Innovate Everywhere: How to Build a Better Fruit Fly Trap Using Innovation Skills

The Five Innovator’s DNA skills are observing, associating, questioning, experimenting, and networking. You can put these skills to use in everyday situations.

The problem. I had fruit flies one summer day. This is fine in the 10th grade biology classroom but bad in your home. I was OK with an occasional few flying around but when one landed in my glass of red wine I knew it was time to spring to action.

I networked online. Someone else posted something about it on Facebook. People had suggested creating a trap.

I questioned. I asked Google how to create a fruit fly trap. I saw examples that used funnels and red wine or apple cider vinegar.

I associated. I noticed the fruit flies enjoyed red wine. I noticed they like white surfaces. I noticed they like fruit (shocker!). I noticed they like to hang out on the edge of glasses. I could associate trap ideas from wine, white, fruit, and edges.

I now had a lot of ideas. The potential solutions were growing and developing…much like the fruit flies in my kitchen.

I experimented. I built a trap using red wine and a white card on top with a hole in it. I caught a few. I thought I would catch more. I had the wine for them but maybe I needed to have a separate area where the fruit flies could smoke too? I didn’t like this particular trap…wine is expensive! I observed the results and still saw that many fruit flies were hanging out elsewhere…they didn’t necessarily go through the whole.

I experimented again. I added a second trap. This one used a coffee filter style paper white funnel and led to a glass with apple cider vinegar. There was a hole for the flies to enter. A few came into this trap but not as many.

I experimented again. I added a third trap. I remembered the age-old wisdom. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I thought about this metaphor. I think it was getting at the value of using something sweet. Heck, fruit flies are called fruit flies for a reason. For the new trap I integrated this age-old metaphorical wisdom and my observations. I simply put the banana peel from the banana I just ate in the glass. I used a simple white index card on top of the glass. I left enough space on the edge (not a whole in the card) for the fruit flies to come on in to the buffet. Sure enough…within minutes I had more flies in that glass than in all of the other experiments combined. Of the three traps on the counter…the fruit flies had certainly cast their vote with their wings. I went to the banana trap and simply closed the index card on top of the glass and then brought it outside to release the flies. This was a successful innovation thanks to networking, questioning, observing, associating, and experimenting.

What ways have you been doing everyday innovation…using skills like networking, questioning, observing, associating, or experimenting? What innovative solutions have you developed? What experiments should you run next?

New Idea: What if 10th grade biology classes did a section on innovation using fruit fly trap building after their genetics section? They’ve got to catch the flies somehow, right?

About The Author

Darin

Darin Eich is the author of Innovation Step-by-Step: How to Create & Develop Ideas for your Challenge and Root Down & Branch Out: Best Practices for Leadership Development Programs and has a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Darin was also the president and co-founder of BrainReactions, InnovationTraining.org, and other startups.

Darin gives speeches and can be hired to help your institution facilitate, create, and develop innovation programs, courses, retreats, and even conduct assessment or coach staff on developing leadership programs. Visit Innovation Training to see for yourself or
email darin@programinnovation.com.