Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Sahasra. Sahasra Wonders, “When you are young, can you make an invention?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Sahasra!
Inventions come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and varieties. Doesn't it just make sense that inventors, too, would come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and varieties? And they do! Even kids can be inventors…well before they ever decide what they want to be when they grow up!
Think about all the inventions around you that you use and enjoy on a daily basis. Electricity, the hot water heater, the microwave oven, the toothbrush, toothpaste, water faucets, shower heads…and those are just a few of the things you probably encounter when you first get up in the morning.
To be sure, many scientists have made important discoveries and turned those discoveries into fantastic inventions. The scientific process lends itself to seeking information and using it in new ways. Thinking scientifically in some way is probably a part of every invention that has ever been created.
That doesn't mean you have to be a scientist to be an inventor, though. It's often been said that necessity is the mother of invention. What does this curious phrase mean? It means that people often identify a need they have and then seek to meet that need. Sometimes the only way to meet that need is to invent a new product!
Think about all of the musical instruments that exist in the world. Now think of all the products that go along with those instruments. Many of those products were probably invented by musicians — not scientists — who discovered a need and then invented a product to satisfy it.
They may have thought scientifically about the product. They may have even gotten a scientist or two involved along the way to help them with things they didn't understand. But many people have shown that inventors can come from any background you could imagine.
- Curiosity — An open, WONDERing mind is a common quality shared by most inventors. Inventors consistently seek to improve how we do things. They are open to change and don't easily get stuck in a rut of always doing something the same way every time.
- Research — Inventors spend a lot of time gathering information. They study hard and seek out new knowledge on a regular basis. They seek to understand fully how something is currently done. They evaluate the processes involved and look for ways to improve.
- Trial and Error — Inventors keep trying. Over and over again, they will test new ideas to try to find the best solution to the problem they've identified. They persevere through multiple defeats until repeated testing finally gives them a breakthrough.
- Constant Improvement — There's an old saying that says that someone is always trying to build a better mouse trap. That's true. Even if you have a quality mouse trap and it works just fine, you can bet that someone, somewhere is thinking about how it could work even better. That's the heart of an inventor. Inventors are never satisfied with the status quo. They constantly look for ways to make products safer, faster, smaller, more efficient, or better in some way.
Non-scientific approaches can be incredibly helpful in developing new, breakthrough inventions. Although thinking scientifically is often a necessity, it can also be very helpful to think “outside the box."
Sometimes certain ways of thinking lock us into certain paths of exploration. Because things are always done a certain way and we assume that certain things just won't work, we cut off avenues of thought that could lead to incredible new discoveries.
This is why some inventors can come from a wide variety of non-scientific backgrounds. For example, a poet might view the night sky in a completely different way than an astronomer. This difference in point of view could mean that the poet might think of all sorts of different approaches to a problem than an astronomer might never consider.
Of course, the opposite is true, too. Sometimes the best inventions end up being a project involving the skills of many different people from a wide variety of backgrounds!