How to generate new ideas or The Reinvention of Normal

Asking questions to unblock your mind

Dominic Wilcox is a designer and inventor who questions the normal way things work. He challenges the very simple things we take for granted to create new unexpected possibilities.

The video shows us that our instinct is to accept the current solution rather than ‘attack’ it with questions. When you’re coming up with new ideas that sort of fresh thinking is what you need.

Enjoy the inspiration!

Directed & Produced by Liam Saint-Pierre with original artwork and animation by Dominic Wilcox

The film highlights how easy it is to accept how things are without question. Part of the appeal is that Dominic Wilcox re-purposes everyday objects. The result is unexpected contraptions that tickle us.

Clearly in digital-life we rarely have the chance to re-purpose junk-shop finds. The point is that we do have the ability to ask questions that throw a whole new light on the solutions we’re taking for granted.

Generating new ideas – 5 good questions

Innovation means doing something differently to arrive at a better solution. The challenge we face is to how to unthink the conventional solution so we can see something different.

To see what these questions can do let’s take the extreme examples of the video and apply them to product design:

  1. Every product satisfies a need – break down that need into small parts.Is there a different way of serving the individual parts of the need you satisfy? Such as lowering a building rather than going up in a lift…
  2. What is the reverse of your product? There may be more than one answer here, for instance the reverse of a bungee jump could mean hauling someone up on a rope or as we see in the film dropping land on their head.
  3. How could you downgrade the product? This may suggest a way to then upgrade it. An extreme example of a downgrade would be to replace a smoothie-maker with a football. This may then suggest the way to upgrade a smoothie-maker would be to incorporate fitness advantages…
  4. What other uses are there for your product? Even silly uses like a storage chamber in a shoe…
  5. What if we did it a different way? ‘What if’ can spark unforeseen possibilities as opposed to the conventional response to a ‘why’ question. An example would be observing birds by listening rather than watching.

If you enjoyed the film you’ll love the book…

Dominic Wilcox has exhibited his playful and thought-provoking designs all around the world.

The book comprises over 120 drawings of his inventions. Every page is designed to make you feel happy, excited and intrigued.

Looking at the pictures isn’t just fun it wakens up your thinking. It’s clear that there must be new ideas out there that you haven’t found. Consider the book as a thinking manual, something to look at when your mind is blocked. You’ll then see that there are always other solutions, just come up with a silly one and the juices should start flowing.

Very often the challenge is getting away from conventional answers in order to arrive at something better. The key to that process is asking questions that make us think. That’s what Dominic Wilcox does, and it’s what his creations make us do too.
Please share this article if Dominic Wilcox made you think or made you smile :)


How to generate new ideas or The Reinvention of Normal
How to generate new ideas or The Reinvention of Normal
Dominic Wilcox questions everyday assumptions to create unexpected inventions. You can find new ideas by asking questions about the old one.
  • Hello, Donald,

    What an interesting post you’ve come up with, wow! I love the concept of questioning everything and absolutely agree with this.

    Your application – what you created in this blog post, for me, is more valuable than the contents of the video (yes, I watched the whole thing) because I didn’t see a benefit to his examples. I do agree that questioning is a great habit to get into.

    Your analogy is more on point than the lessons I got from his. Maybe I’m missing something? I don’t see the lowering of the building as an improvement. The benefit was not clear to me in any of his examples, but your points are very clearly sharing the benefits.

    Really enjoyed the ‘listening’ to birds rather than watching, although I always listen before I watch. I normally hear them first, and then my eyes catch up to the where the sound is coming from, and I’m able to watch as well.

    Loved your encouragement to make us think and not take everything as status quo.

    Excellent, Donald, and I appreciate you sharing!


    • Hi, Carol, good to see you. It’s true he’s not looking for added benefit, he’s just making silly examples to show how things could be different.

      Nice to see you found the questions valuable. I think asking an extra question is what brings out the best of an idea, rather than settling early on.

      Thanks for dropping by, have a good week!

  • Hi Donald,

    Now that was different and I did watch the entire video. I think his idea of the ship that pulled into port and they got off and drove off, that one I liked more than any of them. I get the point though to question everything. My thinking though if that is really necessary.

    It’s like they say “why reinvent the wheel”? Hey, it works great and I’m really not that interested in making it better. People like Dominic might be though.

    If it relates to what we share online though or how we can help our customers then sure, we can always do our best to go that extra mile. That’s really the thought process I’m taking away from this post.

    Enjoyed this post and very creative my friend.


    • Hi, Adrienne, some good thoughts, thank you. That’s a good point about ‘reinventing the wheel’, I think the video just encourages us to put in that extra bit of effort to re-assess what we’ve come up with. But there has to come a time when you say ‘It’s perfect’.

      You’ve got a good takeaway there, doing our best to go the extra mile.

      Have a great week, Adrienne!

  • Wow! That’s an awesome post Donald. So very interesting and inspiring. I totally loved it.

    Thanks for sharing Dominic’s video. I watched it fully and loved every bit of it. And thanks for relating his inventions/creative ideas to blogging related tasks – it so helped me to relate to.

    I must admit I am not very creative; I do get creative quite often, but it is not a regular thingy! And I don’t put pressure on myself to be creative very often! But I see that it is indeed a wonderful thing to do so.

    Really awesome stuff you’ve shared here! Have a great week!


    • Hi, Jane, thank you! So good that you enjoyed it.

      I think you are creative if you write a blog, that’s much more than most people do. I’m pleased you can relate the video to what you do, on the surface it’s very different but there are good lessons.

      Thank you for dropping by, have a good week!

  • Hey Donald,

    Great post.

    I really like the 5 questions that you asked. The first one especially. Every product a person creates should satisfy a need. And I think that’s where a lot of people fail when it comes to their products. It doesn’t satisfy a need so potential customers don’t see the need in purchasing it.

    Regarding the video, similar to Adrienne’s views, I like the part about the boat. I though that was particularly interesting, but like the video as a whole. Great inspiration.

    – Andrew

    • Hi, Andrew, thank you.

      You’re right about how important it is for a product to satisfy a need, there’s definitely got to be a point to it or it’ll never sell.

      You seem really clued up about the products you offer your subscribers, another thing I’m thinking about, there seems so much to do.

      I like the boat part too. Keep inspired, enjoy the rest of the week!

  • Hey Donald – Interesting post. I think I got more out of your summary than the video itself, although I will admit that I did not watch the entire thing.

    I do like the say you summed this up, especially how you tie this back to products. You nailed it when you say “what if we did it a different way”, that can apply to pretty much anything can’t it. There are so many opportunities out there, just waiting for someone to come up with a different way of doing things. Apple is one such company that comes to mind in coming up with ways of doing things differently.

    Great idea for a post.


    • Hi, Craig, good to see you.

      I think you’ve got the main message to take away from this, asking if there’s a different way of doing things. And you’re right it does apply to most things, quite often that last thought you give something is the bright idea that changes everything.

      Apple is the company I think of that keeps breaking new ground. And I can’t think of any mistakes. I remember when the ipad was launched everyone said it was a pointless flop but whoever thought of ripping off the keyboard was a genius :)

      Enjoy the rest of the week!

  • I agree, you should question everything and never be satisfied with the results. Because satisfaction leads to lethargy which leads to you questioning that lethargy and ends up with a continuous release of gas :)

    Hey but I loved the post :)

    • Hi, Malcolm, thank you!

      You’re definitely going with the point of view the video is pointing at. I’m really pleased you like the post and I hope it helps cure your gas problem :)

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Hi Donald,

    It was my first time here. Glad to be here and nice to meet you. :)

    I agree with questioning everything that you raise up. Indeed, if we follow the 5 questions that you provide, we will find different results and it can increase the other possibilities that have been closed because of our own minds.

    Associated with the video, I can not watch videos entirely because of internet connection issues. when my connection smoothly, I would see it again. :)

    I love your post, Donald.
    I will start to share it right now. Keep up the good work!


    • Hello, Nanda, good to see you!

      You’re spot on with the benefits of questioning, you can raise new possibilities that are otherwise closed off, like you say.

      Someone else with internet connection issues! Hope it gets sorted out soon. I’ve been having a problem here but I’ve worked out it’s not the connection it’s a problem with my website so I”m about to dig into that.

      Thank you so much, Nanda, and thanks for sharing!

  • Andre

    Hello Donald, I enjoyed your approach in here. What you just did is interesting and awesome as well.

    • Hi, Andre, thank you! Glad you like it, thanks for commenting.