Swap the Steps

What steps can you swap to create more value?

          In 1983, John E. Cronin was in his laboratory at IBM in Vermont when he had an idea to reorder the steps used for 25 years in making computer chips. John experimented with different orderings and ultimately re-discovered a process that had been followed by steel makers in ancient times.

Steel smiths in Damascus hundreds of years before Christ, used a process to overlay metals and improve the strength of swords. John’s discovery allows chips to be layered evenly inside a computer and makes them faster, cheaper and less power intensive.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

Notice the Overlooked

What have you noticed that others have not?

In the late 1800s, Whitcomb Judson noticed something many had overlooked: laces, hooks, and buttons - all of which were used to fasten shoes - took too much time, were awkward, and frustrated young children. So this Chicago inventor set to work. The result was his invention of the first zipper. Unfortunately, this first zipper unexpectedly came undone at times. Swedish engineer Gideon Sundback, fixed the problem with an added fastener that ensured the zipper remained zipped at all times. The zipper has hardly changed since.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

Start Somewhere

How can you get a simple start on your project?

In 1867, C. Latham Sholes read an article about a new machine for printing letters. Inspired by the article, Sholes started making an experimental machine in his Milwaukee workshop. In 1868, he and two co-workers patented a typing machine that had eleven keys and typed only capital letters. Over the years, Sholes designed and built dozens of typewriters, each an improvement on the one before. A manufacturer purchased one of his more practical designs and the typewriter caught on, changing the business world forever.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

Sometimes It’s All About the Marketing

Have you made something that you’re not sure how to use?

In 1943, James Wright, a Scottish engineer with General Electric, was trying to develop a synthetic rubber material for wartime truck tires and boots. Wright, working in his lab, was surprised to discover that the rubber compound he had been working on bounced when he took it out of the test tube. Against the advice of his colleagues, marketing consultant Paul Hodgson decided to sell Silly Putty® as a toy. In less than a year, he had received thousands of orders for the toy that bounces, can be formed, and can pick up newspaper print.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

Work Hard To Make Life Easier

How hard would you work to make something easier?

To start the first automobiles, you had to turn a stiff hand crank. This was hard work and often dangerous: if the engine backfired, the crank could spin backwards and break your arm. Charles Kettering decided there must be a better way. In 1910, he set to work on a solution. Working day and night for almost a year, he developed a small, battery-powered motor that started the engine automatically. Ever since his invention, you just turn a key and the starter motor does all the work.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

Get Stubborn

Have you ever succeeded by not accepting “no” as the answer?

In 1943, 29-year-old engineer Richard James was trying to develop a spring that would protect sensitive marine meters from the roll of heavy seas. One day a spring shook loose from a pile of failures on his desk and began to “walk” down a stack of books in a strange, slow tumbling motion.

James decided to try to market his Slinky® as a toy, but toy manufacturers told him he was crazy. ”It’s only an unpainted spring,” they told him. James persisted and in 1945, Gimbels department store sold 400 Slinkys in less than two hours.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

 

Don’t Let Your Age Stand In Your Way

How can you do more than people expect from someone your age?

Philo Farnsworth began sketching the details of a something he called a television camera when he was sixteen years old. This was a most impressive feat since the year was 1922 and the television had not been invented yet! The inspiration for Farnsworth’s ideas of sending electronic pictures came after he observed rows of crops from a hillside above his home in Idaho and then read an article by a Russian professor about electron tubes. He kept working on his idea and at age 24, patented his electronic television camera.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

Let Your Customers Inspire Your Inventions

Can your customers’ complaints give you new ideas for inventions?

Before 1930, most of the products made by the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) were used by car painters. The painters told 3M that they needed a way to get sharp edges where two colors met. In response, engineer Richard Drew began
investigating pressure-sensitive tapes.

To save money, he applied adhesive only to the outer edges of the tape. When the painters tried this tape, it didn’t stick. They complained to Drew, “Tell your thrifty Scotch bosses to put adhesive all over the tape.” ScotchTM Tape had been invented.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

Solve an Impossible Problem

What invention will break the notion of “it’s impossible?”

In the late 1800s, people wondered how to capture the underwater world on film. Many thought it was impossible, given the delicate machinery of cameras. Around the turn of the century, French scientist Louis Boutan wanted to photograph scenes from under the waves – scenes no one had seen. Boutan’s challenge took almost 8 years to perfect, but in 1899, Boutan patented an underwater
camera (complete with lights) and as a result, opened up a whole new world for us to see.

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.

Pay Attention to Mistakes

How can you take greater advantage of your mistakes?

In the 1500s, Spanish explorers found South American natives playing athletic games with balls made of tree sap. This sap was waterproof and could be molded into any shape. In the 1700s, a chemist found that this material could rub pencil marks out of paper and it would become known as ”rubber.” In 1839, an American named Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped a mixture of rubber and sulfur onto a hot stove. He had produced the first vulcanized rubber – a tough material that resists change during temperature fluctuations.

 

Content courtesy of the Ah Ha! Discovery Deck, developed by John Cronin at the ipCapital Group to help inventors solve real-world problems.