Everybody invents differently. Some people spend months, years or even an entire lifetime researching, developing and perfecting one great idea. Others are able to conjure up ideas in response to specific opportunities, such as competitions or innovation searches.
Whether you consider yourself a lifetime inventor or a serial one, you will probably experience an unexpected interruption to your creativity at some point. Rather than letting this hinder your ambitions, consider these five tips for getting out of a creative rut and back into the inventing mode.
1. Consider the caveats of a product.
Invention ideas are typically conceived under two scenarios: Someone hopes to remedy a pain or frustration experienced while using an existing product or a person identifies a trend or opportunity in the market.
Instead of plodding through your daily routine, oblivious to the opportunities around you, pay attention to how you interact with different products. Observe the intricacies of each one and how effectively it performs the intended use. Consider why it works the way it does and if it could be tinkered with and improved.
Most innovation is incremental: The improvements are small and have minimal impact on the market. But over time, the advancements can culminate in something much more significant.
2. Identify emerging trends or market opportunities.
Do you stay abreast of current trends? Many inventions are born from identifying emerging trends or opportunities in the marketplace. Staying on top of and even predicting trends is crucial to innovation.
Attending industry trade shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show or the International Home and Housewares Show is a great way to keep up with technology trends and changes in the marketplace. Understanding the state of an industry can help an inventor steer away from ideas that have already resulted in products and can also help pinpoint concepts in need of improvement.
3. Immerse yourself in the right environment.
Set up the right environment for fostering creativity. Surround yourself with the right people, those who will offer constructive feedback to objectively challenge and build upon your ideas.
Being around individuals with similar goals and interests can help enhance rather than suppress your creative ideas.
Get out there! Members of local inventor groups can introduce you to like-minded individuals whose personal experiences may be instructive. Those who have already gone through similar processes might give firsthand accounts about how to brainstorm about inventions as well as design, manufacture, commercialize and patent them.
4. Adopt the right mindset.
Conceiving an idea for an invention can take days, months and even years and that’s just the first step to getting a product on store shelves. Self-imposed artificial barriers (lofty expectations) can kill creativity and stop you from taking your ideas any further.
Good ideas take time, deliberation and research to develop. Not every aha moment will result in a dramatic breakthrough. Understand that very few great concepts ever make it past the idea stage and fewer result in commercial products for sale.
Find a balance between your expectations and reality early on and know when to pause on a project and refocus efforts elsewhere.
5. Be prepared.
Many inventors can identify patterns in their creativity and establish habits to let it flourish.
For others, inspiration strikes at unpredictable times. In such cases, the best one can do is to be prepared, no matter when or where.
Technology has made it easier to keep track of moments of inspiration. When I'm away from a computer, I might call my voicemail and leave a message with an idea.
Be cognizant of what you're doing when you come up with ideas. Do you recognize any patterns? A specific activity like exercising, meditating or sleeping can prompt inspiration. Keep a pen and paper next to your pillow when you sleep and an inventor’s handbook with you throughout the day to jot down notes.