Book Review: Inventology

My wife picked up an advanced copy of Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World by Pagan Kennedy at a conference for librarians (you should see the bags of books she brought home), and I was intrigued. I was quickly sucked into Kennedy’s interesting exploration of how inventions come to invent, and how their creative visions of the world, particularly imagining the future, help pave the way for progress through tinkering.

Kennedy explores through stories many inventions, but she also takes a step back to provide the larger picture of how ideas come to be, from the synergy of crowds feeding off shared ideas, to solving problems that aren’t even problems yet, to random discoveries by inventors with attentive vision, to the ways that education and political systems can encourage or discourage the fertile minds of inventors.

My big take-away is that we need to do more to give people — I am thinking of students — the possibilities for exploration on their own terms, and anticipate that there just might not be immediate results or maybe they will never get results. Most invention ideas go nowhere in the short run, but sometimes, those nowhere ideas lead to something else, and then …. who knows. It might lead to an idea that can change the world.

Inventology is worth a look for anyone interested in the mindset of inventors, and also, for anyone wondering how to set the stage for the next generation of inventors. The question of how we, as teachers, give that kind of creative space to students in this era of standardized learning and testing is a critical one, but I see gains in Maker Spaces in libraries and engineering programs in elementary schools and more.

The next leap forward is probably already underway …

Peace (in the think),

  1. Neither guide nor sage, just in the margins.

    Antispammitinkeritude: mr napped He wasn’t Washington Irving’s VanWinkel, but he had been in a coma for 30 years. They called him (cruelly it seems to me) Mr. Nap. And even more cruelly when he arose from his “nap” they called him Mr. Napped as if making him into the past tense would somehow redefine him. It didn’t. This is his story.

  2. This book sounds phenomenal. I don’t know that I’ll ever invent anything, but if I don’t think about it (or read about it), how will I ever try?

    Bet the rest of your wife’s book bag books are amazing!

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