NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

Oprah's Idea of the “Next Big Idea”

The Oprah Winfrey Show recently teamed up with QVC to search for the "Next Big Idea." From a field of 6000 applicants, eight finalists were selected to appear on Oprah's May 3, 2007 show. I was dumbfounded by what I saw. All eight finalists were women (perhaps not too surprising, considering Oprah's thinly-veiled misandry), whose ideas included a fold-down baking pan, a vegetable peeler, a food item (a stuffed biscuit), a clip for hanging Christmas cards on wreaths, a plastic ball to assist in floral arrangements, decorative drapes for shutters (can you say, "just another craft project"?), a radio-controlled doodling toy, and an eye shadow applicator.

Ahem. Calling most of these things "inventions" isn't just a stretch, it is the "Next Big Stretch." Several of the ideas have been around for years (almost a century in one case), and the remainder are anything but the kind of great ideas you might expect from a pool supposedly representing the best ideas from 6000 entrants. Stick a knife into a biscuit and stuff some food inside—is that really an invention? I did that when I was a hungry kid looking for a snack at a time when I was "slow," according to my sixth-grade teacher. (This page explains how I went from dunce to doctor and later graduated in the top 1% of my class in medical school.)

The winning idea was the fold-down baking pan, invented by a woman supposedly desperate to find a better way to remove food from a pan. Sheesh, hasn't she heard of a frigging spatula, for heaven's sake? Instead, she concocted a maze of sheet metal that looked like it was designed by the same person who styled World War II-era ammunition containers. Her pan looked to be impossible to thoroughly clean without scrubbing for hours with various brushes to reach into its nooks and crannies. I love baking, and I love most baking gadgets if they serve a purpose and aren't more of a nuisance than they are worth, but I wouldn't use her fold-down baking pan if someone gave it to me. And that, my friends, was judged the best of the 6000 ideas. “The Next Big Idea”? No, the “Next Big Disappointment.”

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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