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How We Dream Up Things That Change the World
- Read in 15 minutes
- Audio & text available
- Contains 9 key ideas
Inventology (2016) shows us how the world’s brightest minds identify problems and come up with brilliant solutions. Find out how you need to think in order to discern future trends and create the next great invention!
Key idea 1 of 9
Every great invention is borne of a problem in need of a solution.
Do you own a wheeled suitcase? If you do, you know how much easier it makes traveling; instead of lugging your luggage through train station and airport, you can simply and swiftly wheel it along. But did you know that these suitcases are a relatively recent invention?
Before the 1970s, everyone had to carry luggage by hand, no matter how heavy it was.
It took Bernard D. Sadow, the vice president of a luggage company, to recognize this problem and come up with a solution.
Inspiration struck while Sadow was walking through an airport and struggling with two heavy suitcases.
All too familiar with the problem, Sadow hit upon the solution when he saw an airport employee pushing a wheeled platform, atop which rested a heavy machine. “Why shouldn’t luggage have wheels, too?” Sadow thought. Soon, he’d developed and patented a prototype.
His first design sold well, but it wasn’t perfect: The wheels were placed on the long side of the suitcase and if you tugged too hard it would bump your legs, not to mention that turning corners caused it to topple.
Since Sadow only used his product while on vacation, he saw no need to spend time improving it. But an airline pilot named Robert Plath, in need of more than a mere holiday suitcase, decided to tinker with the trundling travel bag.
Eventually, after much work in his own private workshop, Plath developing the suitcase we know today: He put the wheels on the correct side and added a solid handle so the suitcase wouldn’t tip over or roll into your legs.
Plath’s design went on to become the universally loved product that people use whenever they need to travel.
So, why was Robert Plath able to build a better suitcase than Sadow? Well, since Plath had to travel every day, he had a better understanding of the problem, which, in turn, enabled him to hit upon a better solution. As we’ll see in the next blink, such familiarity is key to success.