One summer morning in the early 1970’s Bill and Barbara Bowerman were fixing waffles for breakfast. Bill, the head running coach at the University of Oregon, was bemoaning the fact that his runners didn’t have track shoes that could grip the new artificial turf. Having coached thirty-three Olympians, he was always on the lookout for better athletic gear. In the 1960’s, he co-launched a company to import light-weight running shoes from Japan. He even had a lab in his house where he could experiment. Now he was looking for a lighter, faster shoe, one without spikes that could still grip the new running track. At that moment, Barbara pulled a waffle off the hot waffle iron. Staring at the waffle, Bill suddenly made a connection. The gird pattern on the waffle might just create the perfect grip for the sole of a running shoe. He grabbed the waffle iron and ran to his lab.

Nike ‘Moon Shoe’ worn by Mark Covert in the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials. The shoes were made in a waffle iron and were the first Nike shoes worn during competition. – Popular Mechanics 2016

By the end of the day, he had prototyped the shoe that would earn him his first patent and launch his company to international fame: The Nike Waffle Trainer. This story is a perfect example of what happens at the moment a creative idea is conceived.

Creativity is making connections.

Guttenberg got the idea for the printing press when he went to a wine festival and he noticed the same steady pressure a wine press exerts on grapes might be applied to his early version of movable type on paper. The idea for Velcro came from observing how a cocklebur attaches itself to clothes and animal fur. Burt Rutan solved the re-entry problem for his re-usable space vehicle, “Space Ship One” by observing how a badminton shuttle cock always lands with its nose down. And Wilson Greatbatch, it is said, made the connection between a construction site hazard warning flasher and a way to stimulate the heart, which lead to the invention of the pacemaker. Making connections is at the core of every creative process. The beautiful thing about this connection making process is that you can learn how to make those connections. Yes, you can learn how to be deliberately creative. We would like to show you how. And we will start down this creative journey in the next installment of Inspiration for Innovation. See you in September. Special thanks to Dorta Nielsen and Sarah Thurber for the Nike Waffle Trainer Story.

They are two of my favorite people and the authors of one of my favorite creativity books, The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker

Roger L. Firestien, Ph.D.


The i4 Studio provides 4 basic services.

  • Training in Creative Thinking – Teaching you and your team how to integrate creativity into your natural work flow.
  • Idea Labs where you bring your toughest business or scientific challenge and we assemble a group of trained brains, who are industry experts and are highly trained in creative problem solving to help you create breakthroughs.
  • Vision and Strategic Planning – Helping you to create a vision, and a path to accomplishing your goals
  • Custom Programs where you bring us a challenge or opportunity that you are facing and we work with you to design a program that creates breakthroughs.

i4 Studio is a collaboration between Vic Nole, Director of Business Development for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc. and Roger Firestien, a senior faculty member of the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC). Part of SUNY Buffalo State and the first program to offer the science of creativity at the graduate level, ICSC is globally recognized for its programs that cultivate skills in creative thinking, innovative leadership practices and problem solving skills.