I recently watched a TED Talk where Malcolm Gladwell was talking about the Norden Bombsight, a piece of technology developed in World War 2.
The engineer who created it did so because he wanted to reduce the amount of lives lost in war by making bombing as accurate as possible. What he couldn’t have predicted was that his bombsight, his idea, would be used in the bombing of Hiroshima – clearly going against his original purpose for inventing it.
So, an idea can be developed with a purpose in mind, but in reality it might fulfill a very different purpose.
Although on a completely different level to the Norden Bombsight, I saw this in action last week when I gave my godson his birthday present. It was a ‘movie maker’ kit full of accessories for the budding film director. He took the sound effects CD and turned it into a game to guess what the sound is – not fulfilling its intended purpose, but creatively building on it.
Perhaps then, a useful approach to developing an existing/newly created idea is to consider how others might use it. How would a child use it? How would a cowboy use it? Because, after all, it’s not the brilliance of the idea itself that changes lives, it’s how that idea is used.