Serial inventors have hundreds and thousands of ideas for new technology. It is not practical or viable to develop all of these ideas. Learn to identify your best opportunities.
Finding problems demanding an innovative solution has been the starting point for many great inventions. Once the solution has been proven effective, it is easier to persuade your customers to adopt it.
Sailing the Seven Seas
A good example of this would be the invention of the magnetic compass, which allowed ships’ mariners to navigate without the need for landmarks, and was a significant factor in the Age of Discovery where European explorers mapped the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Prior to the ship’s compass, boats did not sail too far from land as they would get lost or endanger their boats and their lives by inadvertently sailing into dangerous waters. Sailors needed a way to travel the seas that did not rely on landmarks.
This all changed during the 11th century. The Chinese already knew about magnetism and had incorporated it into Feng Shui to decide the location and direction their houses would face. Once they placed the magnet in a compass, they could now plot a course across open seas. The invention of the compass established highly lucrative trade routes where silks and porcelains were imported from China, spice trade from India and allowed the Colombian Exchange to take place.
The Colombian Exchange introduced animals such as the honeybee and the donkey to the Americas and the turkey and the guinea pig to Europe. It introduced oranges to Florida, chocolate to Switzerland, tomatoes to Italy and chilli peppers to India. It also introduced infectious diseases which had disastrous consequences on native americans who had no natural immunity; the Colombia Exchange was a significant event in human history.
This all resulted from the creation of the magnetic compass and the ability to accurately plot a course and follow maps created by explorers.
The alternative strategy for inventors is to create a technology and look for applications that may become a necessity or will, at least, improve your quality of life in some way.
An illustrative example of this is Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of X-ray radiation. It only took Roentgen two weeks from his discovery to establish the potential of X-ray radiation in medical imaging, as it differentiated structures by their density, which went on to establish radiology as a medical speciality that both diagnosed and treated medical conditions using X-ray radiation.
In addition to medical applications, X-rays also benefit painting restoration by identifying the type of paint used, inspect weld integrity in industrial structures, and determine the structure of crystals. Incidentally, Roentgen also discovered that lead made a good barrier to X-ray radiation and was why he was one of only a few of the X-ray pioneers who didn’t die as a result of radiation-induced illness.
Smart Idea Store
August 22, 2012