How Innovative Ideas Arise

How Innovative Ideas Arise

Table Of Content(toc)

1. Intro


After about a year of building the toaster in his garage (as he didn’t have much time for his business), he presented the product at Target’s tech conference in New York City. When he started giving talks about it, people loved it so much that they finally bought one from him.


2. How Thomas Thwaites Started


When I started out in the creative arts, I was the kind of kid who was always up at 5:30 or 6:00 AM with his sketchbook and all sorts of ideas. I don’t remember which came first, but quite likely it was both. But in my day job as an entrepreneur, I didn’t have that kind of flexibility.

So, when a product idea arose, I would say no to it and move on to something else until inspiration faded away. This led to some frustrating days where I would have dozens of ongoing projects going at once and not be able to afford to take one off for even a few hours (the only exception being emergencies). One day, Thomas Thwaites decided he wanted a toaster from scratch. He walked into a shop, purchased the cheapest toaster he could find, and promptly went home and broke it down piece by piece.

Since then, I’ve had several great projects go through various phases in my head (from imagining them as being done by other people to actually having them done by me), but every time one has come about, it has come from somewhere different than what Thomas had planned.


3. What Is a Toaster Made Of?


In order to make this comparison, I have to start from scratch—I don’t have any experience with toasters yet. And I certainly don’t have any experience with building an entire system for creating new ideas.

It won’t be easy.

In the beginning, I must admit, I didn’t know what I was doing. It took me a long time to figure out how the parts worked together and how they fit together in relation to each other. And it took even longer to figure out how the whole work together as a unit in terms of its function and function of its parts.

The first Taster was far from perfect; there were some problems with its design and construction, but even after fixing them, there were still problems left to solve in terms of engineering: manufacturing issues related to welding, assembly, etc., as well as issues related to shipping both domestically and internationally (not just for me, but for all Tasters).

The second Taster was far better than the first one; it had fewer problems than the original version did, though all the same challenges remained (and will remain).

And then… a third Taster! This new product was far more complex than any of my previous attempts at user-friendliness or ease of use: it had more parts and required more steps than either my original or third Taster ever did—and yet this new product generated ideas so quickly that I had no idea how it would all come together at all! It took me three days just getting started on it—and I didn’t finish until 3 am the next day! The total time spent on this project was about 5 hours!


4. Building A Toaster From Scratch


Thomas Thwaites, the founder of, has a unique perspective on how to build a startup. He has built a product based on the ideas that he learned from his father and his experience as an inventor.

Tom shared the following piece of advice about building a product with me: “I don’t try to write software that solves problems, I try to write software that solves problems in unexpected ways.”

This is a great thing to remember when it comes time to build your product: building for the purpose of solving problems is not about being innovative but about being creative and adaptive. If you’re going to build something, then you should also be willing to play!

In this post from Google I/O 2010 he shares with us some of his thoughts on this topic: “We want our products to solve specific problems in unexpected ways—but only after we’ve solved those first two problems.”


5. Conclusion


One of the things I love about this article is that it shows how Thomas Thwaites built a toaster from scratch and how he made it a success. It’s not just a product/market fit story, but it’s also about building a new product. This is an example of concrete thinking, not abstract thinking.

I wish I could have seen the product itself when he built it; if I had seen it immediately, I would have asked for a demo and then perhaps spent some time with him to learn more about what he was doing.

But by simply walking into an unknown shop and buying the cheapest one he could find, I can imagine him having no idea what to expect (which is why there was no demos or anything at the store). In other words: If you don’t know what you are getting into, you won’t be impressed. That is something we are always advised to keep in mind when launching new products — whether they are software or hardware or services — as you need to be impressed with your products before even trying them yourself (and of course great ideas are the hardest thing to get right).


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