Making your own luck
Pagan Kennedy explores what it takes to truly invent -- and whether we can find ways to encourage more of it.
NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson invented the Super Soaker water gun. There wasn't a plan — he stumbled on a powerful nozzle design, was captivated by the idea and ultimately changed the game for squirt guns. It was serendipity.
Such is the story of countless inventions. Yet with innovation on virtually every agency's agenda, waiting around for inspiration to strike is hardly a promising strategy. What can be done to prime the serendipity pump?
That question is the crux of Pagan Kennedy's "Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World" — a book that visits with dozens of inventors and maps the patterns that might help others encourage epiphanies of their own.
Kennedy explores far more than serendipity; deep expertise and sustained focus produce their share of brilliant inventions, too. But being open to discovery is a skill in itself, and "Inventology" just might provide a technique that improves the odds.
Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.
Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.
Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.
Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.