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June 01, 2021

Step-by-step guide for inventing and innovating

What's an invention or innovative idea that you helped to develop and what steps did you take to develop it?

 

Dan Gallagher, VP-Risk Manager, BMO Harris Bank N.A.  

I realized a potential solution for using an existing door to a shed that only opened inward. My first step was to think and reflect. It was upon reflecting that I realized the door could be used by flipping it over and adding new brackets to make the door open outward.
 
One of the steps I took included asking my daughter for her view as she was a stage crew leader for high school musicals and plays. We discussed the goal, measured the door for inward/outward swing, and searched for potential new brackets that were secure and strong. Collaboration and listening were the key steps!
Faiz Bhatia, Project Manager, Stantec Consulting Ltd.

Working with the City of Toronto, I helped to develop a tool to rank which flooding improvement projects should proceed to construction. The tool included technical components, such as how much the project would improve the community versus its cost. It also considered the vulnerability of the community (measured by marginalization index) and risk of exposure to flooding.
 
The development of such a tool involved communication and collaboration with the team, reading up on supporting materials to understand the goals and impacts, and of course a lot of trial and error. The result was an easy-to-use pilot tool for the City of Toronto's internal use in allocating budget towards the most critical projects.
Caleigh Silmser, Senior Manager, Brand, Cadillac Fairview

I created an online library of marketing materials for our leasing team to use anytime they wanted to pitch a new retail client. This approach was innovative because previously they had to download and store these files on their computer. They would be out of date every month when the data was updated.
 
To develop the library, I first interviewed the leasing (sales) team to understand their needs and what they would want if they could wave a magic wand – the best question to ask someone when innovating!
 
I then worked with people in the company who had experience building this type of microsites and got their advice on how to approach it. Then I developed all the materials with a design team, built the site, and launched it to the team.
Apurva Kumar, Security Researcher, Lookout

I re-purposed an old wheelchair to make a wheelbarrow. I wanted to help carry heavy items and dirt from one end of my house to the other and my neighbour had an old electric wheelchair he was throwing away.
 
A wheelchair already has wheels and a powerful motor –I just had to buy a new battery and connect a remote control and I had an awesome electric wheelbarrow as well as lots of fun driving my friends around the neighbourhood on it!
Bryan Solan, Staff Software Engineer, Lookout

I have a patent pending for a method in online teleconferences to bring the attention of your audience to the relevant part of the picture by allowing them to see where your mouse pointer is.

This came from thinking about how in-person presentations are better because the audience can see where the presenter is bringing attention to certain details, maybe with a laser pointer. Then I wondered about how we could bring that advantage to teleconferences.

Patents and inventions are usually incremental: they build on things other people have already invented, often by wondering how existing solutions might be applied in new ways to solve today’s problems.
Ashley Vogeli, Director, Strategic Communications, CPP Investments

I've been able to think outside the box for fundraising in the past to drive results. We were able to donate over 50,000 books from a book sale in Calgary to kids in the Philippines. We looked beyond our local community for a location that wanted these resources that would otherwise be recycled here in Canada.
Kristina Balaam, Senior Security Intelligence Engineer, Lookout
 
As a software engineer, I'm often tasked with finding ways to simplify a process or find an answer to a problem using code. The best way I've found to approach implementing an idea that will solve a problem is to break it into bite-sized pieces and address each piece individually. This can help you find areas of the problem you didn't consider, and it helps make the development of the solution feel less overwhelming.
 
I always start by writing out some structure or outline for the solution and work my way through implementing each part of it until I have something that works. From there, I can go back and review my work and decide which areas I can improve upon.
Lalet Scaria, Software Developer, Lookout

During my high school years, as part of science exhibition, a friend of mine and I created a water quality detector which could be made for under $2. It could detect and inform the user if the water is drinkable or not.
Natalie Selfe, Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Intern, Deloitte

I used to work at a children's hospital and was placed in charge of a fundraising initiative. The campaign encouraged youth and families to host lemonade stands, but I decided I wanted even more lemonade stands. So I asked around local high schools to see if they were willing to host a "Lemonade for Possibility" stand. Lots of teachers and students were interested, and they even hosted fun fairs in honour of the hospital.

To make this plan work I made a tracking chart with a timeline to help each school make sure they had the correct supplies and were marketing the event to their local communities. Once the event was done I used the tracking sheet to measure each school's achievements. This was a great way for the hospital to build new connections in the community!

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Examples of awesome innovations from Inventor Mentors during 2021’s National Invention Convention.
Q&A with BMO’s Inventor Mentors
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