Ever think of a solution to a difficult problem when you were in the shower? If so, you are a Zen inventor. Zen invention is the art of solving a problem with your unconscious mind. As a patent lawyer, I have seen hundreds of inventions walk through my door. I can tell immediately, whether the invention is a result of Zen invention or brute application of technology. Zen inventions are just more . . . beautiful.
Invention is something different than technology. Technology is the past. Invention is the future. Technology is science. Invention is art. The paradox is that without technology, invention cannot exist and vice versa. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. You encounter a problem and set about to discover a solution. It is not until you encounter a problem that the Zen of invention becomes critical.
Say a lug nut on your car sticks. You arrived at the problem using known technology. You used a lug wrench for the other four lug nuts and it worked just fine. You figure, therefore, that since known technology got you through similar situations, it will work in this situation. You compile all of the known facts, prioritize them, access your complete store of knowledge and then proceed to apply the knowledge to the prioritized facts to solve the problem.
Unfortunately, the harder you force this process, the more frustrated you become. What you need to do is think like an inventor. Think of technology as a jet fighter. Think of invention as the shock wave in front of the jet fighter. If you isolate the jet fighter and try to find the invention, it is not there. It is only when the jet fighter is moving that you can access the invention. Invention is not static.
The Zen of invention involves using an unconscious analysis and unconventional approaches to examine a problem from a fresh angle. The more you are able to isolate the problem from your warehouse of knowledge, the more likely you will be able to solve the problem with your unconscious mind. Simply look at the problem without prioritizing facts or systematically accessing known technology. Strip the problem from the surrounding environment and put it into your subconscious mind. Do not think, empty your thoughts and facilitate a stream of consciousness. Zen invention brings many solutions, even if they often appear quite ridiculous.
The advantage of bringing the shockwave of your unconscious mind to bear on problems, rather than the jet fighter of your knowledge, is that the solutions provided by your unconscious mind have an inner beauty that others will recognize and appreciate with their own unconsciousness. The next time you run into a technical problem, think like an inventor. Instead of trying to force a round peg through a square hole, sit back, take a deep breath, empty your mind and let the solution come to you.