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Friday, January 24, 2014

The Great Idea Finder: Site Review

Rarely does a website cover everything you ever wanted to know about a subject, but "The Great Idea Finder" tries really hard.
Some of the pages here include: Invention Facts & Myths, Inventor Biography, Innovation Timeline, Invention Categories and Innovation Games and Trivia. It's worth the time to examine the site and use the information to spark your own ideas. Their stated mission is to provide inspiration to the "inventor" in all of us and it does a good job.
On their "Resources on the Bookshelf" page they have links to help you with your creative process. I especially like the fact that they suggest trying your local library first. Even though you can get these books online, sometimes just browsing the library stacks in an unfamiliar subject area can prompt you to pick up a book you'd never think of looking for. Call it serendipity, call it fate, but since creativity is basically pulling together old ideas in new ways, a field trip to your local library can be positively inspiring. Even better if you have a college or university library nearby which gives access to locals.
In addition the site has an "Ideas for Sale Showcase" which spotlights and gives awards to what they think are the best ideas. On other pages there's information on protecting your idea. I'd go there first before posting your idea.
Next time you are on deadline to come up with the Next Big Thing, a site like this one is a good jump start for your brain.
Quality of Information: Good. You can spend quite a bit of time browsing this site.
Ease of Use: Navigation is good on this site, and menus are well-titled.
Design: Utilitarian.
Do you have any favorite idea-provoking sites? Let me know.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

In a recent post by Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO, he tells you that the secret to innovation is to think like a kid. Here's an excerpt:

"Toddlers will belt out off-key tunes at the top of their lungs, dance with abandon down the aisles of a supermarket, or color on walls and floors, never questioning their ability. But somewhere along the way—maybe because of a remark by a parent, teacher, or peer, or maybe because of their own insecurities—many kids lose confidence in their creative instincts, especially during their high school and college years."

Some years ago I taught an arts program as a Visiting Artist to first and third graders. The grade school had no art lessons due to "cutbacks" and, I think, a general idea that art lessons were "extras" and not as important as mathematics, English, etc. The Visiting Artist program that sponsored myself and other artists to come in to teach at all grade levels was run by a small parents group that was smart enough to understand how art lessons are important to problem solving. Creative expression allows a person to explore different paths.

I would say that disillusion can set in way earlier than high school. What I saw was a big difference between first and third-graders. First graders were more enthusiastic and came up with different approaches, like "can I paint this bit red?" (The answer to that is, yes, try it and see what it looks like.) By third grade there was a different attitude and a general frustration that the cat they drew didn't look like a cat.

This perception that there was only one way to draw a cat, and that if it didn't look real then the whole exercise was a failure. When your child brings home a picture the correct question to ask is "can you tell me about it?" This stimulates the creative story behind the drawing. Some are funny, some are heart-breaking, but all are a vital part of the creative process.

Don't think that the arts are extras. They are an integral part of education and what we should be looking for is a wide-ranging balance of educational opportunities instead of conditioning our children to believe that success is a football scholarship. I'm simplifying here, but look at recent bad behavior in the NFL and how they get away with it. Now if only they had art lessons as children...

To read Tim Brown's article, "The Secret to Innovation: Think Like a Kid," click on the link below: