New Innovations - A Fun Way To Create Them

By: Steve Gillman

How do you dream up new innovations? There are many ways. One of the most fun, though, is the modifying-word list. It all begins with the question, "What if it was...?"

You may have heard of this problem-solving, idea-generating technique before. The basic idea is to start with a particular problem or product and ask "What if it was bigger... smaller... cheaper... more expensive... less complicated... more complicated... more colorful?" and so on. The words are from a list that you work your way through for each problem or invention.

This is an easy way to come up with ideas for new innovations. Suppose you make refrigerators, for example, and need a new product. You ask "What if it was smaller?" A thermos-sized cooler operated by a small battery comes to mind. "What if it was cooler?" makes you think about the fact that the heat removed blows into the room, fighting against the air conditioning in the summer. Perhaps you could design a refrigerator that vents the hot air outside. Each word has the potential to give you a new idea.

What if you don't have a specific problem or project in mind, though? What if you are just looking for a new innovation in any areas to work on, or you just like to invent things as a mental exercise? In that case, there is another way to use a modifying-word list, and it may be even more fun. Just start with the word instead of the thing or idea. Then apply the modifying word to everything you can think of.

For example, if you start with the word "easier," you just look around at things and ask, "What if it was easier?"

Lights. It would be easier to turn them on in the dark if they were voice-activated.

Plants. Sell a line of plants that are almost impossible to kill, for those of us that can't seem to keep house plants alive.

Democracy. Maybe that company that makes the "For Dummies" books should add "Democracy For Dummies" to their line. Perhaps secure online voting would make it easier than going to the polls.

Brainpower. Three deep breaths always wakes up my brain. I bet it would work better if I had a small and easy to use oxygen dispenser.

To get in the habit of using this technique, you can either use the traditional technique - write down a few items and create innovations in your mind using the word list. Or you can try this other version - pick a modifier, like "more common," and apply it to everything you see today, asking, "What if it was more common?" You never know what ideas and innovations will come to mind.

The New Innovations Word List

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

The list above is a basic one. You can start with that, but there are hundreds of idea-generating words you could add to it. Any adjectives, descriptive phrases, or words that can change your perspective can be potentially useful for stimulating ideas for new innovations.

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