Mother of Invention

Mother of Invention

By: Berlin Packaging Specialist
Date: October 28, 2019

People often say that necessity is the mother of invention, and while I don't completely disagree, I do think it misses the point. Necessity can help drive acceptance or force an overdue change, but it doesn’t help inspire the creation of new ideas.

Lateral thinking is the real mother of invention, and it doesn't require extreme situations or heroic perseverance. It’s the state of mind which enables creative problem solving, and is the real magic behind many innovations. Rather than requiring stressful situations, lateral thinking thrives in comfortable environments where honest questioning and radical ideas are supported. Open-minded brainstorming sessions, open schedules, and open floor plans all help to release pressure rather than apply it – and these are the true mothers of invention.

First, let’s look at what is generally meant by "necessity". A need is different than a want because it is life sustaining or mission critical. This type of situation may sound extreme, like something out of a movie.

Exactly. In fact, film narrative is a great way to understand why the myth of necessity driving invention persists. The first rule of screenwriting is to give your heroine a need. Not a want or desire, but a problem so critical that it compels them to act. After going through the harrowing process of discovery, all of the seemingly important obstacles melt away, and they are able to see the solution clearly. They have solved a difficult problem to fulfill the need, and done so in an unexpected or unconventional way.

Starting to sound like innovation? It should. Let’s take a quick look at the recent baseball drama, Money Ball. Based loosely on a true story of innovation, General Manager Billy Beane has a problem; he can't afford to pay for good players, but he needs to win a title in order to feel validated. Losing is not an option. This problem combined with this need force him to look at the situation differently, where he discovers an existing idea that had never been tested. His desperate need to solve a seemingly impossible problem drives him to see an opportunity that others overlooked, and he invented an entirely new way of managing major league baseball. If you think about it, the invention here wasn’t the creation of a new idea, but rather the application of it. The need drove him to desperation, which allowed him to make a bold decision that was already overdue for the industry.

Fortunately, we do not need to battle internal or external demons in order to achieve this state of mind. Opening our eyes to what is in plain sight can be achieved through the many techniques that designers use constantly. The process of invention is fun, and need not take heartache or bloodshed. The most important step is the one that truly does require heroic courage, and that is acting on the sometimes uncomfortable ideas unearthed through lateral thinking.