How a Spring Sprung a Multimillion-Dollar Idea:

A Lesson in Creative Connections

By Janeen Halliwell
689 words. About a 4 minute read.

This week is World Creativity and Innovation Week, and PMB wanted to offer some insights on generating creative ideas (with inspiration from some very talented people).

In 1943 Richard James, an American naval engineer, was experimenting with using springs to secure naval instruments in rough seas when he accidentally dropped one. After observing how the spring moved once it hit the ground, Richard came up with the idea for the Slinky toy. Since then, a total of 300 million Slinkys have sold world-wide, and a quarter million are still sold annually. The Slinky, an idea born out of trying to solve a unique problem, has earned the James family over $250 million dollars. Similarly, Velcro was created when someone studied the way burrs stuck to clothing.

Random incidents like dropping something are not unusual – they happen all the time. Something that happens less often is taking the time to observe and think about what we are seeing and letting our minds wander freely linking our experiences to new possibilities. Whether looking at a still image, handling an object, or experiencing an event, our minds can use these moments to generate ideas by making creative connections, solving seemingly unrelated challenges in the process.

During the pandemic and now as we move into an endemic phase, human services are facing many challenges: a chronic shortage of staff, digital inequity, increasing poverty that is only getting worse with inflation, lingering effects of COVID, lack of affordable housing, and many more. This vexing list goes on which begs the question, how might we as a sector begin to think differently and intentionally make room for the creative connections that spark new ideas? Professional creativity and innovation facilitators bring in various tools and techniques to create the opportunity and space to connect seemingly disconnected ideas. Some will bring in objects for you to try to relate to, others will use random words. Many will bring in photos or decks of pictures. And these are all great tools that when used correctly can help people come up with new ideas.

For a moment though, we’d like to toot our own horn. Because none of the tools are quite like WITH Inspiration Photo Cards. PMB wanted to come up with a way to help the non-profit teams we work with, comprised of staff, families, and the people supported by the organization, to break through creative blockages, think differently, and form creative connections. At the same time, we wanted to walk the talk and showcase the talents of people with disabilities. So, we produced the WITH Inspiration card decks containing 52 unique photos taken by Ontario photographers who have a disability. A Google search for creative thinking cards will surface many decks of similar cards but none that put the artistic talent of photographers with disabilities out into the world so that their work be the catalyst of positive change in human services. The photos create a connection in people’s minds between the image on the card and the challenge they are trying to solve.

To celebrate these talented photographers PMB is hosting a no-cost WITH Inspiration Creativity Photo Exhibit and Celebration in early June at the Signal Brewery in Belleville, ON where many of the 40+ photographers will be present and happy to share their work with you. The event will include:

    • A Warm Welcome from WITH Inspiration Photographers.
    • Exhibit of 52 Photos.
    • WITH Inspiration Talks.
    • Creative Connections Talk and Demonstration by Tim Hurson, Creativity Expert and Author, Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking.
    • Looking Through Another Lens Talk by Candace Lloyd, Educator and Founder of Nookoom Learning, and mother of Xavier, an indigenous WITH Inspiration photographer.
    • Complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, with alcoholic beverages available for purchase.
    • Prize Draws and more.

While few happy accidents generate million-dollar ideas like the Slinky, this event is sure to be an eye-opening and mind-opening, one-in-a-million experience. Everyone who attends will walk away with not only a better understanding of the power of creative connections but of the immense and largely untapped creativity and talent that people with disabilities have. We’d love to see you there.

Click here to get your tickets!

Share on:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Subscribe to PMB180

[formidable id=7]

Insights & Events


Inflation. No friend to human services.

The current round of inflation was born out of the COVID crisis and caused by many issues (for example overseas supply chain challenges, healthy consumer bank accounts, consumers who despite inflation and global uncertainty still seem willing to spend, and wage increases to counter the Great Resignation, etc.). The February 2022 year on year inflation rate in Canada was 5.7% overall, a rate not seen since August of 1991.

Read More »
Photo by Cliff Booth from Pexels

Digital Inclusion – Worldwide Lessons during COVID

Last week we ran across a brand-new meta study on the digital inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities during COVID 19. This study reviewed 16 studies on this topic during COVID 19 (2020 – 2021) and also reached out to researchers worldwide to capture studies that haven’t been published yet. Given how many organizations had to switch on a dime to virtual service provision, it’s an important window into the effects of these efforts.

Read More »

Join PMB on: