It’s not a cliche, nor is it some kind of marketing gambit, to say that anyone can be an inventor. Learning how to be an inventor is a process just like learning how to ride a bicycle or learning how to draw. Some people say that you need some special kind of ‘talent’ to draw, that it is innate and that you can’t ‘learn’ it. Yet many books, courses and educators have proven that anyone can draw.
The exact same logic applies to inventing and the invention process. You can learn how to be an inventor using a combination of techniques, practice and persistance. But firstly you need to know what an inventor actually is.
What Is An Inventor?
An inventor is someone who improves upon the order of things. He or she helps people achieve their goals in a better, more efficient way. Sometimes he or she improves people’s lives by an order of magnitude.
Here is the mindset that an inventor (i.e. you) should have:
- Something exists, or people do something in a particular way;
- I can improve upon this thing or the way that people achieve a certain goal.
That’s it. That’s the essence of becoming an inventor. But to actually innovate requires a certain mindset, namely one of creativity and imagination.
Cultivate a Creativity Mindset
Our brains are incredibly complex and enormously powerful, and can be honed to become adept at virtually anything. Becoming an inventor requires what one might call having a creative mindset. It is about switching on creativity like you would switch on a tap. I’ll go through a few simple ways to do this below. These can all be used together, or used individually.
How to be an inventor with effective creativity techniques
The 24-hour Notepad
Creative people are constantly scribbling or doodling away on a notepad (or even on their phones or iPads). Sometimes it’s the scribbling that leads them to be creative, and not necessarily that being creative that causes them to scribble. Compulsive scribbling should become a habit of yours if you want to learn how to be an inventor.
Get a notepad that is small enough for you to carry it around with you day and night (keep it next to your bed if you wake up in the night with an invention idea), and write down ideas or thoughts as they come to you. If you wait and think you’ll write it down later, chances are you’ll forget (just like having a dream). Jotting down thoughts and ideas reinforces the neural networks in your brain responsible for innovation and originality. So the more you write, the more creative you can become.
Bear in mind that you must refrain (as much as you can) from censoring anything that pops into your head. Censoring is like a killer to ideas. If you stroll past a washing line and suddenly have a brainspark for an automated line that covers itself when it rains, don’t think ‘Oh that’s a dumb idea, no-one will ever go for it’. Just write it down, and in doing so send a message to your brain that it has the right to be inventive and must continue being so.
Think Visually By Doodling
This leads on from the notepad. It is important for you to doodle in learning how to be an inventor. Doodling does incredible things for the imagination. I’m not talking about becoming the next Rembrandt, I’m just saying you should cultivate a habit of thinking visually and thereby developing your imagination. So doodle, sketch, copy out the neighbor’s lemon-tree, and develop a visual understanding of the world. A secret in the art of how to be an inventor is that inventors keep their eyes wide open (in their mind’s eye and through their real eyes). They look at the world, they see how things can be improved, and they draw a heck of a lot. Often the difference between an old and a new invention is a very minor improvement or difference between two things, and that difference sometimes comes about by sketching the first invention (say a pen) and then adding something extra to it (say an eraser on the pen or a way to clip the pen onto a sleeve). Doodling is a simple but effective trick in discovering how to be an inventor.
Puzzles you say? Puzzles help you to stop thinking in words (you can’t talk your way through a puzzle can you?) and to think in terms of abstractions. What’s one of the best ways to fall asleep at night if you have thoughts racing through your head? That’s right, a puzzle. It immediately causes you to switch off the words and switch on the imagination. How to be an inventor is a bit like solving a puzzle isn’t it? The puzzle of how to do something better or in an original manner.
Improve Upon the Order of Things
Now that you can start becoming more creative, it’s time to also apply some logical process to the inventing process. And that is thinking deeply about how things can be improved upon.
Read up and study existing patents
There’s a whole section on this site dedicated to patents and patenting. And why am I daft in suggesting that patents will teach you how to be an inventor (aren’t patents boring legal documents and not creative exciting processes of imagination?). Well the simple answer is that you learn a lot from experts. And inventors who have patented inventions (often tens or hundreds of times), are experts. See how they make a case for the uniqueness of their inventions, see how they explain how things are currently done and how their invention has improved upon the order of things. Once you read a lot of patent documents, you begin to see how inventors’ minds work (see the definition above to see how it links to this mindset).
Pick something, and see how it can be improved
Anything can be improved. Learning how to be an inventor requires the ability to see something, identify problems with it, and think of ways to improve upon it.