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About this Author
Gwen Smith Ishmael, Sr. Vice President of Insights and Innovation at Decision Analyst in Arlington, TX, has led marketing and new product development activities in the CPG and technology industries since 1986. She also conceived and developed ground-breaking Web-based promotional vehicles, two of which are patent pending. Gwen holds an MBA in Marketing and is a featured speaker on insights and innovation around the world. Her writings have been featured in international text books, most recently in Managing 4 Ps of Marketing FMCG Sector, and Product Innovation: A Strategic Tool for Growth, by ICFAI Publications, 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Founding Author

Renee Hopkins Callahan Renee Hopkins Callahan started IdeaFlow and serves as chief blog-wrangler. She is Director of Innovation Services at Decision Analyst in Arlington, Texas, is a former journalist who worked as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News and the Nashville Tennessean, and was managing editor of D, the Dallas city magazine. She has a master's degree in rhetoric and has also taught college-level English and informal logic.
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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November 12, 2002

Invention: The Art of Observation, Curiosity and Serendipity

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

The US Patent and Trademark Office celebrated its 200 birthday in October with a gathering of 37 US inventors who spoke on the process of invention.

Among the most interesting comments:

- Richard M. Russell of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who helped moderate the discussion, said 52% of the nation's growth since World War II had come through invention.

- Steve Wozniak, inventor of the Apple computer, said he read about inventors as a child and wanted to become one. "It all starts with our kids. They have to believe they can do this, and that it is not just something done at big companies. Kids nowadays hear more of companies inventing things, not individuals."

- Dr. James E. West, a Bell Laboratories fellow at Lucent Technologies who was an inventor of the technology used in 90% of today's microphones, said "inventing is an art. Our tools are not brushes, canvases and paints. Our tools are mathematics and physics, and we have to teach children how to use them."

- Patsy O. Sherman, who discovered and developed Scotchgard© while working at 3M, said "you can encourage and teach young people to observe, to ask questions when unexpected things happen. You can teach yourself not to ignore the unanticipated. Just think of all the great inventions that have come through serendipity, such as Fleming's discovery of penicillin, and just noticing something no one conceived of before."

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