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Feeling inspired is often characterized as an “aha!” moment, but that isn’t the reality for most. Coming up with a great idea doesn’t require a particular kind of genius — inspiration can strike spontaneously with the right trigger. If you think you have what it takes to innovate but can’t seem to come up with an idea you love, following these six steps may provide a useful jumping off point for your next (or first) invention endeavor:

1. Observe
As is the case with any healthcare product innovation, whether it’s designing products for a hospital or for drug store setting, adapting its features to meet user needs will be essential in maximizing a product’s effectiveness. The best way to do this is through observing your target audience’s daily habits and taking field notes, which should contain detailed descriptions and pictures of the exact patterns you’re witnessing. For instance, if you’re observing a surgical team, hone in on their daily pain points and ad-hoc workarounds used to solve the problems at hand. You may also observe a way to improve upon an existing product, where your idea has different features or a more user-focused, tailored design.

2. Cross Industry Lines
When it comes to designing medical device technology, it’s easy to stick with what you already know. But crossing specialty and industry lines to venture into unfamiliar territory can be an exciting and useful innovation tool. If you notice a gap needs filling in an area you know little about, try not to shy away from learning and exploring that need. Often times, people on the inside of a particular industry will not be able to see something that can be obvious to an outsider — so don’t be afraid to explore your surroundings.

3. Use Your “Weaknesses” as Innovation Inspiration
When Thomas Edison was 12, he lost much his hearing, according to historical records. Despite this perceived weakness, he went on to famously invent the phonograph — a device that could record sounds and play them back for the first time — at 29. Understanding your “weaknesses” may actually help you as a product designer, as it provides valuable insights on product gaps and audience needs, which especially rings true in the healthcare community. When you understand your own pain points as a healthcare patient and medical device consumer, your inventions will likely come across as authentic and competent, since there is already a clear need for them.

4. See the Big Picture
You may have the next big idea — but if you don’t know how your invention fits into the current market’s existing infrastructure, it may flop. Focus on the larger industry trends, both now and in the future, to draw your inspiration. If you’re unsure about where to start your ideation, evaluate medical device technology trends. For example, some of the biggest this year, according to MDT, are portable and battery-powered devices for emergency use, better technological security and tracking, a push to forge a more permanent presence in Asiana and Far Eastern economies, as well as elongated device lifecycles. Using these points as an impetus for future observations can help ignite the innovation process.

5. Create Your Own Opportunities
If you are full-time designer or healthcare worker, you may feel as though there is simply not enough time to innovate. But if you’re waiting for the “perfect time” to explore a possible invention idea, it will likely never happen. There are new and creative options that can help you bring your idea to life through funding and support — so don’t keep that great idea to yourself. From open innovation platforms, such as Unilever Global and Edison Nation Medical, to online crowdfunding sources, such as Spigit and Invested.in, you can have the resources and information needed to bring your ideas to life while still thriving your their day job.

6. Get Annoyed
When all else fails, nothing will motivate you to enact change quite like experiencing some annoyance. Pay careful attention to your feelings while in a hospital setting — if something doesn’t work the way it’s intended to, it can serve as inspiration for improving existing product offerings and better understand underserved niches. When you’re feeling the most stuck, the great need for innovation surfaces.

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