • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:09PM (#54267433)

    I've taught a class on essentially this topic in a senior-level class for a couple of years at a top-10 US University, so I've performed this same search that you are (My day job is Research Faculty). I could find very little. This thread has some nice suggestions that I am definitely going to check out, though.

    Looking back now, I can see that in my own learning of the art of science and of R&D, it was all bits and pieces learned from people. Whether in undergrad, grad school, or as a post-doc – it was always the same case. I made a habit of listening to those whom I found competent. Most of the real, kernel-level things that I learned were discrete and small lessons. Sometimes a single observation or suggestion.

    I wish I could articulate something useful, but really it was the experience of working with others in science or R&D/engineering that I learned the most valuable lessons. Becoming competent in this skill-set is, as far as I can tell, best achieved by being an understudy – an apprentice. That is actually what graduate school is: an apprenticeship.

    I am not saying these things cannot be learned in other ways. If grad school is not an option, then read some of the fine-sounding books listed in-thread. Associate yourself, if you can, with anyone who possesses these skills.

    Good luck.

  • Truly new ideas are few and far between, so learn from some folks that have a track record bringing new ideas into the world. A few starting points:

    Look up "Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed" by Ben Rich - a history (with some run rules and other operational lessons learned) on one of the top "innovation" shops of the last 50 years.

    Saw someone posted The Idea Factory, also highly recommended.

    As for making things a reality, try "Design of Design" and "The Mythical Man-Month", both by Fr

  • Practice and sweat. That will give you experience which is the greatest book of all.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    (mechanical engineer) Product development professional and R&D manager here, hi.
    I don't remember what we read in school, but there's a lot out there on development of products (we had some book with an example of the development of the phillips screw driver).

    The process is good to follow - it helps you keep your head together and explain upwards where you are in the project and what you are doing (and why you can't show a finished proto just yet).

    1 Research & brainstorming (there are sever

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, 2017 @12:58AM (#54267717)

    I've worked at several startups, and in R&D groups in larger companies. I've worked at all levels, most often directly with the research scientists. I've been at the elbows of amazing inventors, researchers and innovators. None of them followed any common models, or had many shared processes, but they did share several characteristics that helped me in my own efforts.

    When I got out of the US Navy I became a technician, initially performing production calibration of scientific instruments. Soon I was helping on new products and beta instruments. Then one of our scientists lost his lab technician and I was asked to fill-in. It was like drinking from a firehose while juggling grenades. But I immediately knew what I wanted to do, and that was a career in R&D.

    1. Know the theory.

    It is difficult to create anything truly new unless you have a deep and broad understanding of the relevant theory. This can be done while getting a BS (which I did, but it was a 5-year BS), but most often it requires an MS. Or equivalent! You certainly can get the classes in the evenings. Technologies and their applications come and go at a furious rate: Theory never becomes obsolete, and it only grows with time.

    2. Know the the field.

    It is important to know what's already been done in the field, and what's happening now. Sometimes, our new great idea has actually been done before, and likely failed. Knowing the history, the main companies, the main researchers, and the applicable technology in a field is vital to know even what or where to innovate. This typically means joining professional societies (SPIE, IEEE, ACM, etc.), subscribing to journals, going to conferences, trade fairs, and vendor/distributor seminars.

    4. Know all the buzzwords.

    It is important to know the full vocabulary within a field, within its adjacent fields, and within all fields it relies upon. It's all the "meta-data", knowing what things exist and how they are related. You do NOT need to know much of anything about the underlying theory or tech. This is where Google makes a difference. Become expert at "surfing buzzword chains". If you know just the conceptual connections, you know a huge amount about the field.

    One critical area for such buzzword/meta-data knowledge is math, particularly applied math. For example, I have never used, implemented or even seen an "Extended Kalman Filter", but I know where and when they are used, and if I'm ever in a related area, I'll know it's time to study EKFs. I've read the abstracts and conclusions in papers about EKFs (that's where the vocabulary is), but I have yet to read any of the pages in-between.

    5. Learn from others.

    I was extraordinarily lucky to have a terrific scientist mentor so early. Don't wait for luck! Learn who the innovators are in your field, find out the events they attend, make sure you go to them, and offer to buy lunch, beers, or whatever else is needed to get time with them. Join the email groups and forums they participate in. Follow them on social media. Read every article or paper they ever wrote.

    Then ask them for a job. It rarely works, but it's worked for me twice! (I just got really used to "No", and kept trying.)

    6. Read biographies of great innovators and companies.

    Start close to your field, the go wider as needed. Be sure to focus on ones that emphasize the technical aspects. I generally avoid autobiographies unless they have a great ghost-writer and/or have great reviews from technical folks.

    7. Think outside the box. Literally.

    Don't get trapped within US culture. Do some of all the above outside of English-speaking countries. Particularly focus on Asia. Learn bits of other languages, such as Mandarin and Russian, enough to be polite at conferences (Duolingo rocks). Use Google Translate to read papers lacking English versions.

    8. NEVER be afraid to ask a "stupid" question!

    I can't emphasize this enough. Most scientists are eager to discuss their work, but t

    • 9. Go back and time and display a real interest in science and experimentation even before you were a teenager
  • by Anonymous Coward

  • That's all you need: mass synergy. Drink 10 cups of it a day. If that doesn't work, lodge some up your ... wait a sec, children around...

  • Novel inventions are born out of intense curiosity. Curiosity can't be taught by reading a book. Set up an environment where people are encouraged to experiment, are rewarded for success, and are not penalized for failure. Many great inventions were the result of mistakes made in the lab. Don't try to formalize the process too much as it reduces the probability for mistakes.
  • Put interesting people in close quarters with minimal oversight and throw money at them. I can't say it works every time, but I'd like to see anyone come up with any example of consistently highly performing R&D that followed another model. If you have a particular problem you want solved, do the above, then figure out how to make the given problem as interesting as possible.
  • Anything to do with 'Systematic Inventive Thinking': []

    This book - "Inside the Box" - is a good introduction:
    http://www.insidetheboxinnovat... []

    Also, "Get back in the box" (haven't fully read it yet): []

  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @08:31AM (#54268747) Journal
    I would give Tracey Kidder's Soul of a New Machine [] a heavy recommendation. Released in 1981, it recounts events at Data General in 1979-1980, where a small team of engineers rapidly developed a 32-bit minicomputer. The team was up against nearly impossible deadlines and breaking new ground to create a machine that paved new ground while maintaining backwards compatibility with 16-bit predecessors. Some of it is just narrative, but mostly it is a study of the players: their motivations, their backgrounds, and how they all operated as a team. If you enjoy the TV show Halt and Catch Fire, this book will be right up your alley.
  • Didn't see it posted....

    Steven Johnson's "Where Good Things Come From" lays out a pretty good framework for innovative environments. ('Emergent' is also pretty good).

    Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma" is also a good read.

    And last, Dietrich Dorner's "The Logic of Failure" might be also good, from the other direction....

  • [] Excellent book about managing a project of unknowns. Well written and concise.
  • Assuming you are asking about the tech industry, this book ( describes how to use Design Thinking for doing exactly what you are talking about. It just came out, and I've been through it with my team. We all have loved it.

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.