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How to Invent: Have 100 Ideas Today

You can have 100 ideas for new inventions in a few hours' time. Some of them will seem silly (but might still be marketable), and some might not work at all when tried. But a few of them -- maybe even a dozen or more -- will be million-dollar ideas. You probably won't make a million from any of them unless you are an experienced entrepreneur and marketer, but you'll have your ideas and the fun that comes from producing them. Here's how.

(Flickr photo by Olga Reznik)

Combining Things

Generating invention ideas is all about using special techniques, and one of the simplest is to combine things in your imagination to see what results. For a simple example, what results when you imagine the combination of a pickup truck and a tent? In your imagination you might see a large tent used as a cheap garage for a truck, or a tent designed to fit the bed of a pickup for camping. This combination could trigger other ideas, and some of them might be worked into a decent new invention.

You get the idea, but think as broadly as you can to find combinations. Suppose, for example, that as you brainstorm you hear a buzzing tone somewhere in the house and you also see a basketball in the corner of the room. Combine those to see what results. Maybe you will design the first basketball for people who are blind -- they can hear the ball coming and the backboard can emit a different tone so making a basket is possible. In other words, look to combine just about any particular thing or concept with any other just to see what pops up in your mind.

Find New Uses for Things

This is a fun technique that will produce a lot of invention ideas quickly, although, as with most idea-generating techniques, you'll have to sift through later to find the few good ones. The concept is as simple as this: Look at any man-made items around you and think of any and all ways you might use them for some purpose other than what they are intended for. Let yourself go wild for the best results. A lamp can be used to throw at an intruder, to dry dishes, to heat a cat bed, to attract insects, to blind an attacker, to cast interesting shadows on the wall, and much more.

As you consider these possibilities ask yourself if there is some product that might come from them. From the short list above I would bet on the last one. People might buy a lamp that has dozens of covers designed to create different shadow-pictures on a living room wall. Changing shadow-pictures would be cheaper than buying new paintings, and might create a soothing (or interesting or scary) environmental effect.

You might recall the invention from a while back that cut hair using any vacuum cleaner. The hair was sucked up and cut in a tube at the specified length. What other uses are there for a vacuum cleaner, or a bicycle, a coffee cup, a pen, a shoe -- the list is endless.

List Problems and Irritations

Problems are opportunities if they are approached as such, and the things that irritate you and others can lead to the next million-dollar idea. Just consider the common problem of how to securely hang things on walls without damaging them. You have probably seen television ads for several products that solve this problem. You might dream up a few more if you give it some thought.

List the things that irritate you and others, and any common problems that you can think of. Then just work down the list giving a bit of thought to each item. Ask how others have solved the problem, what's right or wrong about their solutions, and what could be done differently. If nothing comes to mind after a minute or two just move on to the next item on the list. This works best after you are warmed up from using the other techniques described above.

An Important Tip

Don't think too much about any one idea when you are brainstorming. Generate the ideas quickly and write them down. Work on developing them later, after you have your 100. The analytic process can stifle the creative process, so save it for later.

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How to Invent