As the CEO and Founder of LifeWave, I get a lot of attention for the way my roots as an inventor have helped me create my business. For decades, I worked in the fields of business and product development. Along the way, my experiences helped me innovate in a number of areas including a bladeless turbine generator and a design for a unique combustion rocket engine. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about the kinds of mistakes inventors can make that often knock them off track.
Listen to criticism
I know as an inventor it can be hard to listen to critical voices. We want to create something that no one has seen before. It can be easy to dismiss criticism as just a thought from someone who doesn’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish. This, however, can be an unproductive mindset.
Listening to others and their critiques of an idea can be a key part of growing as an inventor. We can’t always see the forest for the trees, especially when we’ve been deep in a project for a very long time. Perspective from a trusted advisor, or perhaps someone unconnected to what you are doing but whose opinion you would value, can be invaluable in helping you move a project forward.
It should be noted that I’m not advocating for taking on another person’s point of view wholesale. It’s important to use a discerning mind when taking advice from others. However, there’s a fine line between exercising appropriate discernment and ignoring the opinion of others to your own detriment. The former is a natural part of being an inventor and pushing into uncharted territory. The latter is a good way to miss opportunities to advance important ideas.
Don’t stop at a prototype
There may be no bigger thrill than seeing the kernel of an idea through to a prototype. Watching something take form that began as just a twinkle in your eye is a truly magical process that can be a major part of why we set out to invent in the first place. However, as magical as it can be, a prototype is not the end of the road. In fact, it’s just the beginning.
It’s so easy to think that once we actually create something, the heavy lifting is over. But creating a new object or process does not ensure that others will automatically buy into your idea. It still requires plenty of hard work to show others the value of whatever you have created. Even after you have a working prototype, if you are an independent inventor, several hours are spent in pitch meetings and networking events explaining the benefits of your new invention, assuming the item is worthy of a patent and you have protected the invention with a patent pending status. Planning what comes next after a prototype is finished is important if you intend to follow through to bring your idea to market.
Don’t be afraid to cast a wide net
There’s a classic notion of an inventor being a very focused creator who has a stroke of brilliance and then moves to bring that thought into existence; that once the invention is part of the real world, an inventor’s mission is complete and he or she can reap the rewards of an innovative spirit. If only it were that easy!
In reality, a single idea is rarely enough to build into a career. Take it from me, I have close to 100 patents to my name. Edison had more than 1,000. These numbers are high not because inventors generally produce many great ideas, but rather because we are venturing into the unknown and often realize that a discovery along the way is worthy of a patent! There’s no map for this territory and there’s no telling what you’ll find. A single idea may be a goldmine that lies ahead of you in the darkness, or instead, it may be one of a series of patentable discoveries leading you towards your ultimate goal.
Again, the importance of any idea rests on the notion of entering this process with your eyes open. If you expect your first idea to be a hit, you may be disappointed in the event that things don’t pan out. That’s okay; disappointment is fine so long as it doesn’t cause you to give up. Instead, keep putting yourself out there over and over again. Learn from past mistakes, and failures and successes. Cast a wide net as you research and follow through on various approaches, and in doing so, you give yourself the highest chance to beat the odds and find success.
In my many years as an inventor, I’ve found that avoiding mistakes and pitfalls in the field can be key to a long career. The three I’ve listed above can be some of the primary obstacles to achieving inventing success. If you take criticism, continue past the early stages of a project, and keep multiple projects going at once, your chances to meet and even exceed your goals will be substantially higher. Good luck on the path and enjoy the journey!