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.
STAPLES ASSOCIATE COMPETITION
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).
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?