<Everyone is an inventor to some degree. The purpose of this writeup is to provide a tool that will help harness the creative nature that we all possess, and often let go to waste.>
So, you're daydreaming. Again. Your mind is wandering, tangent to tangent as it usually does:
You know, this insulated travel mug bubbles air out of the seam when I pour hot water inside, and sucks water in when I am rinsing it off with cold water. Heh, interesting.
You feel groggy because you kept hitting the snooze button this morning, and overslept. You did this because it's so easy to hit the button when you're half asleep.
Hmm, maybe if it was harder to press the snooze button, I wouldn't sleep in so much. Maybe it should have something like a puzzle mechanism I have to fidget with before it shuts up. It wouldn't really be a snooze button then would it? You'd have to get up when you planned, and exerting yourself mentally beforehand would make sure you were awake. I wonder if anyone's ever thought of that? Oh well.
Maybe you don't dismiss it so easily, and actually come up with something that you think would make a good product. Pleased with yourself for being so clever, you go about your day--sure that you would remember such an insightful and brilliant idea. Things happen--as they invariably do during the day--and your light bulb dims as the battery in your short term memory fades. The very absentmindedness that enables you to come up with these things now allows you to promptly forget it...until someone else thinks of it later, and makes a metric tonne of money from the idea.
This happens all the time; did you know that the area in your brain that acts as your cache (short term) memory can only hold a handful of things at one time? What happens when it gets full? DELETED! This is no place to store your inspiring ideas!
Where do you get your most inspiring ideas? In the shower? Late at night during some binge programming session? In your dreams? When you're supposed to be doing other work? Wherever you get your idea, the important thing is to HOLD ON TO IT. Sometimes the stupidest, simplest insights--when given more attention and analysis later--can yield incredibly rewarding ideas. By building up a storehouse of ideas, you can come back to them at a later date. After you've had time to absorb other information, you can view objects in your creative pool in a new light.
No idea is too small.
No insight is too insignificant that it cannot be used in some fashion. For example, I have a tendency to collect junk and spare parts from day-to-day things and keep them in a drawer. Individually, the objects are junk, but the 'junk drawer' truly begins to show its usefulness when I have a unique need later on, then I can pick and choose what I need from the drawer to create interesting things, or fix seemingly complex problems. When you have an arsenal of 'tools' to build from, you have a greater chance and ability to actually use what you have to make something worth more than the sum of its parts.
Creating The 'Junk Drawer'
The primary and most essential tool any inventor can have is some form of a 'junk drawer' for ideas. By immediately recording insights when they happen, not only do you record it for later use, you are able to record it with more clarity and detail than you would later. Also, simply by the act of jotting it down, you help to more firmly imprint the idea into your memory. The tool I use most often is a seldom-known area of Yahoo called http://notepad.yahoo.com/. Since my cell phone has internet access, I can log on and record my ideas wherever I am, and I am able to access them from anywhere that has internet access. It is not necessary to have such an elaborate scheme for idea recording, a simple notebook or PDA kept at hand will do just as well, but with these methods you have an increased risk of losing your ideas somewhere, or worse, having them fall into the wrong hands.
Using The 'Junk Drawer'
Once you have created an accessible repository for ideas, begin jotting down the observations and inspired ideas that come to you. Write as many details as time will allow. Another good practice is to date your entries so you can keep track of when your best ideas come to you, and prepare accordingly. Soon you will find that the habit of writing everything down draws even more ideas from you, simply because you have made it a habit to observe and record what comes to you.
Periodically, read over your old ideas in the archive; you may be surprised at the new insights that have been brewing since the last time you worked on the idea. Write down any additional insights that you have; this is how you 'grow' your creative pool of ideas. I like to think of it as a sort of crystallization: over time, more and more substance gets added to each idea, maturing it and giving clarity, shape, and direction. It is exciting to watch the little quirks and what-ifs growing over time into truly fascinating ideas.
The most important things to remember when growing creative ideas are: