Where Science Meets Muse

Finding Inspiration (and Innovation) in Parallel Universes

Posted by Plish on May 27, 2009

13 years and over 6000 miles separates the same idea

13 years and over 6000 miles separates the same idea

Often inspiration can come from very different places. 

Take a look at the pictures to the left.

The top is an interventional catheter anchor that I designed circa 1996, Northbrook, IL.  The material is soft and pliable so that a patient can lay on it.  The underside can have adhesive attached or it can be stitched to the patient. The catheter pops into the notch and a  cable tie can be used to fasten it if need be.

The bottom is a cable holder circa 2009,  for sale in Japan.  Peel adhesive off the bottom and attach it to a surface. It’s made of soft material so stuff can be snapped into the notch.

In essence, these two products are the same, separated by 13 years and over 6000 miles.  One is intended for use in health care, the other is a cool holder for keeping your desk surface cleaner and more organized.

This type of thing actually happens much more often than people realize.  Two problems, in essence, the same problem, get solved at opposite ends of the world at different times in history.  In this case, two solutions, in essence the same solution, were developed to keep something from moving and shifting around .

The lesson is clear:


When trying to solve a problem look to other industries, other countries, other similar physical phenomena for guidance.  You never know where your next solutions could come from. 

Best of all, cool new products might not have to wait 13 years to see the light of day.


2 Responses to “Finding Inspiration (and Innovation) in Parallel Universes”

  1. nilsjohan said

    It is like design education (or related) when people think others have stolen their ideas. I think our creative output is more predictable than we think, and how often solutions come out the same way from different places even whitout no connection to each other. The general progress of technology is somewhat quite the same around the world, so contextual similarities generates very identical solutions to problems (like this one) with high probability.

    The telephone in its origin is a very good example too.

    Very interesting! And I think this is why ideas should be shared, not kept in darkness 🙂

  2. Plish said

    Nils, I totally agree about sharing solutions as they are created. Finding ways to better leverage the patent databases of the world can help, as does TRIZ to some extent. Somehow, I think there must be a better way though.

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