Last month we talked about ways children come up with creative product ideas. That led us to stories about teens who have come up with so many amazing innovations. Did you know that teenagers invented the trampoline, earmuffs, waterskies, and Braille? Master inventor Benjamin Franklin reportedly invented swim fins when he was just 11 years old. Intel, Google and other companies sponsor international science and engineering fairs and award millions of dollars in prizes to top student researchers. If you want to be humbled, just search out some of the winning projects. Last year, Intel’s top prize went to a 16-year-old who invented an augmented reality system to help spinal surgeons. It was inspired by Pokémon Go. This is not a one-off teen genius; over 1,800 kids participated in the competition and their ideas ranged from cancer screening innovations to energy efficient underwater propulsion systems.
Science fairs, robotics competitions, even cardboard canoe races are showcases for teen innovation. Maybe your team needs a little dose of playful competition to invigorate your ideation cycles. There is something about the process of coming up with ideas under a deadline, knowing you have to pitch your idea to a judge or beat an opponent, and the possibility of winning a prize (even if it is just bragging rights) that encourages you to get creative.
Teens also tend to have very full and varied lives; as adults we tend to specialize. We focus on our work, maybe a hobby or two, but we aren’t actively learning about subjects outside our area of interest, and we probably aren’t participating in as many sports, clubs or other activities as your average teenager. Arguably, teens can be over scheduled, but being exposed to so many different ideas and experiences, including things you might not naturally gravitate towards, tends to open your eyes to new inspiration and spark curiosity. Get your team to try something new. Take a new class or read a book in a subject you’ve never tried before. In this time of “social distancing” maybe visit a park or go for a hike and observe the natural world more closely. Stimulate different parts of your brain and reflect on that experience for new ideas.
Another way you might harness teen-power in your ideation sessions is to look at the world through teen eyes. The way teens use technology, the games they play, and the issues they care about are all very different from adults. For your next project, pick an area that teens are talking about. For instance, teens are worried about our planet. Greta Thunberg was named Time Magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year, and she has inspired many teens to take action on climate change. Boyan Slat was just 16 years old when he conceived of a way to rid our oceans of trash and he was just 18 when he founded The Ocean Clean-up, a non-profit organization that is developing innovative solutions to this world-wide problem. Teens are passionate, and you can try to tap into some of that passion to come up with solutions that address issues teens care about.
Most of us don’t really want to relive our teenage years, but we can be inspired by the ideas and innovations coming from the current generation of teens. If you are looking for ways to jump start ideation or refine product ideas, we can help you navigate the path from idea to patent. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.