|by Jan Zauha
"Roach Coach" board games and ant free dog bowls? These are just two of the many creative
products brought to you by an inventor's fertile mind. While you may not aspire to invent the
next best gizmo, chances are you could use a creativity jolt now and then. If it is true, as
Linus Pauling claims, that "the best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas," what
better place to begin than the Web? There you'll find inspiration, techniques, brainteasers,
games, bibliographies, and gurus galore waiting to help unfetter your mind and get the good
For real inspiration, begin at MIT's Invention Dimension and browse the "Inventor of the Week" archives to read about figures such as James Wright, of
Silly Putty fame. More obscure inventions, many likely to remain so, are gathered at the Patently Weird archives of ABC News. Serious patent exploration is available through the United States Patent and Trademark Office site, which offers a searchable database of
all US patents issued since 1790, including one for a "tethered aerial top"--better known as
If looking at the inventions of others doesn't do it for you, there are many sites designed to
help you start from scratch. To measure your own creativity, see the Mental Athletics Programme Web Site. This
graphically mapped resource offers "extensive interactivity, practical theory, and fun,"
including modules for self-assessment, a gym for developing creative muscles, tactics to
improve creativity techniques, and information about the brain.
Many other sites identify additional techniques to help you develop creativity skills. Infinite
Innovations maintains Brainstorming, a
site devoted to defining it, training for it, stimulating it and, of course, purchasing
products to enhance it. Creativity Web offers "10 Creativity Kick Starts," mind mapping, visual thinking, and many other techniques
and resources. If puzzles, brainteasers, and other games stimulate your thinking process, go
to Mindgames for an array of interactive free games and others
For updates on creativity research delivered right to your email see the Creative Center of the Universe to subscribe to irregular
"Heads Up!" messages. Visit their Head Shed for more techniques, inspiring profiles and other
As is often the case, the Web is only a starting point for finding out about creativity.
Much work is being done on the subject in the literature of management, education, psychology,
and other fields. To help identify further resources, use Creativity Based Information Resources (CBIR) Online, a searchable bibliographic database
including information on articles, dissertations, books, videos, and much more, produced by
the Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State
College. Most sites devoted to creativity also list links and articles of further interest.
If you want to locate a creativity guru or explore a training program, the Web offers links to
authors like Roger Von Oech and companies like Creativity Engineering. Visit the Patent Cafe to join a community of fellow inventors once your
efforts begin to bear fruit.
For help locating more information about creativity, in print or online, call or stop in at
the Renne Library reference desk. If you find Web sites that you think might be of interest
to the MSU community, please send me an e-mail message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan Zauha is the reference team leader at the MSU Libraries.