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Inventors at Work: Interviews with 16 Notable American Inventors Paperback – 1988
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Top Customer Reviews
Brown is a skilled interviewer in that he asks the right questions that allow us to inhabit the thoughts of some of the most intriguing people of our time.
What makes this book worthwhile for those who are interested in innovation is that Brown asks questions that get the subjects to talk about the process of invention, not just the inventions themselves. Even though the characters are diverse, the way they describe the process is remarkably similar. What is most gratifying is that the inventors freely talk about the often mundane obstacles that get in their way and the very practical approaches they have to take to overcome them.
If innovation is going to be the savior of the US economic engine, then it is important to understand how, to quote John Lienhard, inventive minds work. This book provides a solid foundation for how the work of invention is done.
The common denominators that emerge from these various stories should give pause to anyone who just wants to 'start their own business' without really understanding what it takes to be the person behind the next big thing. And that according to the stories in this book anyway, inventing or innovation is not rooted in a get rich quick mentality, rather a desire to see if something can actually be invented for the sake of invention.
I thought that it was also interesting that it was often an idea that was a derivation of the inventor's original concept that ended up being their most valuable innovation. Truly the mark of creativity when you don't suffer from tunnel vision and can realize opportunities along the way that can be much more valuable. That's the difference between an innovator and someone who is simply an opportunist who was in the right place at the right time.
More than the 'invemtions', these interviews reveal the 'inventor' and the inventive process. Not only do these inventors typically not hold advanced scientific degrees, they usually abandon logical, textbook thinking, favoring their gut intuition instead. Some verbatim quotes from inventors featured in the book:
'An original idea is not the work of a committee. It doesn't come from 'brainstorming' or whatever other term people like to use'.
'If you could solve all problems with a textbook, there wouldn't be any real invention.'
'If an invention followed a 1,2,3,4 - it's done , it wouldn't be much of an invention.'
The space capsule, the xerox machine, the pacemaker, the geosynchronous satellite - are just some of the things the stars of this book have invented. Most of them hold hundreds of patents - with thousands of ideas 'sitting on their shelves'.
For any technology buff, this is a highly enjoyable ( and informative ) read.