How to Turn Your Smart Idea Into a Bankable Invention

Paul Cerrato, MA

Disclosures

December 11, 2013

In This Article

I Can Invent Something Better Than That

Have you ever stood at an operating room table wishing someone would invent a better laparoscope? Or opened up your hospital's electronic health records program and thought, "You've got to be kidding! My 16-year-old could design a better system."

Chances are you may already have an innovative concept that could be turned into a useful piece of software or hardware. But the road to a profitable medical invention requires more than a can-do mentality. It calls for creative thinking, an understanding of your potential customers, the ability to protect your intellectual property, and the business smarts to bring your idea to market.

Bringing a medical invention to market is not for the faint of heart. It requires stick-to-itiveness, imagination, a good network of business associates, an attorney well versed in patent law, and someone to pick up the tab. But if you're convinced that you have found a solution to a problem that your colleagues will find useful and you have the passion to see it through, odds are that this solution will improve patient care -- and help grow your nest egg at the same time.

Is Your Brainchild Worth Developing?

Cognitive scientists theorize that the process of inventing a useful device or medical app starts with a seemingly intractable problem that needs solving. That kind of challenge can get the creative juices flowing. With that problem in mind, inventors typically take one of several approaches. They tackle it with relentless analysis, they rely on free association to guide them to a solution, or they use a combination of both techniques.

Most clinicians are familiar with the first approach because they've been trained to deconstruct diagnostic and therapeutic problems analytically, applying the rules of inductive and deductive reasoning. But sometimes the spark that leads to a bankable invention requires a walk in the woods, a warm shower, and a bit of old-fashioned daydreaming, according to Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works.[1]

The process of coming up with a marketable invention also requires striking a balance between imaginative, unconventional thinking and self-criticism. If you're too critical of your brainchild early on in the process, you squash a potential gem; if you're not critical enough, you rush to market with a device that you may find helpful in performing a certain task but your colleagues may not want or need.

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