Innovation Challenge— What will you do with mismatched socks?

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One of the hallmarks of creativity is looking at old things in new ways. In fact, one of the oldest creativity “tests” involves asking people to come up with as many uses as possible for a brick or a postage stamp.

For the past 10 years, I have been challenging to my students with a similar assignment that builds on this idea… My goal is for them to be both creative and entrepreneurial.

They are given an everyday object — such as a pack of Post-It Notes, water bottles, or a handful of paperclips — and are asked to create as much value as possible, value measured in any way they like. This is based on the understanding that entrepreneurs leverage limited resources to creatively address challenges in their midst. The results of these projects have always been remarkable, and reminds us that there are always innovative ways to use the resources at our disposal to address problems.

Here’s an opportunity to try this yourself! In the most recent episode of Stanford Innovation Lab we present a similar creative challenge for you:

Create as much value as possible — value measured any way you like — starting with mismatched socks.

If you are anything like me, you have loads of socks that have lost their mates in the laundry. What can you do with those lonely socks to create the most value as possible? Value can be measured any way you like. For example, you can create social value, financial value, health or beauty value, or even humor. There is only one caveat — no sock puppets. That is just too obvious. :)

To help you generate really innovative ideas, we have three short podcasts on brainstorming tools, with creativity expert, Emily Ma, of Google X.

When you come up with your favorite idea, send a photo showing what you did, as well as a brief description to stanfordinnovationlab@stanford.edu. Please include your name and email address. The due date is May 5.

We’ll review all of the submissions and showcase the most interesting ideas on the final episode of the Stanford Innovation Lab season. Those who are featured on the program will receive a signed copy of “Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World.”

I am really excited to see what you come up with! Please invite your friends, family, classmates, and coworkers to join the fun. I’m sure you will blow our socks off!