Inventology: how we dream up things that change the world 6

What inspires people to invent things especially the inventions that are so obvious once they are created?  What inspires people who invent things that are not obvious – like the cell phone, the computer, or the 3D printer?  Can the curiosity and dogged determination of many of the inventors featured in Inventology be taught to others?

download-inventologyThe stories of inventions and inventors – magnificent and simple – are featured in Inventology: How we dream up things that change the word by Pagan Kennedy. I highly recommend this book.

I was hipped to  Inventology at one of the regular author conversations Joyce Linehan hosts at Ashmonticello in Dorchester.  I probably wouldn’t have known about Inventology if I hadn’t attended.

Kennedy covers a lot of ground I this book, including sharing a great definition of invention in the intro: “Invention , according to Fry (Art Fry, inventor of the Post-It Note), is what happens when you translate a thought into a thing.”  She also distinguishes between invention and innovation.

Inventology is divided into Five Parts:

  • Problem Finding (Part I),
  • Discovery (Part II)
  • Prophecy (Part  III)
  • Connecting (Part IV)
  • Empowerment (Part V)

I was turned on by the back-stories of inventions –  some made for profit, some made to solve a problem an individual had observed, some inspired by science fiction, and some the result of a  happy accident or an inspired moment.  Many inventions in today’s internet-connected world are shared openly, innovated by many people, crowdfunded, and made available to the masses.

I almost underlined the whole book (I write in books I own) because there were so many interesting stories and observations.  Here are a few:

“There seems to be some kind of threshold – some number of hours – after which frustration produces creative insight.” (5)

“The two men made the digital design plans for the Robothand free to all, so that anyone in the world with access to a 3-D printer could manufacture it for under $30.” (19)

“…one of the most important parts of the inventing process involves an unusual ability to visualize an imaginary world – to “prototype” an idea by constructing it in the mind’s eye.” (61)”

Very often, the ideas of fiction writers are directly used during the early development stage of a new field of science and technology….Science fiction “helps overcome psychological barriers on the road to ‘crazy’ ideas.” (142)

“Outsiders, rather than those within a field, tended to hit on the best answers.” (160)

“The walls between disciplines and industries keep problems hidden away from the people who possess the oddball knowledge necessary to solve them: (161)

“Lakhani decided to dig into the data to find out whether women were more likely than men to win InnoCentive challenges.” (`162)

To find the answer to this you’ll have to read the book.

Another gem in Inventology was learning about the torture inveterate inventor and optimist Genrich Altshuller endured under Stalin’s regime and the incredible creativity he used to withstand the torture.  Altshuller believed that people could be trained to have creative minds and traveled teaching others how to do so and has disciples and progeny around the world.

One of the take-aways is not to discount an idea, no matter how small and that, as always when significant things are achieved,  determination and consistent effort matter most. Inventology reinforces the importance of children having time/space/tools to tinker and make things outside of traditional classrooms to allow them to develop problem-solving and creativity.  They will become the technical explorers that will solve many of the world’s problems if we unharness their enthusiasm and fresh eyes.

Again, I recommend.





About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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6 thoughts on “Inventology: how we dream up things that change the world

  • Helen M Credle

    “HOW WE DREAM UP THINGS THAT CHANGE THE WORLD”….how apropos is this statement in describing YOU. Candelaria dearest you are one of “THE ONES” who make folks feel that they can “dream up things that change the world”…how magnificent a spiritual invention are “YOU”. Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that….people will forget what you said…people will forget what you did…but people will never forget how you made them feel.”..YOU, my dear, make folks FEEL that they can dream up things that change the world. I personally can attest to the miracle of the inspirational and the challenging of us to do Candelaria.
    THANK YOU….Helen!!!!

  • Denise Dabney

    Wow! This is heavy & so far out of my realm of thinking! And yet – the book recommendation appeals to my curiosity and my desire to glimpse into other people’s thinking processes. Thank you, Candelaria. I’ll add Inventology to my long list of books-to-read!