Often stories re innovation only focus on those that have succeeded and even if we have heard the Dyson story a thousand times I believe it is useful to flag with students some of the reasons that the lone innovator/inventor does not succeed. Often this is simply due to bad luck, lack of resources or simply that they give up!

A recent story is that of the ubiquitous fidget spinner that has invaded classrooms this year. The inventor Catherine Hettinger tried for many years to sell, market her invention but after 8 years she simply let the patent lapse – and now earns nothing from the millions manufactured and sold!

The moral of the story for our students is a sobering one –  “Only about 3% of inventions make any money. I’ve watched other inventors mortgage their houses and lose a lot. You take roommates, you get help from friends and family. It is hard.”

Compare this to the wonderful story of the amazing innovation of the bread clip! Yes the bread clip, which was invented by Paxton on a flight in the 1950’s and to this day continues to be manufactured by one company exclusively in the US. Go over to this site to read the full story – love the way it was invented quite an inspiring constructive discontent like design process.

Some great questions to ask students regarding these two case studies are : –

  • Why did one succeed over the other?
  • Is timing anything to do with success?
  • What could the fidget spinner inventor have done to gain success?
  • It is always the simplest ideas that reap the most success?

Interesting Link