News You Can Use: Building Useful, Usable Inventions


News You Can Use: Building Useful, Usable Inventions

October 14, 2015

At Intellectual Ventures, we frequently discuss the importance of inventing for impact. But how do you know that an invention will actually solve the targeted problems for the people whose lives you’re looking to change? As previous interviewees, including Manan Shulka and David Bell, have discussed, the solution to a problem often takes a different direction than you first thought.

This month on News You Can Use, we’re featuring stories on clearing this hurdle and the invention methods that refine raw ideas for impactful results.

Entrepreneur explains the importance of prototyping:  

Inventions start with ideas. But turning a good idea into a great invention can be challenging, and that’s where prototyping comes in. A strong prototype allows inventors to take the theoretical to reality. And a prototype almost always reveals areas where additional improvements can strengthen an invention. Entrepreneur featured this fantastic article that explains the various routes inventors can take to maximize their ideas through prototyping – and invent for the greatest impact.

Young inventor creates electric washing line to help neighbor: 

Lindokuhle Mnikati is an 18-year-old South African inventor who noticed that someone needed a little help. Without a proper wash line, Mnikati noticed that his neighbor’s clothes would often stay wet for extended periods of times – sometimes a week or more, depending on the rain. Seeing the difficulty this posed, Mnikati developed an advanced electric washing line that didn’t rely on wind to dry clothes, and instead could be plugged in to do the job.

His neighbor wasn’t the only person who was impressed. After winning a gold medal in engineering at a provincial science expo, Mnikati ended up featuring his invention at the renowned Eskom Science Expo. Mnikati’s success was far from immediate; he didn’t let failure of his initial prototypes deter him from inventing a solution to his neighbor’s challenge.

Inventing for impact means choosing the right problems to solve:

Maurizio Vecchione, senior vice president of Global Good and Research, recently discussed how Global Good uses a process to determine which problems are best addressable by invention. As he said to The Huffington Post:

“We have countless problem sets that are very important and do need solutions but are not technology or invention driven solutions. Part of our process internally, or with the help of a partner, is to define the problems, define those gaps, identify the gaps that are indeed technology gaps and then focus on those essentially looking at what is the impact that that gap filling exercise, that technology or that science will bring to the table.”

He goes on to describe the most important lessons he’s learned, the “three A's:

“Appropriateness is the first A, affordability is the second A, which means make it reasonable in cost, and the third A is access.”

For more stories like this one, subscribe to our IV Insights blog, and check out more news about inventors and scientists on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

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