Ideas, Innovations, and Inventions

The most valuable commodity in the world may well be an idea.  A revolutionary new concept can change your life, change your business, and sometimes change the world. 

New ideas involve both the art and the science of creativity.  We must think in new and different ways, but sometimes ideas are elusive, and we must wait for the intersection of the right time and the right place.  While ideas may take a unique set of circumstances, innovation can be available for us to consider and explore at any time. 

For several centuries, the item we call a suitcase existed pretty much in the same basic form and style we know it today.  Then, a half-a-century ago, someone came up with the innovation of putting wheels on a suitcase.  They did not have the idea to invent a suitcase.  They simply had an innovation to make the existing suitcase better.  The original innovation involved putting wheels on the bottom of a suitcase so it stood up much as it had done for centuries, but now it had wheels on the bottom.  The challenge was that this suitcase could be pulled by a handle or a strap but consistently tipped over because it was top heavy.  It took several decades before someone came up with the innovation of putting wheels on the edge and installing an extending handle.  This innovation is what we now call a roller board.  It has revolutionized the luggage industry.

The reason the original innovation involved putting the wheels on the bottom was simply because that’s the way a standard suitcase was visualized by everyone.  It took someone who could mentally turn the suitcase on its edge and, thereby, change the industry.

While you’re waiting for your big idea, consider innovating the existing world around you.  What can you transform, transfer, translate, or make transparent?  Think of new uses for products that already exist. 

My core business involves making movies and television accessible for millions of blind and visually impaired people by inserting narration between existing dialogue to describe the visual elements of the program.  For years, people asked me if this could be done for live theatre.  It didn’t seem possible immediately because there was no videotape or digital program file on which to record the narration voice. 

Then there came the day I was in Mexico giving a speech for a number of business leaders.  About half my audience was Spanish speaking, and as I was giving my speech, a gentleman at the edge of the stage was quietly translating my words into Spanish and speaking into a microphone.  The microphone was connected to a low-power FM transmitter, and throughout the amphitheater, Spanish-speaking people had small transistor radios the size of a deck of cards in their pockets and were listening to my speech being translated into Spanish via a small earpiece. 

As I was standing there speaking about the concept of being open to opportunities, it dawned on me that a device for translating foreign languages was also a device for narrating for blind and visually impaired theatre audiences.  My entire innovation involved using existing technology for a different use.  The only thing that changed was my own perspective.

Perspective is a good tool to orient us as to where we are, but it is often a barrier keeping us from where we could be. 

As you go through your day today, change your perspective, and change the world.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift.  He is also a columnist and motivational speaker.  He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK  74145-9082; by email at; on Twitter at; or on Facebook at

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