TinkerLab? Anyone?

Yesterday, a door to door salesman came home to give us a demo of a water purifier. We decided to buy it and I handed my credit card to the salesman.  I expected him to pull out the standard credit card swiping device. Instead, he pulled out a coin from his pocket, kneeled on the floor near our coffee table, carefully placed the credit card between the sheets of paper and started rubbing the paper, with the edge of the coin. Less than a minute later, we had a nice imprint of my card details and he proceeded to fill the form.

In India, credit card swiping machines are expensive for sales persons to carry and they may not be used much.  So his swiping device? A common coin!

I have noticed several small, heart warming innovations in countries like India, Thailand where resources are scarce and many tools of the western world don’t exist.

This came back to me as I was reading this article on innovation yesterday. ( I got it from a tweet from Tim O’Reilly)

ideas are works of bricolage. They are, almost inevitably, networks of other ideas. We take the ideas we’ve inherited or stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape…

The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.

Combining odds and ends, tinkering, constraints are all innovation enablers. The trick is to get “more parts on the table” and more minds “around the table”. How can we enable this to happen in our schools and colleges? What about a tinkering period in schools and colleges? Or a tinkerlab?