One of the challenges in building an Innovation Organization is hiring and partnering with prolific inventors. Many authors have published descriptions and tools for doing so, but one of the best is the Inventor Profile developed by John Huber. His work is based on evaluating over 20,000 inventors. Evaluation criteria covered items related to an inventor’s early characteristics when they were between ages 14 and 22 years old. It utilizes information about their scholastic achievement as well as the types of activities they had been engaged in. The tool goes on to inquire about the inventor’s first patent. Items such as their age, number and type of colleagues, access to equipment, were all studied. The remaining factors have to do with the environment in which the inventor is working. These factors include the quality of technical management, the ability to find good problems to work on, and the organization’s direction and stability. In another attribute evaluated in the profile is how inventors actually work on problems. Do they work alone or in groups. Do they work on one problem at a time, and when in the problem-solving process do they start experimenting?
The profile found prolific inventors have (1) a strong desire for excellence, (2) they are well-educated, (3) studied hard in school, (4) worked hard outside school, and (5) work best in a supportive environment in which innovation is expected. There was little correlation to a preference for individual vs. team efforts. Not related to prolific inventors was (1) the undergraduate GPA, (2) the amount of time spent playing a musical instrument, Chess, Bridge, or reading books outside their coursework, (3) time spent playing in sports, (4) time spent in youth groups, i.e. Boy Scouts, (5) having the first patent at an early age, (6) having a supportive relationship with marketing, and (7) preferring to work on many problems at the same time.
These characteristics are shared because many of these attributes are covered during an Innovation Organization’s interviewing process. It’s important to understand and track which ones are actually contributing to the hiring of prolific inventors and innovators.