Excellence Traits of the Inventor

Polaroid co-founder Edwin Land said, “The test of an invention is the power of [the] inventor to push it through in the face of staunch – not opposition, but indifference – in society.” Great ideas and inventions are often shunned or ignored before they are accepted. It makes sense then that inventors tend to be a hearty sort: they don’t mind failure, they don’t care what others think, and they’re willing to work really damn hard.

land_550Highlighting Excellence Traits of the Inventor from 99U by Jocelyn K. Glei

Produce and test more ideas.

Thomas Edison, who held 1,093 patents – a record that’s yet to be broken – demonstrates this perfectly. [Edison] guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. His own personal invention quota was one minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every six months.

Employ “wrong-thinking.”

Great inventors engage in divergent or “wrong” thinking, which allows them to explore the full realm of possibilities for a solution – no matter how silly or far-fetched. They’re not necessarily concerned with the most logical solution, and certainly not with one that draws on “conventional wisdom.”

We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way… When I was doing my vacuum cleaner, I started out trying a conventionally shaped cyclone, the kind you see in textbooks. But we couldn’t separate the carpet fluff and dog hairs and strands of cotton in those cyclones. It formed a ball inside the cleaner or shot out the exit and got into the motor. I tried all sorts of shapes. Nothing worked. So then I thought I’d try the wrong shape, the opposite of conical. And it worked.
~ Sir James Dyson

Embrace failure.

True innovators are practically impervious to the notion of failure. Whereas the everyman might feel shame or embarrassment in making a mistake, the inventor sees an opportunity for learning.

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail. Scientists made a great invention by calling their activities hypotheses and experiments. They made it permissible to fail repeatedly until in the end they got the results they wanted. In politics or government, if you made a hypothesis and it didn’t work out, you had your head cut off.
~ Edwin Land, Inventor of Polaroid

Sketch out their ideas.

Even in our screen-obsessed era, effective innovators still hash out ideas on paper.


Trust their intuition.

As [Einstein] told one friend, “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.” Elaborating, he added, “All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe in intuition and inspiration… At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.” Thus, his famous statement that, for creative work in science, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Love tinkering.

Almost all inventors are die-hard tinkerers. They’re fascinated with understanding how things work, and then making them better.

Possess a boundless curiosity.

The “Renaissance man” par excellence, Leonardo Da Vinci was an engineer, mathematician, architect, painter, sculptor, cartographer, botanist, and, of course, inventor. Not surprisingly, the driving force behind Da Vinci’s incredible accomplishments was an insatiable curiosity.

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