TIME recently published an article titled “The 50 Best Inventions of 2009.” It was pretty intriguing. It was clear many products were chosen for their ability to help people and significantly improve people’s lives, as well as our environment. The products most inventors invent don’t necessarily have a humanitarian aspect, but they do help people. There were many awe-inspiring techie gadgets on the list you’d expect, like new rockets designed by NASA and teleportation. But my favorite product on the list was the invention, “The $20 Knee.”
Several Stanford engineering students invented the $20 Knee. Replacement knee joints are extremely expensive (upwards of ten thousand dollars) and don’t work well. Recognizing the plight of thousands in the developing world who cannot afford a titanium replacement, the students designed a cheap and better functioning knee. It costs just $20 to make! Made out of only 5 pieces of plastic and four nuts and bolts, the design is simple but efficient.
The kind of invention cheers me. Obviously, the Stanford students are experts in engineering design. But more importantly, they identified a real problem and sought to solve it. They recognized a product could be improved upon – and needed to be. Again, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Use what tools you do have to become a critical thinker. Observe the world around you in depth. Don’t write off and accept the problems and inconveniences you experience in your daily life as simply little annoyances. What could you do to make them better? What does your daughter or son complain about? Does your wife mention how difficult a certain household task is? What does your co-worker struggle to complete in the office?
It’s 2010. Radical new products that are going to change the way we live are being made all the time, as the TIME article proved. But improvements to old ideas are equally valid. There are few new ideas! Don’t be daunted. Get inspired.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed
over 20 products in the past 30 years. Along with business partner
Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight,
a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas
and the skills needed to succeed. You can listen to the weekly radio show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media outlets find you for news stories.