Technology Consultant, CAP Chromatography Consulting, USA
Qualities of an innovative thinker? The single most important quality in a truly innovative thinker is the ability to identify cases where consensus opinion is incorrect. There are many examples in science and in my own career where the consensus understanding of how something works or the inherent properties of a given material has been proven to be incorrect. The ability to see possible holes in the consensus opinion is critical when it comes to developing novel approaches to solving problems previously considered impossible.
Making the most out of your invention… The secret to making the most out of your invention is to simultaneously focus on the invention and its practical implementation. Often, great ideas fail because they didn't take into consideration practical realities of the manufacturing process or user expectations. By always keeping in mind both the invention and its practical implementation, the inventive process is guided toward practical implementations that significantly improve chances for commercial success. In addition, at least in my case, I find it particularly useful to reduce my idea to practice with my own hands. Once I know something works, I can more effectively guide others in the practical implementation of the idea.
Picking a problem… Although some of my ideas have come from chance discoveries, the most important guiding factor in deciding what problems to tackle is based on input from the target user of the technology. Often, it's tempting to ask a prospective user what products they need but this rarely provides useful input since they generally don't have a good idea of what is possible. A much better strategy is to watch prospective customers and to ask them about their problems. If you see a repeating pattern of problem areas, that provides a solid basis for areas to target for innovation and invention.