To my great joy, I get to work with extremely creative people day in and day out. Some of them are nearly bursting at the seams with ideas for new products. Life’s little inconveniences don’t annoy them so much as kicking off another new train of thought. How could that be improved? How could this be made better?
I’m excited for them. But I also notice their list of potential projects growing longer and longer. When you’ve made the effort to strengthen your creative muscle to the point when you’re firing on all cylinders, narrowing your focus can become challenging. Which project do you pick first? How do you get started? These are important questions. In fact, if you want to become a product developer, they have everything to do with your success.
A lot of people are motivated to focus on projects they feel the greatest emotional connection to first. There are some benefits to that -- namely, the motivation to keep at it after the going gets tough. But passion can also cloud objectivity. It can lead to less than sound decision-making.
Like you, I love all my ideas. But I know the best question to be asking is, which idea makes the most sense? This is especially true when you’re new to the process of bringing a product to market.
I suggest taking an analytical approach. Some ideas are easier to develop than others. It really is that simple. So, put your feelings aside and consider the facts.
1. How challenging is the category?
Some industries innovate quickly. Others are dinosaurs. Some require more institutional insight than others. What are some easier categories of products? Housewares, hardware and pets are all innovation-friendly, to name a few. When just a few companies dominate a market, that’s problematic, because there isn’t much of an incentive to innovate. They’re hard to break into.
2. Is there an obvious need for your solution in the marketplace?
Most people are motivated to invent based on personal experience. But our personal experiences are far from universal. You need to know that other consumers -- a lot of them -- desire a similar solution. When you focus on improving existing products, you eliminate the need to wonder.
So when an inventor tells me, “There’s nothing else like my idea out there!” I cringe, not celebrate. That’s a red flag. Check out what other stores are selling. Read reviews on Amazon. What do consumers wish were different? What are they really looking for?
Winning ideas have a big and obvious benefit to consumers. Does yours? What are customers really getting? Hone in on the big benefit of your innovation. Is it compelling enough? And importantly, can you condense it into just a sentence? You won’t have much time to grip people -- and education campaigns are costly.
3. Can it be manufactured using existing technology?
You need to know. inventRight coach Terry O’Mara explains.
“The first product I chose to work on seemed simple enough -- it was made out of plastic, it already existed within marketplace. And yet part of what was needed to bring mine to fruition, well, not very many companies in the space were using the mold yet. Molds, I learned, are very expensive to bring about. It was going to be very expensive to make it happen, in other words. In fact a lot of companies I expected would be able to produce it didn’t possess the type of manufacturing equipment necessary. I battled hard to make happen. And I still haven’t given up, but….”
4. Consider how much you enjoy the category as a whole.
Is it one you see yourself continuing to invent for? If you stick to one industry, in time, you’ll develop a network of invaluable contacts. You’ll be able to get feedback on your ideas quickly, which can be extremely beneficial.
Your hard work will pay dividends if you choose a good project. So please, strive to eliminate projects that are clearly going to be more difficult upfront. The further along this process you get, the more you’ll learn. And really, that’s priceless.