Successful Inventors Think Differently
Our habits are like our clothing: they “fit” us and we become accustomed and comfortable with them. The habits may or may not be good or productive ones; our comfort with them remains. If we wish to change our habits we must first change the way we think; which, over time changes the way we behave resulting in new habits. It is uncomfortable.
Most of us have been raised with the work-a-day ethic: a set of habits that positions us to succeed as employees at any company, large or small. These habits include arriving to work on time each day, recognizing our place in the corporate ladder, and accomplishing the tasks and managing the responsibilities that are expected of us; hoping for a raise each year and to keep our jobs. In essence, we become adept at recognizing and fitting into a defined structure and set of behaviors and habits appropriate for a worker – and that is not a bad thing.
Unfortunately, the ingrained behaviors and habits so essential to success as an employee are not a good fit for a successful inventor.
Disruptive Thinking: Developing New Habits
Creative thinking is the engine that drives all innovation and invention. Successful inventors are creative thinkers who, over time, learn and develop new habits and behaviors that position them to succeed as inventors.
A key corporate management tenet is: if it cannot be measured, it cannot be managed.
Creativity cannot be measured nor managed.
In fact, the more we attempt to manage creativity, to define it, and structure it, the more it evades our grasp and evanescently vanishes. This is perhaps why large corporations rarely have cultures that cause creativity and innovation to flourish, but rather tend to squelch creativity.
The key to inventing success is to make our creativity flourish. Here are some behaviors and habits I have found to magnify creativity:
- Discover ideas and solutions by focusing on unrelated things
- Sleep on it
- Find the times of day when creativity seems to flow more easily
- Find new ideas and solutions by asking lots of questions
1. is a very difficult habit to learn and to develop. It seems completely counter-intuitive to everything we have leaned in the work world – and it is!
It turns out our conscious mind is a sort of rules-making survival machine that helps us adhere to structure and avoid dangers. While our conscious mind is great at ensuring we arrive at work on time and don't forget an important meeting, it is terrible at creativity and new ideas: creativity and ideas are the realm of the subconscious mind.
It is best to use the conscious mind initially – to define what it is we generally hope to accomplish (set up the rules), the problem we hope to solve. Then, put the whole matter to the side for a while and focus on totally unrelated things: go work out; watch a silly movie; go for a walk, take a nap.
Just don't worry about it for a while and be patient as the subconscious mind does its thing: quietly sifting and sorting experiences, hunches, and thousands of random things in search of a pattern. The best way to do this is simply to sleep on it for a while.
Then, when you least expect it – voila! a great idea will pop into your head.
Great ideas and concepts frequently appear in dreams (the Benzene ring) or in the shower (as my wallet product did) or when driving, golfing – who knows when.
As you get better at initially consciously struggling with a problem and then setting it aside for a while until a solution emerges, then you can watch for patterns. When during the day or night do you seem to naturally feel creative? Learn how to set aside those times for creative work. What kind of unrelated activities seem best to spur ideas for you?
Also, your subconscious is like a willing servant who does poorly in responding statements or commands. I need a solution to ……. or Tell me how to do this!
Instead, learn to pose questions. How can I make this hold lots of things and stay thin? What if I took this part away? What is missing? What if I added another wheel? Then let the subconscious servant work on it. You'll be amazed how well this can work!
Successful inventors learn how to make the above behaviors and habits fit into their daily and weekly rituals. It takes time and a lot of patience, but it works.