2013-06-21 / Columnists


By Rick Horan

For the sake of my own sanity I need to take a break from serious ideas involving community redesign, storm protection, park management, intelligent traffic control, parking restrictions, etc. and back to the roots of Ideas Wanted – having fun!

This week I am just going to reflect on how I handle ideas that are constantly popping into my head in the hope that some readers might be motivated to share how they deal with theirs.

Having too many ideas is a problem, or perhaps it’s just acting on too many of them. I have an idea worth (my opinion) writing down about every three days. I scribble down the date, a title, concept and rough sketch. I am not too discriminating in this process. I file good ideas and some real dogs.

At least one idea a month is deemed worthy of registering a domain name (or three) for. I currently have about 100 URLs with GoDaddy. It’s a sickness really.

Registering a domain for a fledgling idea is a form of calling my own bluff. “OK Horan, now you’ve got nine bucks sunk into this idea, are you going to put it in the file folder or develop it and make millions?”

What’s driving this process anyway? Greed, ego or stupidity? Probably a bit of each. All I know is that it’s very addictive. While it may not be as physically debilitating as drugs, it is insidious nonetheless. Symptoms include a lack of sleep, inability to concentrate on “real life” and a constant drain on finances. Maybe instead of Ideas Wanted we should be calling this column “Ideas Anonymous.”

Every step in the development process opens up another expensive, time consuming can of worms. Here’s an example. A few years ago I went on a rafting trip with friends. Before long it turned into a colossal World War III naval battle with boats attacking rival boats by using their paddles to splash water into the boats and faces of their occupants. Rafting and the river became an afterthought.

A few people were armed with siphon type water cannons that were very effective at soaking the enemy. Only trouble was, they had to put down their paddle to use the gun where precious seconds could be the difference between life and death. So I thought, why not design a paddle that is also a water cannon? You already had the basic shape consisting of a long tube and handle. Just add a plunger and a hole in the bottom of the blade to draw water through and presto!

This concept was natural for weekend water warriors. You paddle along all innocent like, but when danger appears, or an opportunity to sneak attack, you are prepared for action. With the blade in the water, simply pull on the Battle Paddle’s handle to fill the shaft with water. A firm push on the handle directs a powerful, soaking stream out of the bottom of the blade and directly into your victim’s face, all without missing a beat. Very satisfying indeed!

In more peaceful times you can use it for mundane things like sucking water out of the bottom of the boat and oh yes, paddling.

By the time I returned home the design was done and domain names registered. The provisional patent application was filed the following week. I was already getting used to the world domination this product would surely bring when I finally did a proper patent search, which is quite easy to do these days. Discovering that two competing designs had already been granted patents was like getting hit in the stomach with a paddle.

I called the one inventor that I could reach who told me a fantastic story. She was testing the Battle Paddle (her name, not mine) prototype on the Colorado River when curious people from another boat approached. They received a friendly welcome and demonstration. Months later, when this woman got around to submitting her patent application, she found that those same people from the river had beaten her to the punch. Ouch!

How often do you get ideas and what do you do with them? RickHoran@IdeasImprov.com

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