I like it when small, useful objects make my life better. My favorite kind of object is any that lets me get rid of two or more other objects, thus reducing my overall level of stuff-having while maintaining the same utility.

I appreciate smart phones in particular, because I’m of an age where I once owned, separately, a camera, calculator, flashlight, CD player, address book, notepad, alarm clock, Dictaphone, camcorder, and of course telephone – plus probably other stuff I’m forgetting. At the utility of the smart phone keeps increasing without the device taking up any more space, so that’s a big plus.

I’m usually on the lookout for such items – things that replace other stuff, add utility, etc. One thing you have to be careful of is when an item combines the utility of two or more other things, but sacrifices quality on them in such a way as to eradicate any efficiency gains. There’s no point in having a combination spatula/flashlight if it isn’t as good as a regular spatula or flashlight would be. (By the way, patent pending on the Flashula, that’s all me. You’ll see!)

So sometimes, I build my own thing. Sometimes I’ll want two or more things to be combined, and I’ll actually have a lot of fun tinkering until I get it exactly right because my use case is so specific that the market doesn’t have such an item. There’s a certain thrill in knowing you’ve crafted something truly unique, that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Even if it’s use is incredibly narrow, it’s useful for you.

Many problems that you think of as unsolvable actually just need the right combination of two tools. App and software developers are great at this – they listen to complaints like “I always have to make this certain kind of document in THIS program, but then when I want to send it to someone else I have to use this whole OTHER thing” and they make a combination platform that lets you both make AND send that thing. Hooray!

Think about two things you need to do regularly and see if there’s one tool that could replace the two you currently use. You might make your life a little better. You might invent a million-dollar product.

You might just have fun.

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