Problem Solver Loves to Tackle the Toughest Problems
Interview with IdeaConnection problem solver Kurt Garrett
By Paul Arnold
Kurt Garrett is a prolific inventor with more than 40 patents to his name. His first undergraduate degree was in studio art, but in his own words he saw himself as a Jonny Quest character (the resourceful problem-solving cartoon hero) so he went back to school to get a chemistry degree.
Since that time he has been pursuing a successful career in science. Whether solving problems, inventing or drawing in his spare time, creativity is at the heart of everything he does.
I’m one of those inventor guys, and I think most of the people who work on these problems are like that. I could feel the connection with them for the couple of times I had to facilitate the meeting when our facilitator wasn’t there. We have a connection and a belief that we can solve problems.
Chemists, scientists and engineer types are really high ego people, and if you’re one, you understand that ego. If you’re not, it’s kind of difficult to understand and it could come out as obnoxious. But a scientist is going to face something very challenging and must therefore have the belief in himself and his skillset so he can really solve the problem. And I’m that kind of guy.
Does that create difficulties in a team if you all have similar egos?
For me I have a goal in mind, and that goal has always been to be a team player. Therefore, the solution always remains paramount. I’m the guy who will write an outline, or a paragraph or a draft and not be so torn about anybody reconstructing it. Not in the least, and here’s the reason why. I’m able to evaluate a better idea, but if you don’t have a better idea then I will challenge you heavily. So if you’re going to critique me, you’d better bring a better idea to the table. If your idea is better than what I put down I’m all hands. That’s the idea we’re going with.
If it’s me who brings the idea to the table - great. If it’s someone else, I’m still celebrating. I’m the biggest guy who’s clapping and I’m that guy’s biggest fan. I have no problem complimenting other scientists who are bringing forth answers, just like this last challenge we won.
There was one guy in the group who is nothing less than brilliant. He came forth with an idea we’d been working through, lots and lots of permutations, and he broke through. He put something on the table; we started reading it, and were like ‘wow, this is it’.
We also did something rather unique, I think. We did something the seeker said they never had done before with all the teams they’ve ever worked with.
I proposed an idea to our team. I said the seeker is asking for a theory on a process that has literally millions if not trillions of possibilities. This is no good for anybody to come up with a successful proposal. Therefore to enhance our chances let’s request that the seeker allows us to develop the prototype or do the hands on they normally do. It will allow us to rapidly eliminate all the trash and clutter in the background that has nothing to do with the solution. The team thought this was a great idea, so we brought it to the seeker in our first meeting and the seeker accepted it. The fact they accepted it gave us another level of confidence.
What does it feel like when you know you’ve come up with a great solution?
I can think of at least two emotions. One is validation. That means that I am the guy who I think I am. I’m that big ego winner guy, because I started out believing that I was. And the more of these you get under your belt the better you feel that you can take on the next one.
I’ve had several of these moments in my career, in fact lots of them. So my level of confidence just continues to grow and all of the other scientists are going to see me and know that I’m that exceptional guy, and that’s what you want.
So you’re always striving for the next thing?
I’m always going for the next thing. My son is a doctoral student candidate at a university not too far from here. He’s the guy who other family members go to and ask questions about what I’m doing, because they don’t feel they can necessarily understand the science. When I started with IdeaConnection they asked him why I was working on a challenge when I didn’t know all the science from the outset. And my son said something important that touched me, ‘daddy will figure a way’. I will figure a way.
I’m always driven to the next difficult problem and I like difficult problems. I like the worst kinds of problems. I want the worst problems in the world in front of me. That’s what I want to work on every time.
And that love of problem solving fuels your endeavors as an inventor?
I have forty three patentable ideas in fifteen different fields and each one of them is significant. I have not submitted a single patent to the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) that was not granted. I have what’s called one hundred percent patentability rate.
And I understand why. In fact I developed a software program called ‘Genesis Brain Storm’ that allows me to make novel compounds and crank them out and guarantee them to be patentable.
I use it in combination with a pre-system I call fragmentation. I put them together and I can get ten thousand permutations on anything that I want in less than five minutes and all of them will be unique. This technology is what I call a first creation portal. It creates new information.
Will you continue to work on challenge teams?
IdeaConnection has just approved me to become a facilitator. So I’m very excited about working with some more people in a facilitator position. I really think that I can inspire others to really bring it up, heat it up. I have a belief in other scientists. I don’t think I’m the smartest guy around the table and I don’t think I need to be the smartest guy around the table. It’s okay that my brilliant friend over there is the smartest guy around the table; he’s on our team.