There are enough of us in the world that most ideas that come to you will have already been conceived by other minds in the past, this is something I am constantly confronted with by the internet. However, the context and community in which you implement your idea can be different, and can present interesting challenges. For instance, in Ahmedabad, where I live, I am tempted to come up with a cup that can be used for both chai as well as pani puri, replacing the little flyaway cups of styrofoam which have useful lifespans of about 45 seconds.
Currently being in the process of constantly coming up with ideas for prototypes for the cup, I find that some of the ideas that I come up with have already been thought of. Like this origami dishware cup, which you can carry around, unfolded, and then bend into shape when you need to use it. Or these ideas that use the accordion fold. Why aren’t they bigger? What came out of them, why didn’t they work? I think it’s importance that our failures be documented adequately to help other people walking down the same road, save the world time and take existing ideas forward.
Only today I came across this most wonderful website that crowd sources ideas. Here is a link to a competition that closed 5 years ago.
This was an open competition with a large panel of jury members that invited people to think about the problem of the disposable cup and come up with new ideas. Each entry is published on the website and invited comments and critiques to improve on the design. Many of these ideas remain half baked and inadequately thought about, but I think the idea of a public competition for something like this is brilliant nevertheless, because of how it makes people more aware of their choices and appreciate the complexities in the problem. The further you delve into the problem of the cup, the more you stop looking at materials in black and white. Plastic bad, clay good, it doesn’t work like that. existing Systems of Pre handling,post handling, convenience, community perceptions of the material all come into play. The only way you will ever know what can work is by testing your ideas out, and testing many ideas at that, for multiple options liberate you and release you from being held to any one idea. Draw, Make, Test, Repeat!