The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Smithsonian Beanie Illustration
MIND: Documenting Invention

Inventing | Documenting | Things to Collect | Resources


Personal motivation generally receives less attention in interviews with inventors, but understanding how some inventors are able to get from idea to invention despite frustrations, failures, and lack of support, is an important facet of the invention process. It is usually easier for interviewees to discuss extrinsic motivations, such as the competitive environment or workplace relationships that drive the inventing process. Yet inventors are often motivated by intrinsic desires as well, including the joy and satisfaction that invention gives them.

What emotions do inventors associate with their work? What strategies could interviewers employ to stimulate reflections on these feelings and the role they play in invention? To explore these questions, the interviewer needs to go beyond simply asking, “How did that make you feel?”

Pay attention to references to emotions as the interviewee relates his or her story and ask questions about those feelings. The techniques of photo elicitation, or using historical or contemporary images to trigger memories and discussion, can be especially helpful in talking about motivation.

Last Update: 4 Oct 2010

:: Home :: About Us :: Centerpieces :: Events :: Resources :: Video & Audio ::
:: Press Room :: Blog :: Newsletter :: Site Map :: Facebook :: Flickr :: Twitter ::