Inventors, a National Asset and Inventorship, a National Need

Inventors are unique and can also be internationally important individuals because many have made significant social contributions.

Inventors are unlike most of the people in a population. They are more motivated, frequently to the point of being driven. They are more likely to be introverted than extraverted. Most importantly, they are divergent thinkers, unbound and unburdened by traditional thought or problem-solving approaches. They are ever optimistic, believing that they have the ability, if they can only acquire the necessary resources and insights, to master the knowledge challenge.

The inventor starts with observing a problem and then seeks to imagine and create a solution to that problem. The problem could be a functionality not currently possible or making or doing something differently and better. The inventor studies and learns about barriers to achieving something. The inventor then focuses on finding a way to circumvent and defeat the problem barriers. Therefore, understanding the problem and how things work is paramount.

The inventor is not simply an innovator, making something improved. The inventor also seeks to create something truly new, not done before, which consequently happens to be better.

The inventor may be highly educated or simply possess a problem-solving mental ability, which does not necessarily require a traditional education. The inventor, when successful, is frequently found to be unburdened by the education acquired by others who may be focusing on the same or similar problems, but who are unable to find a solution, because they are legacy bound.

Inventors typically work alone, and many are reluctant to share what they are doing until successful and possibly protected in some way. They are trained from past experience to be highly discreet and secretive of their progress. If a team is involved it is the thought leader who is the inventor.

Entrepreneurs can and usually do rationalize failure as being the result of circumstances beyond their control. Inventors are engaged in a deeply personal and competitive process where it is them pitted against the problem which they are dedicated, and perhaps destined, to solve.

Neither the entrepreneurs, who frequently envision the projects, nor inventors are necessarily outstanding or even simply competent business managers. Running something well is so very different than imagining or inventing something new. Both entrepreneurs and inventors have to learn how to deal with frustrating failures. Failures can be viewed and accepted as rungs of a ladder.

Creative people often do not make good managers. Good mangers are those who weigh the possible results, good or bad, of all significant actions. They are not risk takers and do not assume, as both entrepreneurs and inventors do, that all of their efforts will be successful.

For the entrepreneur, it is the idea, lack of resources or something else which prevents success. For the inventor, it is more personal and more difficult to rationalize a lack of progress. Inventors are frequently concerned that their most recent invention will be their last invention, whereas the entrepreneur more easily moves on to the next project.

Many years ago, as one of thirteen Marines attending the U.S. Army’s Intelligence School at Fort Riley, Kansas, a lecturer urged us to learn to “make friends with pain”, in case we were captured by the enemy. At the time, I thought that was one of the dumber suggestions I had ever heard.

Now, I am thinking that we should try to help those having the ability and inclination to create things, if we could identify them, by impressing upon them that not all problems can be solved as currently planned, with the resources currently at hand, no matter how great the dedication and ability of the inventor. It would be constructive to help the inventor separate project success and self-valuation assessment. Ladders can be necessary to reach higher levels and the rungs of ladders can be considered the problems which had to be solved, one at a time.

Inventors, both those who succeed and those who merely strive, should receive more respect than is usually the case. All of us benefit from the dedication and skill of successful inventors, who frequently are unknown to the public. They, and their families, have taken the risk of the inventor’s personal failure.

Should there be, or are there now, educational courses in the divergent thinking and other skill sets necessary for invention? Many colleges have entrepreneurship education courses intending to encourage business founding. Should there not also be inventor cultivation and training courses? Years ago, my wife and I attended at the University of Buffalo, a summer program for educators at the Creative Problem Solving Institute, led by Dr. Sidney Parnes. This was not a program for inventors per se, but much of the divergent thinking encouraged could be of help to inventors. One of the beginning questions, to be answered in 2 minutes, was “What are positive things that can result from the crash of a large size passenger plane?” As it happens, when forced to consider the question, there are many positives which occur as a result of an unexpected event.

Perhaps it would be constructive for those engaged in inventing something to consider, before taking the next step, what should be done after a possible disappointment. Problem or disappointment anticipation could well become a constructive part of the invention process and invention is a process and not something which just happens.

If the car runs out of petrol what do, we do? Sit on the roadside and wait for help to arrive or, based on prior planning have an idea of where to go and/or who and how to call for help? Of course, problem anticipation might have resulted in our having a can of petrol in our trunk

I started the above essay to suggest the need for more honor and respect to be publicly shown to inventors. I have ended by noting the importance of inventors to us all and how we might better develop them as a national resource. Anticipating this need might inspire us to search for and develop a solution. The creation of a curriculum for Inventoship 101, a course in Invention Preparation, would be a great place to start.


Arthur Lipper, Chairman
British Far East Holdings Ltd.
+1 858 793 7100

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Blog Management: Viktor Filiba

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