Henry Ford. Thomas Alva Edison. Adrian Chernoff. Adrian Chernoff? Maybe Chernoff isn’t a household name like the first two inventors, but the 33-year-old Royal Oak, Michigan, man certainly shows potential. Chernoff’s claim

to fame—a handy little office product calledRubber Bandits—started gracing the shelves of every Staples store in North America a few

years ago. The labelling bands, which retail at$2.99, also have their own Web site and can be purchased online through Staples.

The General Motors Corp. employee was one of the finalists in an annual Staples’ Invention Quest. The contest is part of a broad effort by Staples to develop an exclusive product line to distinguish its private brand from those of

competitors. Inaugurated several years ago, the contest is aimed at budding inventors looking to create the next post-it notes or better. About 10,000 entries are received annually. In recent years, school children have been involved in the contest. Besides giving inventors the gratification of seeing their ideas hit the shelves in 1,600 office superstores, Staples promises to share the profits. Winners of the contest receive

$25,000 and as much as an 8 percent royalty have. One year’s winner was a California man who created Word Lock, a combination lock that allows users to select their combinations

using letters rather than the traditional set of numbers.

Chernoff walked away with $5,000, a licensing agreement with the office-supply store, and the official title of inventor. “The best part for me right now is seeing it actually make its was

in the market place,” Chernoff said. “The product is going into practice in the real world.”

Maybe an extra-large rubber band with a wear-and-tear-resistance label won’t solve the world’s problems. But Rubber Bandits do make it easier to bundle and label piles of

paperwork. And it definitely makes a nice workplace projectile, although Chernoff says that was not its original purpose.

Chernoff centered his career on creativity. In addition to a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees from the University of New Mexico (in business and engineering), his

résumé includes jobs working on robots for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and designing new rides for The Walt Disney Co.

Rubber Bandits popped into his mind on a shuttle bus ride between Denver and Boulder, Colorado, where he was visiting a brother. He started pondering office efficiency and the problems people have of losing things in the shuffle.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why should Rubber Bandits be classified as a creative idea?
  2. What does this story illustrate about how creative ideas surface?
  3. In what way might having studied both business and engineering helped Adrian Chernoff become an inventor?

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