Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Innovative Thinking and the Nature of Invention

Instructor: Mark Gaskill

"Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality"

-Jules de Gautier


To the average person, invention often seems like a mysterious process. This course in innovative methods of thinking attempts to remove some of the mystery from creative work. Anyone, truly anyone, can be an innovator within his or her chosen area of interest.

We will examine the ingredients of invention and brainstorming using a very hands-on, "think tank" approach. The goal is to explore the process of innovation across many different topic areas: business, technology, fashion design, advertising, architecture, food, community planning, the arts, robotics, and so forth. We will attempt to explore these areas through film, guest speakers, biography, and hands-on applications. For each topic we explore, we will be looking at a wide range of possibilities within the area by surveying the history of invention and the implications for the future for that topic as well as individual pioneers --- Henry Ford, Ray Croc, Calvin Klein, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Edison, Ben and Jerry, Steve Wozniak, etc. --- and how they thought and worked within their chosen field. This course breaks down the elements and tools of innovative thinking as used by all innovative thinkers, individual inventors, and even corporate think tanks, giving you the opportunity to apply these very same tools and techniques to invent original and relevant products of your own.

By the conclusion of the course, you should have gained: an appreciation of how the creative process works in a variety of personal, professional and academic areas; deeper insight into many of the most successful innovators in history; the practical tools necessary to brainstorm new ideas; an understanding of the crossovers that occur between different fields in the process of invention; an understanding of the role that hard work, research and critical thinking play in invention; and personal insight into those areas where you, yourself, have the easiest time being inspired.


Gardner, Howard. Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. Basic Books: New York, 1993.

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Little, Brown & Company: New York, 2002.

Michalko, Michael. Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, 1995.

Shekerjian, Denise. Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas are Born. Penguin Books: New York, 1990.

Walljasper, Jay; ed. Visionaries: People and Ideas to Change Your Life. New Society Publishers: Canada, 2001.

Pressman, David. Patent it Yourself. Nolo: Berkeley, 2005 (on reserve in the library).

Last Update: February 7, 2017