Lisa Seacat DeLuca on How to Be a Successful Inventor


Exclusive Interview with: Lisa Seacat DeLuca

With 300 patents granted, Lisa Seacat Deluca is one of the most accomplished inventors in IBM history. The IBM engineer draws from her extensive field experience to help others tap into their creativity and master every step of the innovative process from market research to raising funds. DeLuca has received numerous honors and awards, including MIT’s 35 Innovators Under 35, LinkedIn’s NextWave of 10 Enterprise Technologists Under 35, Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, and IBM’s Working Mother of the Year for Working Mother magazine.

No matter how many great inventions are created, there are still only 24 hours in the day and we’re still only human…hopefully, the inventions that are created make our lives easier so we can have time to focus on the unique experiences that go along with living.

SPEAKING.COM: During your TED Talk, “A Young Inventor’s Vision of the Future”, you said that despite numerous innovations, the world 20 to 50 years from now wouldn’t appear too different from today. Could you elaborate on that idea?

DELUCA: Most innovations were dreamed up because the inventor wanted to solve a problem that would improve the lives of others. But no matter how many great inventions are created, there are still only 24 hours in the day and we’re still only human. The thinking behind that statement was that hopefully, the inventions that are created make our lives easier so we can have time to focus on the unique experiences that go along with living.

SPEAKING.COM: What skills does someone need to be a successful inventor?

DELUCA: Passion and Persistence.

SPEAKING.COM: How can inventors figure out if there’s a market for their idea?

DELUCA: Today it’s easier than ever to test out the market. Using tools like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, inventors can pre-release their ideas to millions of future customers to see if they’ll buy what they’re selling. They can test price points, features, and add-ons to find the right mix of solutions before investing thousands or millions into something that won’t catch on.

When someone calls one of my babies ugly, I take it as constructive criticism and reshape that idea into something new or move onto one of the others. I love when I get push back about the value of an idea because it’s a challenge for me to either prove that person wrong or improve future ideas.

SPEAKING.COM: How do you decide when it’s time to let go of a project and move on to something else?

DELUCA: I am a prolific inventor. One of the best unintended side-effects of being prolific is I don’t have a single baby. When someone calls one of my babies ugly, I take it as constructive criticism and reshape that idea into something new or move onto one of the others. I love when I get push back about the value of an idea because it’s a challenge for me to either prove that person wrong or improve future ideas.

SPEAKING.COM: What do people need to know about the process of getting a patent granted?

DELUCA: You don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars or work with a patent attorney. It is possible to be a pro se inventor. In fact, the United States Patent and Trademark office has a number of pro se inventor programs to help new inventors navigate the system. However, it does take experience to learn how to avoid common mistakes.

Luckily, granted patent applications are public so anyone can read and learn what it takes to get a patent issued. In the age of the internet, it is so easy to become an expert on anything you’re interested in.

A patent being granted is still only the beginning. Then comes the fun part of telling anyone who will listen about your idea and deciding if it’s got the market potential to be something bigger.

SPEAKING.COM: What do you recommend people do after getting a patent granted?

DELUCA: Celebrate. It’s a big deal! Remember, though, that a patent being granted is still only the beginning. Then comes the fun part of telling anyone who will listen about your idea and deciding if it’s got the market potential to be something bigger. Just because you get a patent, doesn’t mean it’s a solution someone wants to buy.

SPEAKING.COM: How do you maintain your creative energy while raising two sets of twins?

DELUCA: It’s definitely not as easy as it was when I didn’t have little ones wreaking havoc. I have an au pair who helps to watch the kids so I can focus on my day job during the workweek. I also recently started using a Mother’s Helper to do little things around the house like starting laundry, cleaning up after dinner, and going through the mail. Even for a few hours a week those are extra hours that I can spend doing something creative instead of chores.

Give children the freedom to explore…Any time I was forced to do something or told I had no choice, I pushed back.

SPEAKING.COM: How can parents and teachers help children think like inventors?

DELUCA: Give children the freedom to explore. People can’t become interested in anything unless they are exposed. You have to expose them in a fun way that leaves them wanting more. Any time I was forced to do something or told I had no choice, I pushed back.

SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the projects you’re currently working on?

DELUCA: I plan on launching a Kickstarter here shortly for my Laundry NFC tags. Apple just announced support for reading NFC tags so after I manage to do some additional iOS testing on my tags, I’ll launch that Kickstarter project. http://laundrynfc.com.

For work I’m leading a team within Watson Internet of Things called the App Factory and we’re looking for IoT use cases to invest in that have potential to make a splash across a number of industries. It’s been fun taking my passions outside of work and applying them to larger enterprise scale solutions.

SPEAKING.COM: Which one of your inventions are you most proud of?

DELUCA: I requested a disclaimer of title from IBM for a patent I wrote myself called Ticket Segmentation. Normally, when you’re at a live event you purchase a single seat for the entire game, but I wanted to break the ticket into a number of seats based on natural break points in the event. For example, at a baseball game you might sit behind home plate for 3 innings ($300 ticket is now only $100) and then along the 3rd base line for the remainder of the game ($30 ticket is now only $20). So, for $120 you can experience the best seat in the house and have that bragging power at a fraction of the cost.

I’m most proud of this invention because I went through the entire process myself for the Utility patent and ended up getting an issuance.

To bring innovation keynote speaker Lisa Seacat DeLuca to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com

© SPEAKING.com, published on September 6, 2018

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