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You? The Next Creator Of A Million Dollar Idea?

Stuck on a problem?  How you can use your mind and your thoughts to become more creative.  Who knows, you might yet be the one to create the next big  million-dollar idea.

When asked about the source of his genius, the great American inventor Thomas Alva Edison (1847 to 1931) had this to say to aspiring inventors, “Make a habit of looking out for new and interesting ideas which have already been used by others successfully”.  You see, when we don’t have the right tool or idea in hand, we can use other objects that may be meant for something else.  This is one of the best way to use creative problem solving.   

As simple as this idea may sound, what keeps us from utilizing it?  Psychologists  call this “functional restriction”. Which means having seen that an implement works well for what it was designed to do, we fail to see or visualize what else we can use it for.  Our brain stores a great number of different representations of every object that we use.  We tend to compartmentalize different images  or words in our memories.  In most instances, a certain image will always correspond to the same concepts. 

Let’s take for example the humble paper-clip.  Most people who use a paper-clip to hold together notes, letters or maybe dollar bills.  Can you think of any other uses for it?   Wonderful wire sculptures have been molded from paper clips, I remembered someone in the office using a straightened paper-clip to pry open the door of a jammed CD_ROM drive of a computer.   In Austria, a creative paper-clip competition drew in an astonishing 100,000 users for the humble paper-clip.

In most cases, we only think of those links which are closely associated with the object on hand.  Take for example a wooden stool.  However some problems make it essential to not only think of the obvious connections but also to dwell a little further of what else the object can be used.  We can become more imaginative if we can store individual fragments and new combinations of objects in different memory compartments.    Thinking wider, a stool then can be an prop in a circus act, you can juggle a set of stools,  to hold a lion back in a circus act, a stool can be used to reach for something in a high cupboard or to be used as firewood or as a work of art. 

Pilots in World War II have been known to use chewing gum to plug the bullet holes in their airplanes.  What can you use a glass bottle for?  My grandmother used to use one to roll over peanuts to crush them to bits to make peanut candy.  You can put flowers in them, or use it to hold a message if you’re ever stranded on a deserted island.   Memory trainers have cleverly used images of words and pictures to formed clever associations to something as abstract as number or mathematical formulas.  Anything from a shopping list, historical dates and scientific facts can be memorized easily by using what the brain is already very familiar with.  Besides holding promise for accelerated learning, it can be developed and mastered as a study skill for any subject in school.  Also, it is surprisingly simple to use.

Many a good marketing idea have used ideas borrowed from elsewhere.  Putting nicotine replacement in chewing gum to help smoker’s break the habit for example.  And how come no one has ever thought of putting good old plain water in cardboard cartons normally used for soft drinks?  One woman in the US did and you can now sip water by putting a straw through a hole in a cardboard carton.  The idea has taken America by storm, imagine being able to transport huge loads of drinkable water cheaply and hygienically to any disaster-stricken areas like post Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

So  look at the everyday things around you,  can you borrow ideas from them?  Necessity may be the mother of inventionPsychology Articles, but your creativity may help to make you rich one day.

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