|Stories of creativity and problem solving for teen inventors|
Magnification of Velcro Fabric
A less well-known story involves Catherine Ryan, who invented locking nuts to hold bolts in place. Her inspiration was how her own wedding ring kept getting stuck on her finger. She saw that if something in the nut could expand after a bolt was placed inside a nut, it would hold the two together.
Other inventions come about when their inventors try to think of uses for things - vulcanized (heated) rubber for tires came about that way. Have you heard of "yellow stickies" (PostIt®)? They were the result of a "failed" adhesive experiment which was too weak to market, until the chemist figured out that a weak adhesive had good uses too.
Many times you can come up with a solution for a problem (or find a problem that fits your solution!) by either "turning a problem around" or selecting two or more things at random and using them to "seed" new ideas. What does "turning a problem around" mean? It means looking at it from a different angle or thinking about it in a new way.
Example 1 - instead of thinking of shoes as protecting your feet from the ground, think of using something to protect the ground from your feet.
Example 2 - instead of thinking about how you can carry kumquats home from a store, think of how they can come to you - by delivery or growing your own - or do you need kumquats at all?
Carefully define a problem. Focus on what you are trying to do in the first place - instead of simply how to do things. If you focus on methods, "i.e. "I need a way to use a computer to count apples", you may not identify a more basic problem - "I need to have about 1000 apples to sell every week" and miss a better solution. Of course many patents issue on novel uses of things so don't just throw away an idea because it doesn't fit the rules - just how could you use a computer to count apples?
Try changing the question - start it with a different word - who, what, where, when, why, how, etc. Change your perspective on a problem - looking for something is not at all the same as finding it, and putting something away is very different from getting rid of it.
Think about something in an unexpected and way that expresses your creativity. Describe doing something in words for something entirely different - search and rescue your toys; turn your closet into a menu of clothes; or feed a thought.
"Lesson Plans - Innovative Thinking" has more ideas on inventive thinking.
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