Every Monday at Edison Nation, we share a Monday Motivation quote.
These are meant to inspire you, motivate you and uplift you. But let’s face it, quotes are only so powerful. Whether you’re working to come up with your first great idea or you’re a serial innovator, sometimes finding that motivation can be tough. So we ask you to ask yourself this question…
What drives you to invent?
To solve a problem?
To make life easier?
To make something better?
To help people?
All of the above.
In this InvENting 101, we are digging in to find what truly sparks the inventing process. What motivates you as an innovator to say, “There’s got to be a better way,” and then actually invent something? What separates an inventor from a someone who just has a great idea?
Merriam-Webster defines the term invent as follows:
“To produce (something, such as a useful device or process) for the first time through the use of the imagination or of ingenious thinking and experiment.”
Going one step further, an inventor is an individual or group able to generate an idea for a new or improved device, product or process. The idea must then be transformed into concrete information in the form of a description, sketch or model. An invention is an idea, concept or design for a new or improved device, product or process that is available as concrete information in the form of a description, sketch or model.
As we outlined in this blog post, there are common characteristics of successful inventors:
- Inventors are insatiable and unstoppable in their curiosity and their quest for ongoing improvements. They are never done tweaking and seeking to improve their inventions.
- Inventors and innovators are similarly frustrated with the way things work at present. They see flaws all around them and are curious to try out changes, whether for products or for less visible technological systems.
- Inventors are far more diverse than is apparent from most popular accounts. There are a lot more women and minority inventors than than people first imagined to be possible.
- Inventors learn and experiment in tactile ways – they are “tinkerers.”
When we interview our members for our InvENtor Spotlight series, we always ask the following two questions:
What inspired you to start inventing?
Do you find that invention ideas just come to you or do you have to go after them?
Almost everyone indicates that they were inspired because they wanted to solve a problem. And, they all indicate that sometimes ideas come to them and sometimes a little brainstorming is required.
Motivation tends to come in waves. Some days inventors have five ideas before their feet hit the floor to get out of bed and other days it’s like staring at a blank canvas. For those days when motivation is low, many find it helpful to have a system in place.
#1: Be prepared for the unknown
Successful inventors aren’t luckier than most people. But they do try more things, and they’re willing to take a risk to achieve success. Don’t be blindsided by failure and give up when it strikes. Pursue your invention because success comes with persistence.
- Make a list of your goals.
- Create a plan to achieve your goals.
- Think about what could go wrong and have a plan of action.
#2: Mark your calendar
The fundamentals – simple things like a calendar, pen and paper – work if you’re ready. Execution is important if you plan to achieve invention success. Keep thinking ahead and you’ll never be pressed for time.
- Map out your schedule for the week on your calendar.
- Review every week to ensure all tasks were completed and then plan the next week.
SIDEBAR: This is helpful in all aspects of work and home life, not just inventing (I do this every week!)
#3: Develop focus
Sometimes we have external distractions: an emergency, family demands or work gets busy. Inventors can sometimes cannibalize one goal by shifting focus to another, very easy to do especially when there are digital devices handy! Developing focus and being able to put some ideas on hold is a skill that almost guarantees progress.
- Prioritize your goals.
- Grab a pen and paper and write them down.
Before we conclude, let’s take a look at our namesake, Thomas Edison. Edison is credited with 1093 patents. Edison was always working on something new, in fact, he very rarely slept. It has been noted that above his desk, Edison displayed a placard with a famous quote from Sir Joshua Reynolds: “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.” So, maybe quotes DO inspire us.
We’ll leave you with this thought from Steve Wozniak from an interview with Brett Stern for the book, Inventors at Work: The Minds and Motivation Behind Modern Inventions:
“As I listen to other people talk about their attitudes to risk, I’m convinced there are different types of people. Some of them just have a cold, calculated risk management system – like embedding a probabilistic formula in a spreadsheet. They expect to make mistakes. They have to insert a few more resources – and they cover them up.
“At the other end of the spectrum are the sort of risks that real inventors take. I know a bunch of inventors in the Inventors Hall of Fame who have thought up some of the greatest things we have. These great invention come almost by happenstance, by surprise, by serendipity. The people who invent them are very much like myself – more than any other group I’ve ever been in. They think independently, on their own in their own heads. They have ideas. They want to go a different way. They want to run into a laboratory, build something, test their ideas, and prove them. Their motivations aren’t salaries, and stock options, and houses and titles and awards. Their motivation is really that they thought of something and they want to see if it’s possible to bring their own little mental puzzles and games out of their heads and into the world at large.”
Daemmrich, Arthur. “Curiosity and Invention.” Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Smithsonian Institution, September 14, 2018. <http://invention.si.edu/curiosity-and-invention>.
“Invention and innovation: An introduction.” OpenLearn. The Open University, September 14, 2018. <http://www.open.edu/openlearn/science-maths-technology/engineering-and-technology/design-and-innovation/invention-and-innovation-introduction/content-section-5.2>
Stern, Brett. Inventors at Work: The Minds and Motivation Behind Modern Inventions. New York: Apress, 2012. Print.