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Entrepreneurs—Learn to Ideate and Innovate

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INTRODUCTION

Some ideation is spontaneous. Other ideation results from focused effort.

For inventors and entrepreneurs who typically exist more as isolated “human” islands during the early stages of a future new venture, reliance is placed on their accumulated knowledge, skills, and past experiences.

Invention and innovation occur within large organizations (e.g., 3M, IBM, etc.) as a result of highly formalized processes that harness the collective abilities of their scientists and engineers.

Regardless of the source of invention and innovation, a process that helps to systematically enable consistent thought is valuable to those wishing to become an entrepreneur.

A SUGGESTED PROCESS FOR IDEATION, INNOVATION, AND INVENTION

No matter what a person’s level of expertise is there are ways to diligently think about a problem or opportunity, starting with understanding the landscape and environment of the area of interest (AOI) to identify problem(s) and develop the vision.  An overview of an ideation process is provided in Figure 1 Of course, there may be many innovation processes—this is but one approach.

STEP 1
SELECT AN AREA OF INTEREST (AOI)

The inventor or entrepreneur should be inspired and passionate about the AOI and have supportive knowledge and skills.

STEP 2
IDENTIFY UNSOLVED PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY

Both primary and secondary research can be used to identify existing solutions and unsolved problems and opportunities for new products and services.

STEP 3
DEVELOP YOUR VISION

Your vision drives the creative processes needed for innovation, invention, and intellectual property development.

STEP 4
RESEARCH & DISCOVERY

Existing technology, patents, products, and services must be diligently researched and understood with a view towards identifying what new technology, innovations, and inventions need to be developed.

STEP 5
INNOVATION

The “eureka” moment occurs when something new and useful is invented.

STEP 6
INVENTION

The innovation or idea must be captured in the form of an invention and initial patent positions and trade secrets established.

Problem or opportunity discovery is facilitated through primary research in which information and data are acquired directly from other parties in discussions at technical conferences, interviews with technical experts, and informally in a variety of settings in which conversations with others may occur. Of course, the point of this research is to collect useful information from others and not to disclose information about what you, the inventor, may be thinking. Thus, information flow is strictly one-way. Secondary research—information collected from public documents (including the Internet)—is also useful and necessary to provide as complete a view of the landscape as possible.

The processes of creating ideas (e.g., ideation)—and yes, there are processes—start with a keen awareness of a target AOI and the environment, both of which are essential to achieving deeper insights. Critical questions must be asked and answered. What are the problems within the AOI? What would be achieved if a different solution were available? What are other companies delivering now? What would the world look like if X or Y could be achieved? In other words: “What is your vision?”[1]

Vision, in the context of entrepreneurship, is the ability to clearly see a future based on the implementation of an innovation. Vision includes naturally an appreciation for the impact on society if the new venture is successful. This vision is typically not necessarily easily shared, but it can eventually be shared among a founding team and, later, a new venture and the people within the funded company. This vision drives the entrepreneur to push forward with passion and purpose.

Necessarily, the inventor or entrepreneur becomes the “vision holder,” that person who is driven the most to succeed, persevere, and deliver the solution to society. Every company needs a vision holder, and the less developed the underlying new venture or company is, the more the will and desire of the vision holder needs to be at the forefront.

Vision drives the need to be creative, a necessary prerequisite to developing the underlying idea and innovation. Creativity is achieved often in seemingly random ways, but it can be also be brought forth or encouraged through research and discovery. Sometimes, the idea does not immediately have an identifiable product and market, in which case additional thought must be devoted to the idea and its applications. Ideally, the idea results in innovation and an invention for which a product and target market is readily identifiable.

Naturally, inventors and entrepreneurs hope to achieve that “eureka” moment, when it is realized that an innovation has been discovered—an innovation that has, at first glance, not been invented or disclosed elsewhere. At that point, it is critical that the innovation be preserved in the form of an immediate provisional patent application (followed by a regular patent application within a year).

That’s it—I have personally used this process and found it to be very useful.  Hopefully, it will be for you also.

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