Thursday, July 8, 2010

Outside the Box

He was dubbed “The Wizard of Weston” and enjoyed the allusion to Thomas Edison, “The Wizard of Menlo Park”. Stanley Mason may not be a household name, but his inventions are. It seems we’ve always lived with granola bars, microwave cookware and dental floss dispensers.

Let’s take a peek into how his mind worked. It was 1949. “My wife asked me to put the diaper on the baby. I held up the cloth diaper, and it was square. I looked at the baby, and it was round. I knew there was an engineering problem.” What resulted was a form fitting disposable diaper.

Mason taught innovative thinking at the University of Connecticut. He felt corporations squashed creativity and was fired several times for his unconventional solutions. In spite of bureaucratic lethargy, many big organizations turned to him for new product ideas through his eight man think tank, Simco.

When his daughter’s dorm room was burgled, he designed a doorknob mounted alarm system. He collaborated with a toilet manufacturer, an expert in ceramics, to develop microwaveable cookware. He’s the guy who invented the stringless Band aid package, plastic dental floss, baby wipes, a sonic method for sealing chip bags, Depends, and hundreds of other things.

So what does all this have to do with frugality? It’s seeing the need and figuring a way to solve it with what you have. It’s our brother in law Dave, who coming up north to face car inspections for the first time, rigged small Christmas lights over the dashboard to illuminate it. (Dave also “grilled” cheese sandwiches on his dashboard during a drive to California, but we won’t go there.)

So what are your needs? When tackling them, remember the Wizard of Weston.

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