Innovation comes from looking at things differently, heading down the road less traveled. Or re-traveling the old roads to notice what others have missed. I call this the Rodney Brooks Research Heuristic. Here’s how this works: In his book Flesh and Machines
, maverick scientist Brooks reveals how he came upon many of his radical ideas regarding robots and artificial intelligence. He would figure out what was so obvious to other researchers that it wasn’t even on their radar any longer, and he’d put it on his. Essentially, Brooks would look at how everyone else was tackling a given problem and what assumptions were so implicit to them that these assumptions had been backgrounded and were no longer being questioned. He would question them. As an example: In designing the Roomba, everyone was stuck on the idea that it had to have a vacuum in it (it was, after all, a robot vacuum!). Vacuum was a backgrounded assumption. Brooks realized that a robotic broom
was far easier, cheaper, and quieter.