The Heart of Invention

by Daniel Winston Manny Winston was my father. Over a forty‐year inventing career as owner of Winston Gray, Inc., he moved hundreds of ideas from heart and brain to market. From ‘Feeley Meeleyy’ the year I was born, to ‘What's in Ned’s Head’ in 2003, to new tank armor technology in the 80s, to many of the cereal box premiums of the 80s and 90s, and a long list of other amazing stuff, my father filled his decades with an Olympian level of creative output that I am still trying to grasp. With a dad like mine, you learn a few things about inventing without even knowing you learned them. In getting ready to come to Chitag, I thought it would be a great thing to try to take a lifetime of watching a creative genius at work and distill out some of the salient features of that genius in the hope that we all might be able to take a bit of that magic home. Even though he was my dad, I cannot truly fathom how he did what he did, but I hope what follows will be a useful portrait written, by a grateful son. 1. Be Fearless. Most of us operate in a narrow envelope of reflexive notions of personal identity, competence, loyalty to old history, loyalty to other's perceptions and expectations of us, and a sense of almost fatalistic determinism that what was is what will be and that who we 'are' is all we can be. These notions tend to box our thinking into a zone of safe mediocrity in which we venture only that which we feel will be well received. In and of itself, that makes a fair bit of commercial sense ‐ but it doesn't build a disruptively better mousetrap. My father never finished high school but that didn't stop him from becoming a world‐class thinker and innovator in such radically different fields as the toy business, geopolitical and defense analysis, neurotteratology, weapons design, and just about anything else he put his mind to. Some would be comfortable chalking this all up to some innate genius ‐ but to me it is clear that the observable genius was largely a byproduct of his firm belief that there was nothing to be afraid of. He was willing to try, fail, and be seen as a failure because he didn't consider others' perception of his 'failure' as being worthy of his fear. He also wasn't afraid to be something or someone that he wasn't officially qualified to be. I once watched him converse with an Israeli professor of neurobiology who was