As a patent attorney with over 20 years of experience with startups that go through Series A-D and then go public, I see founder- inventors are crafty individuals, who like to spend most of their time alone with their deep and creative thoughts. The reason we have so many inventions, making our lives easier by the day is due to months of untiring efforts of these inventors. Therefore, if we have to learn by example and come up with techniques for creative inventing, we need to look at our predecessors and replicate their methods.
Now that could be a problem, as there are so many inventors with marvelous creations. For this article, we will explore the techniques and lifestyle of Thomas Edison, a renowned inventor with many famous creations.
Table of Content
Seeing the Problem is often the most important
Seeing the problem is often the most important part of inventing. This is because identifying the problem accurately and clearly is the first step in finding a solution. When the problem is not well defined, it becomes difficult to come up with an effective solution.
Lateral thinking, for example, is a problem-solving technique that involves looking at a problem from different perspectives, and not just the obvious or traditional ones. It can also help to identify underlying issues and hidden opportunities that may not be immediately apparent.
Similarly, Reverse Engineering is a technique that helps to understand a problem by breaking it down into smaller parts and analyzing each one individually. This can help to identify potential weaknesses or areas for improvement in an existing product or process.
SCAMPER is another technique that can be used to see a problem in a new way by considering different possibilities of an existing product or process. This can help to identify new uses, or to improve the product or process in a way that has not been considered before.
In summary, seeing the problem clearly and accurately is essential for effective inventing, and different techniques such as lateral thinking, reverse engineering, and SCAMPER can be used to help identify and understand the problem in a new and creative way.
Make Sure the Problem You Solve is a big and real problem
It’s crucial to make sure that the problem you solve is a big and real problem, because it increases the chances of success and the potential impact of the invention.
When you solve a big problem, you are addressing a need that affects a large number of people or businesses, which makes your invention more valuable and likely to be successful in the market. Additionally, solving a big problem can lead to greater social or environmental impact, making it more meaningful and rewarding.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure that the problem you are solving is a real problem and not a perceived problem, this means that you need to validate that the problem exists, and that there is a demand for a solution. You can do this by conducting market research, surveys, interviews and other methods to understand the problem and the potential users of the solution.
Solving a real problem not only increases the chances of success but also ensures that the invention will have a positive impact on society and can be of real benefit to people.
In summary, solving a big and real problem can increase the chances of success and the potential impact of the invention. It’s important to validate that the problem exists and that there is a demand for a solution before committing to the invention process.
Techniques for Creative Inventing
There are several techniques that can be used for creative inventing, including:
- Brainstorming: This technique involves generating a large number of ideas in a short period of time, without worrying about whether they are practical or not. This can be done individually or in a group setting.
- Mind mapping: This technique involves creating a visual representation of an idea or problem, using diagrams and images. This can help to identify connections and relationships between different ideas and concepts.
- Reverse engineering: This technique involves taking apart an existing product or process to understand how it works and identify potential improvements or new uses.
- Analogies: This technique involves drawing parallels between different fields or areas of expertise to generate new ideas. For example, a problem in the field of medicine might be approached by drawing analogies with the field of mechanical engineering.
- SCAMPER: This technique is an acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate and Reverse. It is used to generate new ideas by considering different possibilities of an existing product or process.
- TRIZ: This technique is a problem-solving method that uses patterns of invention to find new solutions. It involves understanding the characteristics of the problem and using them to generate new ideas.
- Random Input: This technique involves exposing yourself to random and unrelated information or experiences to generate new ideas and connections.
Apply Lean methodology to test your hypothesis and your invention
Applying Lean methodology to test your hypothesis and invention can be an effective way to validate the problem and solution and to improve the chances of success. Lean methodology is a set of principles and practices that focus on creating value for the customer while reducing waste and maximizing efficiency.
One key aspect of Lean methodology is the emphasis on rapid prototyping and testing. This means creating a minimal viable product (MVP) as soon as possible and testing it with potential customers to validate the problem and the solution. This can help you to quickly identify any issues or problems and make adjustments before investing too much time and resources in the invention.
Another aspect of Lean methodology is the focus on continuous improvement, which means that after each test and iteration, the invention is improved based on the feedback received. This can help to ensure that the invention is meeting the needs of the customer and is as good as it can be.
Lean methodology also emphasizes on the use of data and metrics to measure progress and make decisions. This can help to ensure that the invention is on track and that it’s meeting the goals and objectives.
In summary, applying Lean methodology to test your hypothesis and invention can be an effective way to validate the problem and solution, and to improve the chances of success. It emphasizes on rapid prototyping, testing, continuous improvement, and the use of data to make decisions. This can help to ensure that the invention is meeting the needs of the customer, and it’s as good as it can be.
Be the First-To-file patent applicant and claim your invention
Being the first-to-file patent applicant can be crucial in securing a patent for your invention. In the United States, and most countries, the first-to-file system is in place, which means that the first inventor to file a patent application for an invention will be granted a patent, regardless of who was the first to invent.
This means that if you are the first to file a patent application for your invention, you will have priority over any other inventor who files for the same invention later. This can be very important, as it can prevent others from obtaining a patent for the same invention and potentially infringing on your rights.
Additionally, being the first-to-file can also give you a strategic advantage in the market, as it allows you to begin commercializing your invention and establishing your brand before others can enter the market with similar products.
It’s important to file a patent application as soon as possible after the invention is made, and to also keep detailed records of the invention process, including notes, drawings, and any other documentation that can help to prove the date of invention in case of any disputes.
In summary, being the first-to-file patent applicant can be crucial in securing a patent for your invention and in preventing others from obtaining a patent for the same invention. It also allows you to begin commercializing your invention and establishing your brand before others can enter the market with similar products.
Next we will examine the habits of one of our most prolific inventors and patent applicant, Thomas Edison.
How did Thomas Edison work?
Thomas Alva Edison is one of the most prominent and prolific inventors of our time. He contributed inventions like the incandescent lightbulb, the phonograph and the motion picture camera as well as improving the telephone and telegraph. He acquired 1,093 patents in his 84-year career.
Edison was not only an inventor but also a successful businessman and manufacturer, who successfully promoted his inventions to the public. Edison was involved in many business partnerships, partnerships and corporations. Competition from other companies soon created constant legal battles between them and Edison over patents. Edison sued many companies for infringement.
Edison and the Light Bulb
Edison is globally renowned for inventing the light bulb. Technically, Humphry Davy was the first inventor of the light bulb when he experimented with batteries and carbon. Davy’s experiment was successful when he connected carbon to his battery, making the carbon glow and producing light. However, his version of a light bulb was not efficient for mass production.
Edison on the other hand, invented the light bulb that could be powered, using the electricity from power grids, thus, making a more refined and usable version. Light bulbs were revolutionary when they first came into being and an instant hit. It would completely change the world and make the lives of people much more convenient, which is exactly what happened.
Edison was proud of his invention and went on a public demonstration on December 31, 1879. The demonstration was held at the Menlo Park and the public witnessed, for the first time, a refined incandescent light bulb. It was also during this demonstration when Edison claimed: “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles”. Of course, what he claimed did come true, as lighting equipment and light bulbs are just ‘usual things’ these days.
Edison was granted a patent on January 27, 1880 that describes the principles of his incandescent lamps. This patent opened the door for global electric light domestic use. His patent number is US223898A
Inventing the perfected version of the light bulb wasn’t that simple, it took Edison more than a 1,000 tries to come up with a model that could be commercially mass-produced. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
The invention of the light bulb changed America; it gave people a creation that would forever put candles away and add convenience to their life. However, there was just a slight problem. Back in the day, electricity was not as common as it is today.
Therefore, there was no source to power the light bulbs even if you had the luxury to purchase one. Edison, of course, knew this would be a problem that needs to be sorted, which is why he established his first electric production and distribution company. The company that later became General Electric.
Edison, a pioneer in mass-producing electricity, rivaled Nikola Tesla, another leading inventor at the time. Edison’s company started by distributing electricity to 59 customers, and later went on to establish multiple powerhouses around the country, marking a new era that relied on electrical power.
Thomas Edison and Other Inventions
Edison did not just invent the light bulb; his life was devoted towards inventing products that could benefit humanity in different ways. While not all of his inventions witnessed success and fame, he was a proud inventor of many creations that changed the facet of the world.
The United States moved from the gaslight era to the electric age thanks to Edison. Edison was fascinated by the mechanics and technology of the universe from the moment he was a child. He had no formal education but he brought forth many innovations that still dominate our lives. Edison is one of the most prolific inventors ever. His New Jersey laboratories were full-equipped and staffed and came with 1,093 patentable inventions.
Here are some of his inventions:
One of his most notable inventions apart from the light bulb was the telegraph, which allowed long-distance communication using Morse code. During the era, it was a marvelous invention that would allow sending messages to people around the world via electrical signals. The coding language for the telegraph was developed by Samuel Morse, hence, the Morse Code.
One of his other prominent inventions was the alkaline battery, which is still widely used to date. Alkaline batteries were a breakthrough in battery capacity, as they would hold more charge for a longer duration. The chemically induced batteries made it easier to create smaller batteries that would last longer.
The Later Years
Over the next few decades, Thomas was transitioning from an inventor to an industrialist. His newly found laboratory located in West Orange was probably too large for one man to handle, and Edison realized he was not as successful in his new role compared to being an inventor.
He also realized that most of his future development and perfection of his creations were being controlled by scientists and university-trained mathematicians. He worked best in unstructured environments with few assistants, as he was outspoken about his contempt for the academic world and corporate operations.
He also faced a few failures in his life, as an inventor and business person, when he created a talking doll and a house that could be mass produced using concrete. His talking doll version was too advanced for his time perhaps. However, throughout his life, Edison was a true genius who came up with inventions that inspired civilizations and changed lifestyles. Despite the challenges and shortfalls in Edison’s life, he stood strong and continued to forge his way through his inventions.