Staples Invention Quest: Finalists Announced, Voting Begins

Staples has announced the 15 finalists in its Invention Quest. Five finalists in each of three categories (child, adult, and Staples employee) are now up for a grand prize of $25,000 in each category and a chance to have Staples manufacture and sell their product.

The next round of the competition involves you, the voting public, selecting which idea you like the best. In theory, the results of the public voting will have an impact on the outcome although I know from my own experience that it doesn't really mean squat.

While I haven't done much of it lately, I do have to give Staples credit for putting the finalist videos up online, where you can see them actually talk about and demonstrate their product. Although I do have to laugh that they list the contestant's name with first name and last initial (a la The Apprentice), but the contestants clearly state their full names in their videos.

I won't talk about the childrens' ideas, as I tend toward the critical and that's plain mean, but here are the five finalists in the other two categories, along with my "critique":


The No Poke Pin

Rather than poking a hole through anything you want to tack up to a bulletin board, the No Poke Pin uses spring strength and friction to hold it up, meaning you don't have to ruin those prized pictures and documents. A simple idea, but of the variety that can easily win this contest. I like it.

The Busy Belt

You know those spring-loaded bands that cordon off the check-in line at the airport? Imagine being able to stick one across your cubicle to let people know you're busy? That's the idea behind the Busy Belt. I'm all for ways to cut down on office interruptions, but I'm not sure that this is the answer. In all of the offices where I've worked, if a person wasn't courteous enough to say "can I bother you a minute?" they wouldn't have been stopped by a canvas belt either. Now if it was electrified...

Stash and Store File Folder

I like this one too. Basically it's a file folder that you can use to store your small office supplies. So rather than rattling around in a desk drawer, they're all in a plastic see-through folder. A lot of new desk styles don't even come with supply drawers, so this certainly beats the "throw everything in cupboard" method I currently use.

The 2-View Computer Chair

Never mind that this one is way too expensive for Staples to pick up, but I'm not convinced it's even a good idea. I understand the problem completely...trying to have two people look at a computer screen at once, but the solution is a little too cozy. The 2-View Computer Chair is a regular office chair, but with a flip-out extra seat so someone else can sit down. Yes, they have to sit within inches of you, and yes, you have to move in tandem. Couldn't you get the same effect with a $3 IKEA stool stashed under the desk? At least you wouldn't have to touch hips.

Color-Coded Flash Drive

I'm not really sure what the innovation is here. The Color-Coded Flash Drive is a way to carry different flash drives for different purposes with different colored labels for distinction. Is it just me, but don't flash drives already come in different colors, and with space to write labels? And now in increasingly varied shapes and sizes. And since you can get a 2 GB flash drive for $30, do you even need more than one?

And the Winner Is...

I predict The No Poke Pins will take home the grand prize and both they and the Stash and Store get sold in Staples.


Slide n' File

I like this one. Basically it's a heavier hanging vinyl file folder, with a dry erase label that clips on and you can reuse. It's a replacement for those awful clear tabs that you have to write the label, fold it, stick it in the tab, then try to insert the tab in the hanging folder. While I like the idea, I worry about the environmental aspect (sorry, just watched Inconvenient Truth).

Locker Wallpaper

This poor guy doesn't even get a video. From the description on the site, locker wallpaper is designed contact paper for lockers that kids can stick on and remove at the end of the school year. It would be cool if the kids could write on it, but otherwise I don't know that the average high-schooler is going to want Staples telling them what's cool to hang in their lockers.


The inventor has a video, but no prototype to show. Mixers are basically half-size versions of all of the common writing instruments - pens, erasers, highlighters, dry erase markers, etc, that can be attached end-to-end to form one regular-sized custom writing implement. So for example a student could bring a pen/highlighter to class and have to deal with only one thing. Not a bad idea, although as disorganized as I am, I would probably just throw them all in my bag anyway.


Another video with no prototype. The Drawerganizer is sort of like a tackle box or jewelry box insert for a deep desk drawer. You keep things organized on an individual level, and the whole thing accordians out so you have access to everything. Basically it's a way to store office supplies in a deeper drawer without them all just thrown in there (my method). Not a bad idea, but one of the finalists last year was a portable version of this exact same concept.

Compact Filing Cabinet

The Compact Filing Cabinet is half the depth of a traditional filing cabinet, but its doors hinge down to reveal expandable file folders that you can easily access. Seems like a good idea, although I worry with the much narrower depth how many people will be crushed when they open the top door and the whole thing tips over.

Overall, I'd give the Associates the nod for the most innovative ideas, but they also seem fairly expensive to develop.

And the winner is...

I predict the Slide n' File taking top honors, with the mixers also getting produced by Staples.

You can go online to vote now here, although I've been having trouble getting the site to work at all in Firefox.

Check it out...what do you think? Anything that would change your office life forever?

Tim Whitney
Featured Blogger


Apr 3, 2007
by Stacie S (not verified)

Hi Tim, I appreciate your

Hi Tim,

I appreciate your input, however I disagree with what you said about the compact filing cabinet.  I am the inventor and I must clarify the logistics of the design so that voters are not biased solely due to your opinion.

 The illustration and video more than served their purpose of describing the new design of the compact filing cabinet and it's functionality - which is what I had intended at the time.  While I admit my illustration nor my video displayed or mentioned the finer details, I have already taken into consideration the potential for the cabinet to tip over once the drawers are opened.  

  The prototype will be built with a modification to the base's fulcrum to prevent the cabinet from tipping over.  I will also suggest the idea including hardware to bolt the cabinet to a wall for those that wish to do so - all of which will be demonstrated during my final presentation.  Thank you.  :) 


Apr 3, 2007
by Michelle
Michelle's picture

Hi Mark T: Absolutely

Hi Mark T:

Absolutely awesome work you have on your website. 


Apr 4, 2007
by Tim Whitney

Mark T and Stacie

I wondered if any of the finalists would find their way here. I was a finalist in the 2005 IQ, so I know the range of thoughts and emotions going on in your heads right now. Best of luck to both of you, and please know that if I knew what the winning formula was, I would have won. Or at least gotten picked up. But I didn't (and no, I'm not bitter :) )

Mark T - I wouldn't be too worried about the online voting. In our year the whole system was broken and the results had more to do with how many people you could consistently get to vote for you. There was very little promotion by Staples (notice there's not even a link on their website) And the final results had apparently no affect on the outcome.

Stacie - Thank you for the clarification and your input. I also know how it can be to not be able to convey everything you would like in the online voting. We got the benefit of one line written by DJA, so I'm pleased to at least see you had the chance to make videos.

My suggestions to both of will stress out about this enough, so focus that energy on your final presentation.

I would LOVE for you guys to stay in touch. I know you don't want to affect your chances in the contest, but afterwards,I'd love to hear your impressions and exchange war stories. Take a look at my post on V for Vendetta for my thoughts on the whole deal 18 months removed. You guys obviously have something special, so let that carry you regardless of the outcome.


Apr 4, 2007
by Stacie (not verified)

  Thank you for your

  Thank you for your encouragement (votes? hehe) and support Tim, ITG!!  Stressful is an understatement - I haven't had a good night sleep since finding out...LOL!!!  But as stressful as it is, it is equally if not even more exciting!!  I'm thrilled to have even gotten this far. 

  Btw, I too am a fan of the Stash & Store folder because it could fit right into the accordion files of my Compact Filing Cabinet.  ;) 

Apr 5, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

No Poke Pins don't like, if

No Poke Pins don't like, if I have something that I cherish and needs to be hanged on wall I would rather protect it all the way still can be demaged,and there is something out there very similar, Busy Belt OMG what happen to DO NOT DISTURB SIGN, Stash and Store File Folder yuck, looks like one  big sandwich bag and sounds like you are going stash something illegal, 2-View Computer Chair for sure I would buy. Color-Coded Flash Drive I have  seen better ones out there and for the Compact Filing Cabinet MY FAV any thing that saves space is a great thing for sure great job Stacie I have all my family members voting for you and for me I vote several times a day for urs


Apr 7, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

Busy Belt

I like this idea. I think Tim misses the point. If you ask someone, can I bother ALREADY have interupted them. We use to use plastic chains, masking tape etc. This would be like a universal consistant way to get some work done. There was a product called a cube door but it seemed to big. I bet staples likes this one because it can actually make people more productive and it has the Staples logo on it.....I say nice job. Where can I get 20 of them...Also, the No Poke pins are good as well.

Apr 7, 2007
by Mark T (not verified)


I worked in cubical land for many years.  I've seen homemade versions of the Busy Belt in use.  In fact, I've seen people go as far as to put up whole curtains, to get their work done.  I am sure every company/person has its limits. It may not be for everyone, but there must be a need for it or people wouldn't go to the trouble to make their own.  It is a completely viable idea and I could easily imagine it and many of the other entries on shelf. I'll reserve my comments on who should win, as I noted before, I am biased Laughing.


Apr 8, 2007
by Stacie (not verified)

 Thanks Anonymous, I really

 Thanks Anonymous, I really appreciate the votes!  I was in 1st place for all of 5 minutes yesterday morning but other than that have been in a persistent, close second behind the Mixers idea which is pretty cool. 

  Mark T, I forgot to mention in my last post that most of my family is voting for you in your area of the contest.  :)

Apr 14, 2007
by Amy S (not verified)


Tim I was wondering:

1)What's happened since the Staples contest - are you still inventing?

2)The couple of days the final judging took place at the Staples contest were there a lot of events planned or did you have a lot of free time? What happened besides the judging and final winner annoucement?


Apr 25, 2007
by Stacie S (not verified)

It's Over!!!!

Well, I didn't expect to win and I didn't.  I knew that due to the size and expense to produce my item that my chances were slim to none but I came home a little richer and a lot wiser.  It was nice meeting the other inventors.  I didn't talk to any of the kids but all of my fellow Associates were very, very nice and I'm truly happy for Rebecca.  The others in the adult contest were very nice too. 

 Mark, if you are reading this, first of all I'm happy you won and secondly, thanks for the laughs!  :)  My husband and I enjoyed hanging out with you. 

Apr 26, 2007
by Michelle
Michelle's picture

Congrats to everyone who

Congrats to everyone who competed for actually doing something and taking a risk.  And for those who won, congratulations!! I think the winners are pretty darn cool! Team

Jun 22, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

Hey mark T

What is mark t's web site?

please e-mail me back.