5. Prerequisites

5. Prerequisites

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[/s2If]There are several concepts that are helpful to understand in order to get the most out of Predictive Innovation. This section covers these concepts.

Functional Distinctions

You’ve probably seen products with long lists of features that don’t have much value for the primary function of the product. Some products have differences in the primary function but the differences are so small it doesn’t matter. Even large differences that don’t relate to the purpose of the product do not mean much to users. The important differences are those that noticeably affect the function. These are Functional Distinctions.

The purpose and the result determine Functional Distinctions. The intended goal of using the product determines which functions it must perform.

For a product that is used by blind people, the color does not matter. However, if the product is used by blind people to show sighted people they are blind, such as a white cane with a red tip, color is very important.


Sometimes the amount causes a Functional Distinction. More or less of the same thing often doesn’t have a significant effect but there can be differences of amount that cause a functional difference.

Water is a requirement of life but if you have too much you can die. Same thing with heat. Too little heat and you freeze to death, too hot and you burn. There are many Functional Distinctions of scale in science. Water below 0°C freezes and is a solid. Between 0°C and 100° C water is a liquid. Over 100°C water is a gas. Solids, liquids, and gasses each have very different properties and function differently.

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Wright Brother's First Flight
Wright Brother’s First Flight

When the performance level for an Outcome makes a new task possible this is a Functional Distinction. For instance, gasoline engines made the power to weight ratio large enough to make heavier than air flight possible. The basic physics of flight were understood and steam engines had been used to move very large amounts of cargo at high speed for decades before airplanes were built. The reason for this was a Functional Distinction between steam engines and gasoline engines. Sometimes Functional Distinctions can be achieved with incremental improvements but usually a paradigm change is required. Steam engines that boil water and exhaust steam will never have the power to weight ratio needed for heavier than air flight because of the massive amount of water needed. The fundamental change of not needing water made heavier than air flight possible.


Microprocessors have remained fundamentally the same for the past 50 years. Improvements have been made by incrementally increasing the number of transistors and clock speeds of the chips. When the processing power became enough to handle 16 bits at 44,000 per second it was possible to play digitally recorded audio.

Compact Disc
Compact Disc

This made audio CD’s possible. And when the speed increased more, video became feasible. These were incremental improvements that caused Functional Distinctions.

Another important Functional Distinction comes from lowering the price enough to reach new markets. There are many ways of lowering the prices including: better production techniques, removing unneeded features, and reducing unneeded levels of performance. All of these make it possible for someone to do something they could not do before because it was too expensive.

Identifying Functional distinctions is the key to finding break-through innovations. Functional distinctions can be identified by: looking at key levels, categorizing features with the Alternative Grid, focusing on different Outcomes, or using a different Element to achieve the result.

Example: Apples & Oranges

Apples & OrangesWhat ways are apples different from oranges?

  • Color
  • Shape
  • Skin
  • Texture of inside
  • Acidity

What ways are apples similar to oranges?

  • Fruit
  • Grow on trees
  • Skin
  • Size
  • Both will float

What purposes are impacted by the similarities and differences?

  • Preventing scurvy
  • Making a pie
  • Throwing
  • Transporting
  • Making juice
  • Sharing with a friend

Multidimensional Thinking

The word “dimensions” is frequently used in science fiction or by religious gurus. That tends to make a simple subject seem complicated. Also, many of the ways dimensions are taught in math classes are too abstract for most people to see how or why to think in multiple dimensions. The truth is, we constantly think in multiple dimensions.

Ruled paper
Ruled paper

An example of dimensions is the different aspects of paper. Some ways to describe paper are rule, texture, color, and material. Each of those aspects are functionally distinct dimensions. You can visualize those 4 dimensions of paper with a grid.






















This grid describes a portion of the idea space of paper. Just like a 2-dimensional map provides coordinates for a physical location, there are coordinates in the idea grid. A geographic map uses longitude and latitude. The map of the paper idea space uses rule, color, texture, and material.

This map of the paper idea space does not cover the entire idea space of paper. It is missing some dimensions such as size, shape, thickness, etc. Additionally the grid does not show the full range for the dimensions listed. There are more colors than white, yellow, and pink. There are more textures than smooth and matte.

Complexity and Fractals

Mandelbrot Set
Mandelbrot Set

You’ve probably seen pictures of fractals. Images of fractals have been popular ever since Benoît Mandelbrot coined the phrase in 1975 to describe these amazing complex shapes created by simple rules.

The mathematically interesting thing about fractals is that very simple rules, endlessly repeated, create tremendously complex yet orderly shapes. If you zoom in to a fractal you discover that the complex branching shapes are repeated infinitely.

The complexity comes from the results of the previous step being used in the next step. This is exactly what happens with innovation. Choices in the past affect the choices in the now, which affect choices in the future.


There are three functionally distinct ways to look at time. The first is Point-time. When you set an appointment for 9 am Monday that is a point in time.

The other way to look at time is Time-span. If you say something took 4-hours or 17-days that is a span of time.

The third way to think of time is Event-time. When something happens. You don’t know the day, minute, or hour until it happens. You are watching for the event to occur.


There are a few essential elements of logic you need to use Predictive Innovation. You must grasp the concept of Cause and Effect and understand the two logical fallacies: Post Hoc, and Cum Hoc.

Reviewing predicate logic will also help. There are many free resources online to help you review logic.

Standard Units of Measure

There are seven standard physical units of measure. All other physical units of measure are combinations of these seven.

Standard Physical Base Units





meter m distance
kilogram kg mass
second s time
ampere A electric current
kelvin K temperature
mole mol amount of substance
candela cd intensity of light

Length & WidthLength and width are distances so they are measured in meters. Area is length times width so it is measured in meter times meters or square meters.

Speed is distance traveled per unit of time. It is measured in meters per second, m/s.

Practice breaking things down into the physical base units to help you see conceptional base units. This is a key part of Predictive Innovation.
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