Monday, April 6, 2009

The ABC's Inventing

If you are thinking of inventing something new for the world, and would like some inspiration, I offer it here.

An invention is any thing, process, or idea that isn't generally and currently known, that can be made tangible in some way.

It is a misconception that the day of the successful solo inventor is over. In fact, billions of dollars in royalties and other compensation are paid each year to individual inventors for their creations. You may be also energized to know that 73% of all inventions that have sparked new industries have come from independent inventors. Now, that's just awesome.

Recognizing a problem is usually about 90% of the act of conceiving the invention. "To be an inventor is to perceive a need". If you can define a problem with a large enough involved market, or a critical enough need for a small market, you could have an idea with great market potential.

The largest piece that leads to a successful outcome for most inventions is defining the real problem. This might seem simple and transparent, but it is often not. For example, when Chrysler came out with the mini van, the customer's biggest complaint was they were always at the gas station, filling up their tanks. Chrysler then spent a lot of money trying to figure out how to achieve a higher mpg rating. The real problem? The gas tank was too small, and all they needed to do was increase the size of the tank to make their customers happy.

Once you get an idea, in order to make a difference you must follow through. Many people have ideas, but few actually follow through. Keep in mind that you may think to yourself, "Man, how can I be the only world to think of this? It must already exist, game over." You won't be getting anywhere. First of all, you may not be the first one in the world to think of it, but you may be the first in the world to follow through with it. Start out by doing a patent search, and see where it takes you from there. As Edison said, inventing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

If at first your idea doesn't take, take another approach. Before the inventor of the grocery cart came along, shoppers in grocery stores used their own small hand carried wicker baskets. When he first introduced the shopping cart, shoppers wouldn't use them, and stores wouldn't buy them. So why is it that today we see the shopping cart everywhere? Because in order to get his carts accepted by the public... he hired crews of shoppers to wheel the carts about and fill them in his store. In addition, he also hired a woman to offer the carts to entering shoppers. Now, how is that for being resourceful and great marketing strategy?

Maybe you don't have enough time to sit down and think of an invention? Not a problem. History records a large number of important scientific and conceptual breakthroughs occurring during sleep or borderline-sleep states.

Elias Howe solved the basic problem of his sewing machine invention in a dream. Tribal warrior ordered him to come up with a solution or they would kill him. He couldn't come up with an answer, so the warriors threw their spears at him. When the spears were inches away from his face, he noticed that each spear had a hole near its tip. His nightmare awoke him in terror, but with a solution to his most daunting problem!

If none of the above have entertained or inspired you, I have 2 more tricks up my sleeve. One is this quote:

"Everything that can be invented has been invented"-- U.S. Patent Office Director, urging President McKinley to abolish the Patent Office (1899)

And if that didn't do it for you, here is my last kicker. An awesome commercial from the USPTO.

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