I love being creative. Solving problems and using my imagination are my favorite parts of the inventing process. It’s exactly WHY I’m an inventor. And it probably is why you are too. But I want to make something very clear: there’s a right way to invent and a wrong way.
Many people believe the inventing process works something a little like this. An inventor imagines an idea or product and then finds an ideal spot in the retail marketplace to sell it. It seems logical, right?
Anyone can “invent” an idea. But there’s no guarantee that that invention is a good one or that it will ever sell. The process that produces successful inventions and successful inventors is much more structured. You might be asking yourself, “Structure and creativity? Those two don’t exactly go together.” But they do, and they must, in order for you to profit from your idea.
An inventor who practices the “right” process will create and invent for a specific industry – an industry they’re familiar with and understand. The best industries to research are the ones you already have a tie or interest in. The more you know, the less you have to learn.
You should familiarize yourself with the categories of products in that industry, the demographics it advertises itself to (women? Children? Parents? Young adults?), the average prices of products, and the volume of business that industry attracts. Why design for a small, limited industry when you could invent for a larger, more consistent one? Are you a consumer in the industry you’re inventing for? If so, you may have a better idea of what other consumers desire.
Look for the gaps and holes in the industries you’ve familiarized yourself with. Can you solve a specific problem?
I’ve learned that it’s much easier to license your product if you’re familiar with the industry – having this knowledge allows you to anticipate future conflicts or issues, and the probability of you designing a product that has a true benefit or need is much higher. You’re more aware of what’s possible and what’s not.
Inventing correctly isn’t putting limits on your creativity – it’s helping to guide and structure your imagination. If the goal is to produce financially profitable inventions, then you’ve got to think before you dream. Doing research isn’t fun, but the rewards you’ll reap from doing so are.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed
over 20 products in the past 25 years. Along with business partner
Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight, a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas and the skills needed to succeed. You can ask questions and get advice on the inventRight forum, check out the resource center, and listen to the weekly radio show on inventing.