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Inventive Principles – Using the Power of Substitution to Stimulate Imaginative Thinking

One of the inventive principles you can use to stimulate creativity is substitution. It works like this: You are about to pound a nail into the wall, but you don’t have a hammer. Instead, you employ a wrench for the purpose. Your child is watching and learns an important lesson about life- Imagination allows us to use an object in a manner that was never intended.

When a job is accomplished using tools that were not purpose-built for the task, the substituted objects are called “field expedients.”

When I was a kid, my Dad worked in a mill in a large port city. He built various wooden structures still used in the large ocean-going vessels of the time. My father was a kind of 20th century ship’s carpenter.

Good at what he did, his company saw an opportunity to promote its business by sending my father to an official competition, sponsored by the carpenter industry at large. I was so proud when Dad won the contest for the title of best carpenter in our state that year!

When I asked my father about the event, he told me the critical test that allowed him to best his competition was the “Field Expedients” 롤대리section. Because he could not afford many tools in his youth, my father became adept at using his imagination to accomplish jobs without the “proper” equipment.

It is in our youth that we best learn inventive principles, especially through the practice of substitution.

Once I spent a golden summer on the beautiful island of Anguilla in the Caribbean. I remember a little girl about six years old, poor, barefoot and pushing a crude little set of wooden wheels in the sand, from the end of a stick she had fixed to a simple twig axle.

“What’s that?” I asked her.

“It’s a roller,” she answered with an expression that indicated incredulity. How could an American be so dumb as not to comprehend a homemade rolling toy?

Children today rarely get the opportunity to use their minds at play. Substitutions are not necessary in a world where highly detailed toys leave nothing to the imagination. Nor does Dad lack for the correct piece of equipment for every job, and of course Mom has a kitchen absolutely stuffed with the latest gadgets for any contingency.

A potent way to teach inventive principles is to turn kids loose in a patch of woods, without their toys, but that just does not happen anymore, does it?

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