Identifying a Problem
When you decide you are going to come up with a brilliant invention idea, you are planning an invention; this is different from having an epiphany one day. Well, if you are interested in inventing, then you have come to the right place, here is an article to get you started and generally guide you through the invention process. The first step in coming up with a profitable invention idea is identifying a problem in society.
Finding a Problem
First, you have to find a problem. What is a problem? I think most everyone knows what a problem consists of, especially a problem when we are on the subject of inventing. A problem is anything that hinders one from reaching a desired goal or object. There are problems all throughout our society, as you know. You probably encounter around 20 problems a day and most likely openly complain about half of them. Up until now you haven’t noticed when you did this, but going through day to day life as a human is your number one supplier for good problems. Listen to yourself, when you complain think about if it could be fixed with a nice invention. It’s hard to be focused enough to notice when you complain or see a problem; however, with some practice, it starts to become more noticeable. Also, I recommend carrying around a little journal or using a phone to document these ideas when they come to you.
When looking to identify a problem there is also another resource that is readily available – people around you. This might include your co-workers, friends, family, etc. People naturally complain, you hear this every day, and up until now you thought it was a bunch of annoying non-sense. Everyone thinks it’s stupid and unproductive; I have read many psychologists explain people complaining as being some kind of human emotional need for love or some other bull crap. Well, I have developed my own explanation for why people complain. People complain in order to make advancements. People locate problems and vocalize the need for the problem to be solved, thus we have an invention idea or advance in technology. So, listen to the people around you, they will tell you problems they have in their lives. This can be even harder to do then listening to yourself, because we have been conditioned to not pay attention to people complaining.
The internet is a great source for information, use it. People have a problem; they post it on the internet. This is similar to listening to people around you, it’s just people that are farther away. There are thousands of blogs and forums where people have jumped on the internet and posted a problem they are having. Go on Google and search for household problems or something along those lines and you will surely find something. Also, as I talk about later, a great problem to identify is one that causes death; therefore, it could be beneficial to search online for things that are causing a death toll every year. If you start to master using these three sources of information for identifying problems, then you will soon have too many problems to remember.
Is the Problem Common?
Just so there is no confusion, you do want the problem you identify to be common. You don’t want to be the only person having that problem, or else the invention idea you come up with to solve that problem will only be useful to you. There are a couple of simple ways to decide whether a problem is common:
1. Ask people you know. Talk to your friends, co-workers, family, and just anyone you know and see on a regular basis. Ask them if they have the same problem. You don’t have to tell them you are thinking about coming up with an invention idea to solve it, just ask, “Man, I hate it when (blank) happens. You ever have that problem?” This is a simple way to see if a problem is common without telling people about your inventing plans.
2. Again, use the internet! If the problem is common, then a thousand people have already posted about it on the internet. Do a search on Google, and see if the problem turns out to be very popular.
3. Last, you can hold a survey. Go to a place that consists of a lot of people whose attention you can get, such as school, and ask them to raise their hand if they have this problem. This can be a little more intimidating to some people, and it will definitely reveal you are up to something. That being said, it is a great way to get fully submerged in your project.
Don’t take this step lightly; it is very important that your problem is common. A profitable invention idea has to appeal to a large amount of people.
Has the Problem Already Been Solved?
Obviously, this is also a very crucial thing to recognize. Solving a problem is going to do you no good if there is already something that solves it. So, you have to do a little research to verify that your problem is free for you to solve. As you would probably guess, a great place to start is the internet. At this point you have probably already searched for your problem on the internet, so hopefully if it is obvious that it has been solved, then you would have already noticed. I would do a more detailed search to make sure you didn’t miss anything the first time.
Next, it would be wise to do a patent search. You can do a patent search online at the USPTO’s website or with a patent attorney. I would recommend just searching online as it will be cheaper and easier. Searching for a problem rather than an invention is pretty difficult, so it may take a while. Also, you can try searching an obvious invention idea that applies to that problem for better results.
Also, I find it helps a lot to ask around. A lot of times someone will say something like “I think I have heard about something that does that,” or something along those lines. Don’t forget the value of people.
Is Solving the Problem Viable?
The ultimate question: is the problem going to be profitable to solve? There is no definite answer to this question. There are many things to consider once you have made it to this question.
– Does it save people money? This is a big one. People love products that can pay for themselves. We are also in the midst of an economic recession, so people are always looking for ways to save money. If you are shooting to save people money, there is one important thing to consider; your invention has to be very cost efficient. People don’t want to hear that your product will pay for itself in five years, they want quick results.
– Does it save people time? The average person hates spending time on things they don’t enjoy. People want to get back to their free time, so saving them time can be very appealing. Over the years time has become quite important to us for many reasons.
– Does it create comfort or entertainment? This is a very hard thing to consider, because it is very opinionated; therefore, it requires you to make a judgment call. Some people get comfort or entertainment from different things, so if you choose to take this route, you have to be sure your invention will apply to lots of people. If you are going to attempt to tackle this, I would recommend doing extra research, online and in surveys.
– Does it save lives? This is another big one, and leads to very profitable invention ideas. There is always going to be a great way to market an invention that saves lives. I would definitely recommend going down this path.
– Does it help people who are hindered? This is a broad category and almost goes with saving lives. There are many things that hinder people such as allergies, diseases, physical limitations, etc.
– Would people pay for this problem to be solved? To really answer this take some thought. You have to consider many variables. You have to kind of start to think about how much an invention to solve this problem would cost and if that amount of money is worth solving the problem. You have to also consider the economic state of your consumers. For example, in today’s economy people are spending a lot less money, but you can do some research and find articles to find out what people are still spending money on. The worst thing is to have a great invention, but not be able to make money due to a lack of research at this step.
Now you should have a favorable problem to solve; you are on your way to a profitable invention idea.
At this point you should have a problem that you are interested in solving. You have hopefully already done some research on your problem; however, the research has just begun. This will be a very easy step to skip or not fully commit to, but it is very important for a couple of reasons. You need to research your project thoroughly in order to be equipped to start to solve it. Make sure you know every single thing about your problem; read books, read magazines, read the internet, and anything else that could possibly educate you about your problem. I realize most people don’t enjoy reading, and want to skip straight to pioneering the best invention of the last ten years, but inventing is a tedious process if it is done correctly. Most great inventions took years to fully develop, and I don’t think we can even fathom how much research these inventors did, because I guarantee you they didn’t just sit and think for ten years. Doing research will help you to engineer a solution, but it also serves another purpose. Doing research helps to completely submerge you in your invention; it causes you to think constantly about your problem and increases your urge to uniquely solve it. If you are truly interested in inventing I would strongly advise you to do plenty of research.
Uncovering an Invention Idea
Use Problem Solving
All problems require problem solving; however, some are easier to solve then others. An invention requires a high level of problem solving; this is why it is hard for most people to come up with a unique invention. Some people are naturally good at problem solving and they can solve problems with ease, but there are many people who have developed ways to teach people how to solve problems. There are many great sites and books that give full lessons in problem solving and I would recommend checking some out. I am going to outline a couple of things that I think are important to problem solving in inventing.
– Completely simplify the problem. It is easy to look at the problem and get caught up in the complexity of solving it, and this can discourage you. Take the problem you have identified and find the underlying cause. You want to have a simple problem in order to have the simplest solution. Simple inventions are generally very profitable.
– Change the setting of your problem. This might be difficult to understand, so I will give you an example. Let’s say your problem is getting in the shower and then realizing you forgot to get then new shampoo bottle and now you are all wet. Change the setting from a shower to your car; remembering to get a new pack of gum to put in your before you leave to go on a hot date. Doing this will allow you to look at the problem from multiple angles. Don’t be afraid to do this several times for several different settings.
Problem solving is about solving a problem by using logic and using techniques to enhance your logic. However, logical problem solving isn’t the only way to go about solving your problem; you should also consider the abstract side of pinpointing ideas, which I will talk about next.
Imagination is built almost completely around vision. Vision contains two elements, one of which is often overlooked. The first part of vision is the retina receiving light rays and sending them to the brain, this is this part of vision that everyone is familiar with. The second part, what happens after this, is the part that relates the most to imagination. The part of vision where the brain interprets the information from the retina varies from person to person. How the brain perceives the information it receives from the retina is based mostly on past experiences, and there are experiments that prove this. Therefore, if imagination takes place when the brain perceives the information, and the way the brain perceives information is based on past experience, then imagination is limited by experience. That might have seemed like a stretch, but think about this. When you are a kid your imagination is free flowing and untamable, but when you get older and gain experience your imagination begins to dwindle.
How does this apply to inventing?
Most of the great inventions that end up turning over a large profit or changing the world result from an invention idea that is completely ludicrous to the average person. This means the key ingredients to a successful inventor are a loose imagination and the ability to creatively solve a problem. In today’s inventing world many inventors have a background in engineering. I have been in engineering classes where they have taught me “how to invent”. They do this by rolling out 12 steps of how to come up with a perfect invention idea, each step instructs you exactly how to proceed and think. Well, I think if inventing could be written in 12 steps to a perfect invention idea, then everybody would be coming up with outstanding inventions. You and I both know everyone isn’t inventing the next best thing. This is because being the next Walt Disney isn’t achieved by following a 12 step equation.
How to break down the barriers on imagination
As I said above, the brain perceives information based on past experiences. It does this because it needs to conserve energy; therefore, the longer you live and the more experiences you encounter, the more your brain will use past experience to conserve energy. This conservation of energy is the enemy when you are trying to stretch your thoughts and be creative. Forcing your brain to rely less on past experience is a very tough task or everyone would be really creative.
A great way to start thinking differently is to do new things – go to new places, participate in new things, and meet new people. Flooding the brain with all these new things causes it to break down categories created by past experience. In order to get rid of conventional thinking, you must also recognize that conventional thinking limits you and there are different ways to perceive things even though you have seen it the same way for so long. Last, the most obvious way to try and break down ordinary thinking is by literally looking at things differently. This seems simple and broad, but it can really be hard to accomplish. An example of this would be if you were an artist you could take pictures of your artwork, or maybe look at your art in a mirror. Increasing your imagination is a hard task to accomplish, but when you do the results can be very rewarding.
Evaluating Your Invention Idea
If you are interested in generating income with your invention idea, then you aren’t done. If you want to make money, you are going to have to spend a considerable amount of money to patent and possibly market your invention. You need to be certain you are completely happy with your invention and that it will be profitable when it is place on the market. This requires more research. I know you are probably sick of research by now, but it’s important. There are three main ways to evaluate your invention.
1. Study past inventions. Look at successful past inventions and look at failed ones. Study how the economy was when the invention was released and how the economy compares to today’s economy. History is the best prediction for your success or failure.
2. Ask people you know. Talk to people about your idea and ask their take on it. Talk to people that will be honest with you; false support can lead you to make a bad decision. Don’t worry about them stealing your idea; most people are way too lazy to attempt that.
3. There are inventor organizations designed to help out inventors with ideas. To be honest I have never used them before, I have only read about them online. I would advise trying them out though, I believe they are trustworthy.