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2009-03

The Inventor's Mentor

March 2009

Creativity and Brainstorming


Can creativity be programmed into a computer? How can an inventor improve his creative talent? More specifically, is there a sure fire method to inventing, that can be described in clear language and that anyone can understand and use and that could be programmed and run on a computer? Inventing would then just involve turning the computer on, asking it to solve a technical problem and waiting for it to come up with the answer.

If I knew of such an inventing method, I would immediately patent it. This patent would be the last patent ever awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Any subsequent invention would then be ruled obvious since anyone could come up with it with the help of a computer.

Such a universal inventing program would take all the fun out of inventing. But don’t worry. There are good mathematical reasons to presume that, just like the perpetual motion machine, such an inventing method cannot possibly exist. Thank God!

So I’ll be frank with you. You won’t find in this column the whole secret to inventing. There is no such a thing. I will, however give you hints to becoming a good inventor.

Be prepared

To invent something new and useful, one needs to know intimately the technical field of the invention and its market. Without this knowledge you’ll be going blind into an unknown field and you will be bound to waste your time and money.

 

Retain a Youthful Outlook

You need to be prepared. True. Yet too much unquestioning preparation and learning the old ways of doing things may prejudice you against adopting innovative approaches to solving a problem. You need to retain a fresh, youthful and challenging attitude.

Have a Questioning Mind

The best time to question is when you learn.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing…never lose a holy curiosity.” (Albert Einstein)

 

Think out of the Box

To think out of the box, first identify the box, and then go beyond it. This is precisely what Alexander the Great did when he faced a monstrous tangle of rope called the Gordian knot. A prophecy claimed that whoever undid this knot would become king of Asia. Alexander did not bother untying the knot. He just sliced it with his sword. He then went on his way to conquer a large part of the known world.

Sometimes it pays not to play by the rules but it sure helps to know what the rules are.

Keep an Invention Logbook

Keeping a log helps you define your invention and the problems you encounter as you develop it. It can also refresh your memory if you decide to suspend your effort for a while and then go back to it. It can also help in defining your date of conception if someone else files the invention before you.

 

Let it incubate

Often the solution of a problem does not come right away. It may come the next day after a good night sleep or even a year later after a chance, totally unplanned encounter with the missing piece of information. Having a logbook helps in keeping the invention always in the backburner in your mind.

 

Brainstorm with yourself or with colleagues or friends.

Explore the intellectual landscape surrounding your invention:

·         Try different combinations.

·         Generalize from the particular.

·         Find specific instances of the general case.

·         Extrapolate from know configurations.

·         Interpolate between known configurations.

·         Tackle simplified cases first.

·         Imagine different operational scenarios.

Put in the Work

You need to do your homework. As Thomas Edison said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

Be Healthy in Mind and Body

Don’t do drugs, drink in moderation, exercise, eat healthy food, take vacations, and sleep enough time to wake up rested, avoid stress, and be happy.

Be Decisive

If or when you reach the point when your invention is ripe enough to be constructed, patented or marketed do so with resolve and determination. Do not dawdle and let someone else beat you to it.

 

For archived newsletters and a lot of information for the small inventor go to: www.patentsandventures.com. If you have any question you can contact me at (858)259-2226 or email me at glevy@patentsandventures.com. This newsletter should not be construed as legal advice. ©2010 by George Levy.

 

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