DIY Projects Equal Better Innovation

It’s not an accident the signature line in my personal email says, ‘Katie Charland – Project Addict’. I love taking on lots of different challenges because I’m at my best when I’m busy.

Typically I’ve relied on work and events to keep me busy, but over time I realized I needed projects that challenge other parts of my brain. I needed something to do on weekends not filled with work.

I had already started to solve the problem without realizing it. My frustration with not having matching furniture led me to figure out how to sand, stain and spray paint various surfaces, as well as how to remove drawers, knobs, etc.

My love affair with Do-It-Yourself projects had begun.

DIY culture is about reusing and hacking. Instead of throwing an object away and buying a new one, DIY challenges you to find a new purpose. It’s recycling for everything you own, and a fight against irresponsible consumerism.

But more than reuse, DIY builds better innovators.

Photo courtesy Johnnie Walker

1. Objects are not what they appear

To be successful DIY-er, you train your brain to look at any object with multiple purpose. A bookcase isn’t a bookcase. It’s a wine cabinet, bed frame, desk, bar, child’s LEGO or changing table. Or maybe pieces of the bookcase can be combined with cabinets to create a closet for a startup designer.

This skill is very useful if you are creating a product or service. What else could your creation be used for? How can you market this quality? What could you tweak that would differentiate you from competitors?

2. Build more with less

Necessity is the mother of all invention. The NASA engineers during the Apollo 13 mission had to create a square filter that could fit into a round hole using nothing but what was on the space shuttle at the time. By using socks and pieces of a space suit, they were able to wrap the filter to fit.¬†You create a fix because you don’t have another option.

Few know this better than DIY-ers. No budget for art? Glue some crayons you have lying around to a canvas and melt them with your old hairdryer. Voila.

Focusing on what you can do with what you have makes for better innovation. Limits and restrictions cause you to focus on the problem and less on the tools. More startups are choosing to bootstrap their business in the first few years in order to learn how to trouble-shoot without relying on money to solve the problem.

3. Share & Transform

Openness is the cornerstone of DIY culture. A new project is shared and followers quickly comment with tips, hacks and failures. Following directions isn’t what’s important. It’s sharing the changes you make.

This already exists within the open source communityLINUX being the prime example. Leaders shared their innovations with a community, leading to further innovation from which everyone benefits.

The most common advice you will see in any book on how to inspire creativity is to try something you’ve never done before. DIY, whether it’s crafting, construction or electronics, gets you out of your comfort zone and your brain working differently. You may tease your Pinterest loving friends, but I challenge you to choose a project from the site and give it a shot. You’ll find the experience incredibly frustrating to be sure, but incredibly rewarding as a creative.

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