Necessity is the Mother of Invention
2004 Boaz Rauchwerger
Welcome to Inventions 101. In this class we're going to show you how creative all of us can be. All we have to do is simply become more aware.
When discussing creativity, I'm not simply pointing to physical inventions, but also to finding ways to solve challenges that face all of us on a regular basis.
Let's turn the clock back to the early 1900s. Mrs. Homemaker has just washed her hair and she's running late for a gathering in the neighborhood. In a moment of frustration, she spots the vacuum cleaner in the closet.
At that time, most vacuum cleaners sucked air in the front and blew air out from the back. Mrs. Homemaker, in a moment of desperation, grabs the vacuum cleaner hose, attaches it to the back of the vacuum and, PRESTO, she creates the first hair dryer.
It was in 1920 that the first commercial hair dryer was sold to the public. It was heavy, large, and overheated on a regular basis. It took until 1951 for a workable hair dryer to be developed. Some of you may recall that it was connected to a pink plastic bonnet that would fit over a woman's head.
Talk about bringing awareness and ideas together, how about the invention that a Swiss mountain climber came up with in 1948 as he took his dog on a nature hike. On that lovely summer day, both of them returned home with burrs all over them. These were the little seed-sacs that fall off plants and attach themselves to the fur of animals. That's how they get transported to new and fertile planting grounds.
By putting one of these burrs under a microscope, the man noticed that it was comprised of many small hooks. Those small hooks made it possible for the burrs to cling tightly to the small loops in the fabric of his slacks.
That's the moment that George de Mestral decided to design and produce a fastening system that would resemble nature. It would be two-sided, one with the stiff hooks resembling the burrs and the other with soft hooks like the fabric in his slacks. Combining the words velour and crochet, he decided to call his invention "Velcro."
Looking for more awareness revelations, let's see what we can cook up by focusing on the Raytheon Corporation in 1946. Specifically, let's focus in on the laboratory of Dr. Percy Spencer. He's a self-taught engineer with a very inquisitive mind. His current project involves the testing of a new vacuum tube called a magnetron.
Dr. Spencer obviously has a sweet tooth. You may have noticed that he has a candy bar in the pocket of his lab coat. As Dr. Spencer spends time around the vacuum tube, he notices that the candy bar has melted. Realizing what has happened, Dr. Spencer becomes curious and places some popcorn kernels near the tube. He watches with amazement as the popcorn cracks and pops.
A fellow scientist is called in the next day and the two of them try additional experiments with the vacuum tube. They place an egg by the tube and it begins to quake and tremor. The tube makes the temperature inside the egg rise and thus causes tremendous internal pressure. When the egg finally explodes, so does Dr. Spencer's excitement.
He figures that if this low-density microwave energy could make a candy bar melt, make popcorn kernels pop and an egg boil, perhaps other foods could also be cooked quickly. And you know the rest of this story. Dr. Spencer had accidentally cooked up the microwave oven by simply being aware.
This next idea, as a result of awareness, also had its roots in the kitchen. Earle Dickson was an employee at Johnson & Johnson in 1921. His wife, a devoted homemaker, was constantly cutting her fingers while preparing food in the kitchen.
Earle noticed that the gauze and adhesive tape remedy didn't work very well on the cuts. As his wife continued to work in the kitchen, it would keep coming off her fingers. Thus, Earl decided there had to be a better way of keeping the gauze in place and protecting the small wounds. He took some gauze, attached it to the center of some tape and covered it with an open-weave fabric to keep it sterile.
Earle Dickson thus invented the band-aid. His boss, James Johnson, decided to manufacture band-aids for the public. And every time you've used one, it certainly came in handy, didn't it?
The moral of these stories is that we are all very creative if we decide to see ourselves that way. It's simply a matter of being more aware. Look for things that cause you a problem, an inconvenience, or a delay. Is there a better way?
An Affirmation of Awareness
I am aware of my surroundings and my activities. I am a very creative person.
Article reproduced with permission from Boaz Rauchwerger. You may reprint any of these articles in any publication or Web site so long as you credit Boaz Rauchwerger as the author and include this Web site address, www.Boazpower.com.