image
Steven Paley says creativity makes “order out of the seemingly random.” Courtesy Steven Paley

Steven Paley’s recent book “The Art of Invention: The Creative Process of Discovery and Design” (Prometheus Books 2010) gives readers an insider’s view into the world of the inventor.

The 236-page paperback aims to get creative juices flowing and inspire people to want to bring new ideas to life, said Paley, a Paramus resident, in an interview.

The book explores the questions of what defines an inventor, what makes a great invention, and how to turn an idea for an invention into a reality.

Paley, who holds nine U.S. patents, guides his readers through the world of creativity in engineering in his easy-to-read book.

The enthusiastic narrator shares his personal experiences and offers examples such as the invention of the paper clip, Velcro, and the Xerox Copier.

The book explores the process of generating an idea by identifying a need and searching for a solution. Invention, Paley says, is about freeing the mind, breaking down constraints, and not going down the road that is already well-traveled.

Paley also discusses the design phase and what makes an invention successful – namely, simplicity, elegance, and robustness. He uses the paper clip as the quintessential example of an invention that demonstrates these features.

But Paley is not content to end his book there. He also gives attention to the business of invention, providing an inventor’s tool kit. The final chapters of the book address the challenges of transforming an idea into a practical, marketable product.

Growing up in Hillsdale as the son of an inventor/entrepreneur, Paley was bitten early in life by the creative bug. “My father used to take me on his inventing trips. We’d roam around at trade shows and walk from booth to booth. It was like being in candy land,” he recalls.

In his book, he writes, “This is where I had my introduction to the art of invention. This is where I learned how the creative mind works. I came to realize that not everything was connected by a straight line, and that our brains work in ways that we cannot always fathom. Creativity is the process of making order out of the seemingly random.”

Paley studied engineering at Tufts and attended Stanford University’s graduate program in product design. He landed jobs at IBM and Bell Labs in engineering before eventually settling down to work for his father’s business, Texwipe, which manufactured and sold specialized consumable products for the control of microcontamination in semiconductor fabrication, disk drive manufacture, biotechnology, and aerospace.

The company that began out of their family’s basement soon expanded to Upper Saddle River and opened offices all over the world.

Paley believes invention is both an art and a science, requiring a sense of wonder and curiosity as well as a deep knowledge of technology and business.