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Top 10: Creative Thinking Techniques

Creativity is using something that’s already there – differently. It’s not about inventing something new, it’s more about keeping your eyes – and your imagination – open.  These are ten categories that have led to creative success (and personal fortunes)….

1: Accidents: many fortunes have been made on the back of accidents or mistakes: penicillin, post it pads, and ice lollies….

2: Reversal: take the existing situation and reverse it.  This is the principle behind the successes of Domino Pizzas (first to deliver to the customer’s home); container ships (put the storage on top rather than within the ship) and Dick Fosbury (who decided to go over the high jump bar backwards)

3:Connections: the car inner tube was the inspiration behind the everyday rubber band; Pilkington ’saw’ how to float glass as a way of purifying production when he noticed the way liquid in the washing up bowl separated through detergents; and Gutenberg saw wine pressing in France, and immediately knew how to make printing work…

4: Combinations: toothpicks + cotton made a fortune for the ‘inventor’ of Q-tips; the combination of gauze, sticky tape and conaline fabric – all of which existed, but separately – led to the ‘invention’ of elastoplast; and most famously, the combination of emulsion paint and nail varnish led to the creation of tippex, and made a housewife a billionaire….

5: Old product, new application: Frisbee – from pie tin lid to the best spelling sports product; thumb tack – originally a map pin with a narrow head – only much later was the pin head flattened; paper clip – initially patented to join tickets to fabric – only much later used to secure pieces of office paper together

6: Old world discovery, new world application: chocolate drink (beloved by the Aztecs, and discovered by Spaniards in the 16th century), to the chocolate bar (created in England in 1847); the yo yo was a Philippine weapon before it was a mass produced western toy; and frozen fish – used by Innuits for centuries, and ‘discovered’ by Captain Birdseye (true!!)

7: To meet a perceived need: as they say – necessity is the mother of invention.  The Waldorf Salad was initially an emergency concoction based on the only ingredients available at that time at the Waldorf Hotel; bottling drink was created by a store owner to meet the need of customers who wanted to take away the drinks available in his shop soda fountain; and the safety pin was (amazingly) the invention of someone who needed to pay off a debt – so he thought: what can I invent? – and he gave the patent of his idea to pay off his debt.  Many creative ‘inventions’ are the result of boredom + the need to play something (eg trivial pursuit)….

8: Learn from nature: many patented success stories are simply given free by nature.  James Watt saw the potential power and application of steam from watching a kettle boil; nature provides fingerprints as a unique source of evidence; and thorn hedges were the inspiration behind the ‘invention’ of barbed wire

9: Everyday inventions – but not yet patented: a cheeky way of making a fortune – simply patent something that has so far been taken for granted: the best example of this could be the song ‘Happy Birthday to You’ which still makes £2 million for the owners of the patent; shoe laces had been around for a long time – and then someone patented the formal idea; the same is true of the horse shoe….

10: Sheer inspiration: creativity as that ‘light bulb’ moment – just a flash of insight as to something new that might just work….three examples: the smiley face icon; charity awareness bracelets; and (my favourite bizarre example) – pet rocks (a ’70s craze)….

For more examples, or to book our one day programme on ‘creative thinking’ contact carolinerowlands@etduk.co.uk or leave a comment below.  Please also use the space below to add your own favourite examples….

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