Innovation. When we think of it we think of breakthroughs and new product categories. Millions made overnight or enormous dramatic failures of products that woulda been awesome but for the one fatal flaw.  Gee wouldn’t this make a great movie?  Sure it would.  But the Hollywood version we find so entertaining is not, I suspect, how innovation really changes our lives.

Here’s a handful of products that take prosaic, well-established, let’s admit it: boring categories and make them just a little better.

Toothpicks, but better?   Yes.  OpalPix.  These are a cross between toothpicks and those wooden sticks you use when you know you should floss but you really, really hate to floss.  As toothpicks, they work better than anything made of wood.  The biggest difference is that the flat sides have a texture which makes them both more effective and more pleasant-feeling at the same time.  I have been carrying these around in a pocket since they landed in my stocking.

The split-ring key ring is great once you have it loaded, but what a nail-ripping, finger-pinching pain to get it loaded!  Someone noticed why: there’s no fulcrum against which to lever open the entry point for the item being added.  You have to grab the end somehow and pull it apart.  So they built FreeKey, which has exactly that fulcrum.  You squeeze it just behind the strange-looking bump in the ring (the keyhole marks the best leverage point) and it opens wide.  That’s all, but it makes all the difference.  These are my key-rings for good now.

Bungee cords always feel like a compromise to me.  Too loose and they aren’t accomplishing anything, too tight and I am afraid of the damage they will do if I lose my grip and that metal end becomes a projectile.  Power Pull Bungees solve this problem by making it way less likely to lose your grip.  Yet another tiny change that seems obvious once you see it.  I don’t have any of these yet to report on my satisfaction with them; I only learned of them yesterday.