5 Questions Only Inventors Ask

The inventor is a unique animal; where others see problems, we see opportunities. Since the invention of the wheel, the inventor has been asking questions that only make sense in the mind of a maker. Thomas Edison said, “If you never grow up, you’ll never grow old.” And these words are the credo by which Dr. “Curious” George Margolin—inventor and founder of Margolin Development, an inventive product development company with 27 patents and counting—lives by. In an interview he says, “Remember every child is an inventor. Every inventor is a child.” He goes on to say that inventors see the world through the eyes of a child, which might explain the, at times, strange questions only inventors (and children) ask.

“Who Would Throw This Away?”

According to Edison, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk to be an inventor. And as the godfather of inventors, he held more than 1,000 patents, meaning he must have had a lot of junk in his lab.

In “The Lego Movie,” the conflict and subsequent resolution is to make something new out of the things lying around. From a historical perspective, the message to use your imagination and create something out of what someone else might call trash essentially could not have happened without Edison’s brilliant hand in making sound in movies possible. In the last 150 years, we have gone from silent films to surround sound and CGI, thanks to a lot of imagination and a bunch of junk.

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“Why Can’t I…?”

Inventors are not known for following the rules. There is a certain arrogance that comes with a maker’s mind, as the inventor believes he can create what others cannot. Inventors know in their cores that the common person does not know what he needs—Henry Ford said once that if he’d asked the people what they wanted/needed, they’d have said a faster horse. So without a demand from the general public, Ford introduced the moving assembly line and manufactured one million cars.

Going back to “The Lego Movie:” the protagonist “master builders” build whatever they want out of the parts they find versus the evil Lord Business who refuses to build anything that isn’t “according to the directions.”

Young attractive jewelry designer working on a piece in her workshop

“How Can I Make This Better?”

The late Steve Jobs always preached that time is limited and told us not to waste it. The New Yorker called him “The Tweaker,” which Walter Isaacson defines in the Steve Jobs biography as “devoted to tweaking and refining already-invented devices and technologies in order to simplify their use.”

Example: Henry Ford’s innovation and determination to build the moving assembly line was widely influential and later inspired George Devol’s invention of the first robotic arm for use on assembly lines. General Motors installed the arm on their line in 1961.

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“Didn’t I Invent That Already?”

As part of their National Inventors Month celebration, seal manufacturer Apple Rubber highlighted the achievement of Niels Christensen for his development of the rubber O-Ring. Though Christensen has many inventions to his name, the O-Ring is arguably the most profound, as it is an integral component in automotive, aircraft, and spacecraft manufacturing. The O-Ring was invented in 1937, but it wasn’t until the United States entered World War II that they became interested in Christensen’s device. He was 72 when he finally received his patent for the O-Ring.

“Who Is Going To Do This Paperwork?”

The caveperson did not need to fill out an application to keep the rights to the spinning axel rock but today’s inventor doesn’t have a choice. Kia Silverbrook holds almost 10,000 patents but sees them as nothing more than contracts that need to be maintained. Silverbrook is an expert on disruptive technology, or devices that change the way people think about technology. He encourages the inventor to think less about the patent and more about how the invention will impact the world.

This piece was contributed by Social Monsters

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