Grasshopper Enterprises

Foolproof Invention-Finding Scheme

Idea Cat Or so says the The Universal Traveler. Are most inventions merely “new ways of combining old bits and pieces?”

Once there was a shaman, as the story goes, passed down through oral tradition (the story that is, the shaman was too heavy to be handled such), and one of his most important tribal roles was finding new hunting trails. When game became scarce the tribe would come to him for answers. And he would draw a map on a piece of buffalo hide. On the map he etched the surrounding mountains and streams, and all the important landmarks of the area over a large radius. Then he’d wad up the map, squeeze it (probably sprinkle some ‘magic’ dust for job security) and then unfold it. Its creases now revealed new paths for game trails. Hunters chose those that seemed to make sense and off they went, discovering plentiful new bounty along directions they would not have otherwise explored.

We invented a similar device for exploring new territories of ideas using the rules described by Koberg and Bagnall in an out-of-print version of the book above. Want to come up with the next Google or Flickr or YouTube? Try it out. The technique is called Morphological Analysis. It can be done with pen and paper for about three dimensions, but you can explore many more with the iDeAZing widget. Plus, it’s hard to wad up a 10 dimensional map on paper.