Inventology | Pagan Kennedy

Summary of: Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World
By: Pagan Kennedy


Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World by Pagan Kennedy takes you on a journey through the world of innovation, uncovering how inventions come to life, and the power of imagination in transforming ideas into reality. Throughout the book, you’ll explore various factors that contribute to successful inventions, such as familiarity with problems, identifying hidden issues, persistence, and utilizing the power of human imagination. By delving into the stories of various inventors and innovators, you’ll learn how persistence and adaptability can lead to groundbreaking advancements and reshape the way we live.

The Evolution of the Wheeled Suitcase

From Sadow to Plath: The Journey to the Perfect Suitcase

Traveling with a wheeled suitcase has made life easier for many. However, before the 1970s, luggage had to be carried by hand. It was Bernard D. Sadow, the vice president of a luggage company, who recognized the problem and came up with a solution. Struggling with two suitcases, Sadow saw an airport employee pushing a wheeled platform and thought, “Why shouldn’t luggage have wheels too?”

Sadow developed a prototype with wheels placed on the long side of the suitcase, which didn’t offer a smooth experience to the user. However, airline pilot Robert Plath saw the potential in Sadow’s invention and developed it further. After much tinkering with the trundling travel bag in his private workshop, Plath eventually created the universally loved suitcase that now serves the world over.

The key difference between Sadow and Plath was their familiarity with the problem. Sadow saw his product as a mere holiday accessory, while Plath used it for travel daily. This familiarity enabled Plath to understand the problem better and come up with a better solution. The evolution of the wheeled suitcase shows that understanding the problem is crucial to success.

The Power of Repetitive Problem Solving

Repetitive problem-solving has the potential for inventiveness and success. Adam Smith’s explanation in 1776 of factory workers being inventors, presents a boy who solved repetitive tasks through automation, inspiring ingenious thinking. The three components necessary for the frustration of hidden problems to lead to successful inventions, as shown by Jack Dorsey’s founding of Twitter in 2006, are a difficult-to-detect problem, a solution with broad practicality, and acceptance of long-term investment.

The Power of Observation

Psychology professor Richard Wiseman’s research suggests that those who consider themselves lucky are often more observant and thus better at identifying solutions. Wiseman conducted an experiment to test this theory, giving people a newspaper and asking them to count the photographs in it, with a message written in the middle of the page informing readers to stop counting. Lucky people were more likely to notice this message, compared to those who considered themselves unlucky. Wiseman called these individuals “Super-Encounterers,” who are great inventors because they don’t narrowly focus on a problem but instead explore different perspectives. This behavior is seen in an experiment conducted by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, where two groups of art students were asked to draw objects in a room. One group drew with one concept in mind, while the other took their time observing different objects and exploring different perspectives leading to their drawings being based on improvisation, exploration, and discovery. The group that took the time to observe and explore then went on to become professional artists or teachers. However, while luck and observation are important, data is what drives discovery today.

The Power of Data-Mining

In this digital era, data-mining has become the new way of discovering hidden connections and valuable insights in the medical industry. By using computers to analyze past experiments, bioinformatics scientists create their own luck, saving valuable time and money. The amount of medical-industry data is enormous, and data-mining algorithms can quickly check through this otherwise unused data, leading to surprising discoveries such as new uses for old medications. With its ability to make revolutionary discoveries in record time, data-mining has proven to be worth around $100 billion per year.

Pantone and Poop: Inventing Something from Nothing

Lawrence Herbert, co-owner of Pantone, created a color-coding system that became a universal language in the printing industry. He turned his idea into an invention through hard work and persistence, earning Pantone more than $1 million a year in licensing fees. Similarly, doctors discovered a unique cure for the deadly stomach infection C-diff: a transplant of healthy human feces. This shows that creativity and imagination can lead to brilliant new ideas and inventions without the need for big funding or a team of scientists.

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