At your child's next play date, round up the kids and ask them if they're going to invent something cool. You will be hard pressed to find even one five or six-year-old whose hand doesn't shoot up in a split second. Now ask this question to their mothers. Or your teenage niece's group of friends. The number of raised hands will diminish substantially with age...until finally the last wavering hand silently goes down as well.
Why does this happen? Does the inventor in us get lost or does it die in the tedious process of growing up?
I think the inventor within us gets tired of waiting and eventually dies of boredom. Because inventiveness requires playfulness-a healthy amount of doing something for the love of discovering more and more and more about a subject or a phenomenon. I doubt that when Da Vinci was painting the Mona Lisa, his objective was to create one of the most celebrated pieces of art in the world. And was Aryabhatta gunning for the title of Inventor Of The Year when he came up with zero? Unlikely. They were simply doing what they loved when they stumbled upon greatness.
What is inventiveness?
Inventiveness is a mix of curiosity, imagination, persistence and risk-taking. When was the last time you did something without the promise of any quantifiable and tangible gains at the end of the exercise? The attitude is everywhere-kids are conditioned to study to score well in tests, to take up sports to win trophies, to dance to win admiration. We're so busy trying to keep pace with the world and everything in it that there's little time to get down and dirty. There are so many things we must do, that there's no time to experiment and find out what we can do. Now you see why the head-count of inventors dwindles with each passing year in school? We're categorically and systematically squashing the inventive-streak in our kids. An unfortunate state of affairs
While nothing can guarantee that your little one will be the next Pranav Mistry or Madame Curie; given the right opportunities, each child can take their inventor's soul into adulthood. Because to a large extent, inventiveness is a function of parenting. Most inventive people credit their parents for providing the right kind of environment and encouragement to think critically but flexibly, take risks, enjoy the process of solving problems and tinker with ideas and objects just for the fun of it. I don't know if inventiveness is an inborn trait, but it definitely does seem like a nurtured talent.
What are inventions?
Inventions don't just mean revolutionary objects or technology. While some invent the wheel, others invent the coffee collar, which incidentally, is a patented product (Jay Sorenson, 1993) that earns its inventor millions of dollars each year. Same for post-its-invented because its inventor Art Fry, got frustrated with his constantly falling bookmark. Or even hole guards that keep filed papers from ripping over time. Each of these inventions was the result of a specific problem and a person who couldn't wait till someone else found a solution.
Agree with us? Disagree? Have an opinion or a story? Share it with firstname.lastname@example.org