Invention and innovation: An introduction
Invention and innovation: An introduction

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Invention and innovation: An introduction

11.7 Characteristics of inventors

In their classic book The Sources of Invention (1969) John Jewkes, David Sawers and Richard Stillerman observe the following about inventors, whether working outside or inside an organisation.

  • Inventors tend to be absorbed with their own ideas and to feel strongly about their importance and potential.

  • Inventors can be impatient with those who don't share their optimism.

  • Inventors are often isolated because they are engrossed with ideas that imply change and that are resisted by others.

  • Inventors can be right when others are eventually proved wrong. Accordingly inventors can appear eccentric because they have a minority view that challenges existing ideas.

  • Inventors are often devoid of worldly knowledge and, in particular, business knowledge, and therefore need special help in this aspect of innovation.

Some of these characteristics are useful to inventors during the process of invention. The ability to focus on a problem to the exclusion of everything else, the single-mindedness and determination to produce a solution, and the optimism that the solution is viable – all of these can help the inventor overcome the many obstacles to invention.

However some of these very characteristics can become liabilities when applied to the process of innovation. This requires the skills of working with others in a team – the ability to persuade others of the worth of the invention; the patience to accept criticism; the flexibility to compromise and change the design if required, say, by the manufacturing process; the open-mindedness to accept input from others with more expertise in a particular aspect of innovation, such as marketing.

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