The inventing process is much like the human race- always growing, adapting, building, and changing. With everything around us moving so rapidly, it can be difficult to get your footing (especially for those of us who don’t like change). Just when you’re finally starting to enjoy the prototyping stage, you move onto finalizing your design. And don’t even get us started on the inventing-hangover you get when your invention is finally done…yikes.
In addition to the constant changes seen throughout the inventing industry, having the right mindset and resources readily available throughout your inventing process is crucial.
Although your inventing toolbox will gain and lose items throughout, here are some of the things you’ll always need:
Lots of Questions
Every step of the inventing process involves asking yourself lots of questions. Before you begin, think about why you’re doing this. Were you bothered by the lack of variations for a specific product on the market? Or, maybe you came across a poorly designed product? Or have you always wanted to be an inventor but you were just waiting for the right inspirational moment to strike? No matter the reason, it’s important you keep this at the forefront of your mind. You may need to remind yourself of it later in your journey.
As you move forward in the process, you’ll have to start asking yourself more complicated questions. Who is my invention for? What makes my invention different from the competition? These questions can make some inventors feel like they’re slipping into an existential crisis, but don’t get overwhelmed. Take the questions one step at a time. You don’t need to have all the answers right away
The Problem and the Solution
The core function of any invention is to act as a problem-solver. You’ll need to ask yourself- what is the problem that is driving you to build this invention? How does your invention solve that problem? The problem itself could involve creating an entirely new invention or it could be adding something to improve a pre-existing invention. For example, Uber Elevate is inventing a completely new mode of travel in order to solve the problem of Uber customers facing traffic issues. Similarly, every new iteration of the iPhone improves on its predecessor in certain specific features like battery life, picture quality, facial recognition, etc. Inventors often make the mistake of thinking their invention needs to be some big, entirely new creation–that’s not true at all. Think about it, how many people bought the latest iPhone?
Your Idea Sketch(es)
When you think of your idea, you should immediately begin working on the design. And there’s no better way of doing that than by sketching. We recommend keeping a notebook solely for this purpose because your sketch will change several times throughout the course of inventing. Keep your notebook handy and date each sketch along the way. It’s also a fun way of seeing how far you’ve come by the end of the inventing process.
Don’t make the mistake of putting too much pressure on your first sketch. The first one–like any first draft–will be rough. Just focus on getting the idea down in as much detail as you can. You can work out the details later. As you go on, focus on making sure all of the pieces fit together the way that you think they will in your head. And begin to think about what materials would work best as certain parts. If on your third or fourth sketch you realize a certain part or feature won’t work, be honest with yourself about it. Don’t wait until you get into the building process to double-check because you’ll just end up wasting materials. Try to work out a solution right away.
Don’t focus on the aesthetic of your design until the end of the process. Functionality comes first. Once you have that down, then you can worry about making it look pretty.
Lots of Inspiration
Another common mistake inventors make throughout the process is spreading themselves out too much. They make their workshop their inventing space, hanging up all their various diagrams and points of research on the wall like a detective who is losing his/her mind trying to catch a criminal. Don’t let your inventing space look like a crime scene. Having all of your various steps all over the place can easily make you feel overwhelmed and disorganized. It may even make you dread going into your workshop–especially when you’re having inventor’s block.
We recommend keeping all of your materials organized and in one space, preferably a drawer that you can shut at the end of a long day. As far as decor, rather than look like a criminal catcher, we recommend making the space inspirational. That can mean something different to everyone, but some suggestions would be hanging up posters with inspirational quotes or photos of people who inspire you. Make your inventing space feel comfortable and inviting and you’ll always look forward to getting in there and working every day.
It’s never too early or late in the process to get organized. And we don’t just mean keeping your workshop in order (which is also important), but also just categorizing your invention in different ways. From beginning to end, focus not only on building your invention but also on where it’s going to go after it’s created. So, for example, what stores do you think would carry your invention? Would it fit best in a convenience store like Rite Aid or a home improvement store like Home Depot? What aisle would it be under in its prospective store–apparel? electronics? housewares?
It’s important to consider this throughout the process because, if you want your invention to be sold in stores, it’ll have to fit with the other products that they sell. Come up with a few ideas on specific stores you’d want to stock your invention and where you think it’d fit. Then take a trip to that store/aisle, look at all the different products and packaging there. This may help you with your final invention sketch/design or even give you an idea for an added feature.
Your Actual Toolbox
Lastly, you’ll need your actual toolbox, aka the materials and tools you’ll be using throughout the process. Every invention requires different tools and materials. Our biggest recommendation is to play around and see what works best for the functionality of your product. You may think a certain material would be perfect in your sketching stage, but once you begin to actually build your invention you find that it doesn’t work at all. Don’t get discouraged. Research to see what types of materials similar products are using. In addition, think about what price-point you’d want your invention to be when you’re choosing materials.
If you’re trying to create a less expensive version of a product and you build with super expensive materials, you’re doing it wrong.
Make sure your inventing toolbox is constantly stocked with these basics and it’ll be easy to look into the future with excitement and fear. Isn’t that what change should be all about?
There’s no time like the present to start stacking the resources you’ll need while on your inventing journey. First things first, though: you need to know what type of inventor you are. From there, we can help you stay motivated and organized while you continue to push your product idea forward. Learn your inventing type today!