New to invention?

New to invention? Here’s a quick guide to what matters

Best advice is to buy our inventors’ guide A Better Mousetrap, as the whole book is a workshop manual of invention. But the essence of it is:

Invention starts with an idea

And that idea needs researching before you can call it an invention. Is it original? Will it work? Is there a market for it? Can it be made profitably? Do lots of research because it’s cheap and reduces risk. (See Minimise risk below). It also takes time, creating a cooling off period that should make you more objective about your idea.

Invention is a marathon, not a sprint

Being in a hurry won’t help. A typical invention project lasts years, every if everything goes well. Decisions made in haste often cause problems later.

Don’t rush to get a patent

That could be your biggest single mistake. See Patenting inventions or A Better Mousetrap. You must protect your invention appropriately at each stage of its development. A patent may help or it may be next to useless but very expensive.

Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in

Ideas are ten a penny – it’s what you do with them that matters. Inventors who expect someone else to pick them up and carry them won’t succeed. Involve other people by all means – see Build a team below – but most invention projects are so personal that if you don’t lead, nothing will happen.

Invention is mostly business

No one buys anything just because it’s an invention. If you can’t make a convincing business case for your invention, don’t be surprised if no one wants to know. For most of your invention project you’ll need to be more entrepreneur than inventor.

Build a team

Once your invention project gets serious, you’ll need other people to supply skills and time you don’t have. Also, many investors are put off if they find one person trying to do everything, because that means the project isn’t resilient. So build a project team – even if it’s just you plus one other – to spread the load and demonstrate effective management.

Minimise risk

Invention development is riskier than most new business ventures because there are more unknowns. So in everybody’s best interests, including your own, do everything you can to identify and minimise risk. And make sure everyone knows you’re doing it. Come across as too impulsive or spendaholic and potential investors may consider you a risk too far even if they like your idea.

Be willing to learn and adapt

Turning your invention into a product is a lengthy process of continuous learning, adaptation and resourcefulness. First you research it, then you make it, then you sell it. These are the real core skills of most successful inventors.