Once you have decided to become an inventor or have come up with enough innovative ideas the next step is to hone in on your abilities and get it down on paper. Having a stroke of genius and bringing it to light are two very different things. The key is to not only unlock amazing ideas but also to be able to figure out if they really are as amazing as you originally thought.
Below are a few thinking exercises and tips to sharpen your innovative thinking skills:
Challenge assumptions. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; learn from them instead. Take out “It can’t be done” from your vocabulary. Replace with, “How might it be?” Be open minded to new possibilities. To help you unlock potential ideas, or to think of inventions waiting to be discovered, the following suggestions for observing the world around you may help. Observe things deeply, look beyond the obvious. Look at things in a different way, using all your senses. Ask why; then ask why not and why else? Experiment. To help you use idea-generating techniques and problem-solving approaches, you may wish to use the following ways to analyze possibilites. Ask “What if?” Play with ideas, turning them around from your original ideas. Change or combine parts to make another new possibility. Use metaphors or analogies. *Look at one thing and see something else. (an exercise follows)
*A good BRAIN EXERCISE that helps with the inventing process is to select common household items and think of different uses for them. For example, find a paper cup. Study it, turn it around, put it upside down; imagine if you added other simple objects to it. What uses can you think of for it? Have a friend over and make a list. See how many things you can think of together. After you practice with household items for fun, you could try your creative thinking on objects you find in a grocery store, at school, in a park, or other places. How could these objects be improved? How could you make changes to these things to make entirely new uses for them? List your problems or inconveniences in a week and brainstorm ways to solve them. One young girl (7 years old) didn’t like cleaning the spoon after she fed her cat, so with the help of an adult, she designed a cat biscuit in the shape of a spoon so she didn’t have to wash anything (Rowland 180). What don’t you like doing? How else could you solve your problems?
Think of a PROBLEM. A great idea would be to keep track of problems you encounter by writing them down, the beginning of an “inventor’s notebook” for yourself. If the problem interests you, personally, you will have more enthusiasm for developing a solution for it. Be as specific as possible in stating your problem. A good way to do this is to put the problem in question form, then you can begin your search for an answer. For example: How can I scrub the tub in less time and more easily? How can I avoid spilling my drinks in the car? How can I make it easier to find my keys?
BRAINSTORM solutions, with others if possible. If your trusted friends or relatives can brainstorm ideas with you, you may have a distinct advantage. Brainstorming in a group is a plus in several ways. Others may instantly see a different solution, add expertise from a different perspective, offer different technical know-how from yours, or take your original idea in a different direction that improves it or makes it more widely applicable. Here’s a refresher of guidelines to make brainstorming more effective and enjoyable. Do not criticize! Ideas won’t flow if people feel that they or their ideas will be judged. Write down all ideas, without either praise or criticism. Then the written list can be reviewed later. Take your time! People usually come up with common ideas for the first few minutes of an idea search. If you don’t rush and don’t give up, the more innovative and creative ideas have the time to happen. Originality flows best after many minutes of getting the ordinary out of the way. Relax and take your time. *Allow for fun and crazy ideas also! Even wild ideas can later be tamed, and they will offer a basis for real orginality.KEEP A NOTEBOOK. To an inventor, a notebook is like a saving account. Making deposits frequently assures you of a bigger return on your investment. Also, your dated entries may be used as a legal document should a question arise about who got an idea first. This is rare, but it does happen if two people request a patent on the same idea at the same time. More importantly, you will have a record of your evolution as an inventor and you will also have an organized system for saving your ideas. You may want to return to an older idea to add a new twist, or you may want to refresh your memory about an idea you had previously. Date your entries, and draw, as well as describe, your idea. Use a bound notebook with pages that cannot be easily inserted. Do not use a loose-leaf notebook. Number each page consecutively (don’t skip any). Every time you write an entry relating to your invention’s progress, date and sign it. Don’t leave blank spaces in the middle of your notes or a patent examiner trying to determine when you got your ideas, may feel you have cheated by allowing spaces to fill in information later. Not every day or every week, but periodically, have someone else witness and sign and date a few pages. This will provide proof that you were the first to think of an invention and that you worked on it diligently. Many people prefer to carry a small pocket-size notebook with them at all times to record ideas immediately so the ideas are fresh and before information is forgotten. Later, information can be transferred to your workshop notebook so it can become part of your official record of the process of your invention.
What other brainstorming advice can you share to help new innovators turn their dreams into reality?