As an inventor, you live a conflicted life.
On the one hand, in order to see your idea come to fruition, you must have a real passion for it. On the other hand, you can’t be married to a single approach on how to get there.
Let me explain.
At ExxonMobil, I am a wandering inventor, roaming the business for problems to solve and ways to help employees work smarter and safer. It’s a great gig, and I love coming to work in the morning, because as a self-proclaimed techie, I get to ask new questions, push capabilities and challenge the way things are done.
I am part inventor, part instigator, and I work on projects that will have the biggest benefit for those around me and across the globe.
For example, I have developed an acoustic monitoring system that better alerts personnel of emission leaks at refineries and other facilities – a solution that can have a lasting impact on the environment and our business. I also developed a helmet that can measure heart rate and oxygen levels of cells in the body as employees work in our manufacturing facilities.
But, from whiteboard to pilot testing to installation, the process of inventing is an exercise of being devoted to the cause while remaining objective when problem solving. You may think your way is the answer, but if you’re wearing blinders to other solutions, you’ll delay or even submarine that invention.
To me, being overly committed to what should work ignores the avenues that lead to what may work. During these sometimes torturous days (or weeks, or months) of testing what’s possible, an inventor must be able to step back, reassess and pivot to a new way of thinking.
It’s easier said than done, frankly, because you’ve invested so much time and energy to something that has consumed your professional (and sometimes personal) life.
And, while I may have a unique position as a wandering inventor, I find that same balance of passion and discipline throughout the halls of ExxonMobil, as my colleagues devote themselves to finding new ways to deliver tomorrow’s energy.
In the end, you can’t succeed if you’re forcing ideas to work, no matter how much passion you have for them.