New to invention?
New to the invention process?
Here’s a quick guide to what matters
Best advice is to start by buying our inventors’ guide A Better Mousetrap, as the whole book is a beginner’s course in invention. But the essence of it is:
Invention usually starts with an idea
The invention itself may take a while to emerge. What you’ve got to begin with is an invention idea. So first research that idea as thoroughly as you can. Is it original? Is it technically feasible? Is there a market for it? Etc, etc. Do lots of research – or let us do it for you – because research is cheap and reduces risk. (See Minimise risk below). If you learn that your idea isn’t so great after all, rejoice that you haven’t wasted a fortune on it, as many less wise inventors do.
Invention is chess, not a sprint
Don’t be in a hurry. It’s human nature to be enthused by an idea, but enthusiasm mustn’t replace common sense. That’s another reason for doing plenty of research. It takes time, giving you a cooling off period that should make you more objective and realistic about your invention idea.
Don’t rush to get a patent
Deciding whether or when to patent an invention involves many factors. See Patenting inventions. All we’ll say here is that inventors are not helped by the many myths and misconceptions about patents. What matters most is that you plan a strategy to protect your idea appropriately at each stage. A patent may or may not be a useful part of that strategy.
Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in
Invention ideas are ten a penny. It’s what you do with your idea that makes you an inventor. Inventors who don’t recognise this, and expect someone else to wave a magic wand over their idea, are not going to succeed. Involve other people by all means – see Build a team below – but most invention projects are so personal that if there is no effort from you, nothing will happen.
Invention is 95% business
No one buys anything just because it’s an invention. If your invention doesn’t offer you, a company or an investor a profitable business opportunity it will struggle to get anywhere. If you can’t make a good business case for your invention, don’t be surprised if no one wants to know.
Build a team
Once your invention project gets serious, you’ll need other people to supply skills you don’t have. Also, many investors are put off if they find one person trying to do everything. So build a project team – even if it’s just you plus one other – to spread the load and demonstrate sound management.
Any new business venture is risky, but invention development is riskier than most because there are more unknowns. So in everybody’s interest, including yours, do everything you can to identify and minimise risk. And make sure everyone knows you’re doing it. If potential partners, investors, suppliers etc consider you too reckless or naive, they won’t support you.
Be willing to learn and adapt
You’ll probably stop regarding yourself as an inventor once the entrepreneurial juices start flowing. (They’ll need to flow even if you want to license your invention to a company.) Few inventors now match the stereotype of the blinkered boffin, incapable of understanding business. Turning an invention into a product is a process of continuous learning, adaptation and resourcefulness. In fact, these are probably the real core skills of any successful inventor.