“To invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” ~ Thomas Edison
National Inventor Day is celebrated on February 11th, 2018. The date also celebrates the birth of one of the most famous of inventors, Thomas Edison, who held over 1,000 patents.
Inventors are a curious lot. Most share common personality characteristics, maybe some that you yourself have. For instance . . .
Were you one of those kids who routinely took your toys apart to see how they worked? Did your imagination lend itself to making a toy into something else entirely? A child-like wonder is one of the key traits for an inventor. The ability to see something and then see beyond it to another use or function. Unfortunately, that child’s wonder somehow fades away as we grow; we need to reclaim that visionary ability.
Inventors have the ability to be flexible, to see what might work, and regroup if something doesn’t. Plus they must have the ability to assess whether an invention will be profitable; there are bills to be paid and monies needed for every new idea. Viewing their creative endeavors as a business is an important attribute. Presenting a new product in the hope of selling it on the open market requires the ability to handle criticism and feedback. Shark Tank comes to mind as a good example; encouraging innovative thinking, creating a product, and marketing that idea in the hope of launching a business.
We hear the phrase “failure is not an option” quite often. That doesn’t really relate well to inventing. In the words of Albert Einstein, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Try and try again; that’s the name of the game. Like the real estate mantra of “Location, Location, Location,” the inventor’s mantra is “Test – Test – Test.” Learning from every effort leads to getting better and better at whatever is being designed, created, or envisioned. An optimistic personality may be the ticket to avoiding discouragement during this phase. Benjamin Franklin stated the concept well: “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
Much like writers who are encouraged to read as much as they can, inventors are encouraged to attend trade shows and seminars. Learning about what others are working on can be the spark needed to jumpstart an idea, or the “lightbulb moment” to a breakthrough. Developing and nurturing one’s analytical abilities goes a long way.
Working consistently and with focus allows those creative juices to stir and develop to their fullest capacity. Like any learning, keeping up a steady progress provides positive results.
Protecting your invention is paramount. Thomas Edison clearly knew this by the number of patents he held. If working on something new, privacy is critical. No inventor wants to have to share credit for an idea that originated in his/her mind. For example, John Walker, a chemist, accidentally invented the match; however, he thought it was not a big deal so he did not apply for a patent. Nowadays, 500 billion matches are used annually. The guy credited with inventing the Karaoke concept failed to patent the idea and lost out on a multi-billion dollar industry. An understanding of intellectual property and how to protect those ideas is necessary. There are specialists in the field, but be sure to have a basic understanding.
Got an idea for something? Maybe it’s time to give it some attention. Who knows what could happen? You just might have the next best product on the market! You never know!