New Inventions - How To Dream Them Up

Steven Gillman

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How do you dream up ideas for new inventions? Use any of the many excellent idea-creation techniques. One of the easiest is the use of a modifying-word list.

Several times now I have seen giant chairs. The most recent one was in a bar, being used by the host of a trivia contest. It was eight feet tall. Someone made and sold that chair, but how did he think of the idea? The simplest way would be to look at things and ask “what if it was bigger?"

That is the essence of the modifying word list. You look at things and ask, “What if it was. . . " and insert a word from the list to stimulate ideas for new inventions. To show the technique in action, I just looked around the room and chose a table as a test subject. I look at the word list and ask “What if it was. . . "

Bigger: If it had leaves that spread from a central pivot, it could be opened up easily into a larger surface, like a hand fan opened horizontally.

Movable: The obvious idea here is to put wheels on it. Another possibility is a line of super light tables that can be carried from room to room easily.

Cheaper: I once used an old door as a table. Are there cheap and available materials that could be used to make doors?

Interesting: Make tables that are covered in family photos (or anything else you want). The top would then be encased in acrylic. Easy to clean too!

Divided: Four small tables that can be used on their own or connected into one large table?

Subtracted from: Take away the legs and it would be easier to clean under. Could it hang from the ceiling?

Hotter: A warming tray built into the center of the table might be convenient for keeping meals hot.

Happier: Use colors that evoke positive emotions. Make cartoon-covered tables for day-care centers.

Take notes as you do this, and develop or discard the ideas later. Most words won't give you useful ideas, but don't dismiss them without a few seconds of thought. Creative solutions can begin with unrelated thoughts. “What if it was boring?" may seem useless, but then it could lead to the development of a line of furniture based purely on function: simple and cheap.

Words For New Inventions

You can make your own list for this technique. Generally it will need a lot of adjectives, but any words that have the potential to change your perspective can work. You may want to include some of the following.

What if it was. . . larger. . . smaller. . . farther away. . . closer. . . sooner. . . later. . . easier. . . more difficult. . . softer. . . harder. . . poorer. . . richer. . . wetter. . . drier. . . higher. . . lower. . . longer. . . shorter. . . certain. . . uncertain. . . newer. . . older. . . divided. . .combined. . . more common. . . less common. . . faster. . . slower. . .better. . . worse. . . hotter. . . colder. . . added to. . . subtracted from. . . left alone. . . hopeless. . . imaginary. . . cheaper. . . more expensive?

Take notes as you do this exercise, and give each word a few seconds of thought. Creative solutions can begin with unrelated thoughts. “What if it was hopeless?" may seem useless, if you are looking for new inventions to replace existing shopping carts, but it could also make you look beyond ways for customers to gather their groceries. Maybe an invention to bring the groceries to the customer would be more radical and marketable.

Copyright Steve Gillman. For more Idea Generating Techniques , and to get the Brain Power Newsletter and other free gifts, visit:


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