Archive for the ‘Entrpreneurialism’ Category
When inventing a product it is important to track down the high quality feedback. Always Be open to
input all along the way, at every point in the invention process, you want to get open feedback from every member of your team. It is very easy to fall in love with your own invention (especially if you’re like me!) and fail to see something very obvious right in front of you. Make sure that you aren’t missing anything and that your reasoning stands up to scrutiny. This goes for your business plan as well as your product design and marketing materials. Track down the highest quality feedback you can find. Don’t be afraid to ask a high-powered individuals you meet at a trade show to be a part of your advisory board. I have found that people are flattered to be asked for advice, and it is a good way to gain access to other contacts. Make sure all your advisers understand the confidentiality of your invention project (and maybe sign Confidentiality Agreements). Don’t be defensive. Your goal is to win, not be “right”.
It is also important to note that when you ask people for feedback, they almost always come up with something. You are asking them to, so they feel obligated to contribute, whether or not they have a real improvement. At the end of the day, you need to take responsibility for the final reslults of your invention, so don’t let anyone talk you out of anything you feel strongly about. The invention still need to stay true to your vision. Of course, you need to be open to being wrong, as well, and willing to change in light of some quality input. It’s a fine line to walk as an inventor
Another form of feedback you’ll want to make sure you are getting is financial, both during the development stage and after you start generating revenue. Establish budgets for all of your invention activities and then compare your actual expenses (and incomes) to your projected expenses. That way you can make sure costs aren’t getting out of control and have guidelines to help you make decisions about what to spend money on and when. If you then decide to “break thebudget”, at least you know you are and have a good reason to do so.
The best invention ideas will come from personal experience. Look for products or tasks that annoy you and think about a better solution. Then, imagine more solutions to the same problem. I call this “problem-based inventing” as opposed to “solution-based inventing”. Most inventors come up with a particular solution to some problem and then fall in love with it. It’s their “million-dollar idea”. Consequently, when faced with evidence that their particular invention solution is not actually an economic opportunity, they ignore it out of their zeal rather than adjusting their vision to match the realities of the situation. Not every great idea is going to be a great money-maker, so be ready to adapt as you learn on your journey.
Test your idea in an imaginary scenario to determine if it has legs. Ask yourself: Can I really imagine people buying this invention? Who? At what cost? What stores? Next to what other products? You should be as conservative as you can be in answering these questions to avoid wasting money on a product that isn’t going to be easy to monetize. Niche products that appeal to small slices of the population can still be quite profitable (like my super-premium algae scrapers!) and the markets are usually easier to penetrate than mass-markets.
Think about your invention. If you are going to proceed, you want to work on a project within your means. How complicated is it? Does it require technology that doesn’t exist yet? Is it very expensive? If you haven’t done this before, it may be best to start with something smaller and simpler. Maybe you want to put the solar-powered airplane on hold (unless you’re that guy, in which case you know you are because you can’t NOT do it).
Next, test your idea with a few friends. You are looking for an instant “that’s awesome!” or “I NEED that!” or “Why didn’t I think of that!” “That sounds kinda cool,” is not the same thing. By the way, if it takes a long time to explain and your friends have a confused look on their faces, it might not be a great opportunity.
This morning, while walking on the beach in St. Croix with my wife and son, I came across a gentleman, Bruno, making a cool sand castle on the beach in from of his restaurant, Beachside Café, on the beach just outside of Frederiksted, as he does each day they are open. His castle was super cool and his style in making it was cool, too. He made the entire castle using a spade shovel, making quick, confident cuts with the shovel. He had first made a large pile of sand, and then starting cutting it away to reveal the castle, much like a stone sculptor. He started with the overall shape, and then began adding in details with the corner of the edge. He added windows, stairs, towers, and walls, each with a single, quick stroke. I stood and watched him for a while, admiring his work, before I approached him, complimented him, and asked him what his secret was. He replied that there was no secret really, just make each cut with confidence and understand that there are no mistakes. You can’t have final plan in mind, just work with it as it unfolds and don’t try to rework what you’ve already done. You’ll just mess it up. I told him that in fact, I thought his secret was one of the best I’d ever heard.
When I asked him for his secret, he immediately assumed I was looking for his “recipe”, and in since he made it different each day, he didn’t think he had anything to offer. What he did say, though, was much more useful than any series of steps. He gave me the mindset he uses. He gave me a glimpse of his perspective in approaching the project each day. A perspective gained from making hundreds of sand castles. If he had just told me what the actions were, the steps, to creating a sand castle, I would have walked away with a recipe for one castle, and probably not be able to reproduce it well, because I wouldn’t remember all the details. Instead, I feel like I could go out and make an awesome sand castle myself, with any number of possible looks, by applying his mindset of confident strokes, no mistakes, and no master plan, instead a master strategy. Combined with the technique I observed: sculpt by removing material, start big and then add detail, use single strokes, I have the real secret for making awesome sand castles.
Now, let’s take a moment to look at a few of the ways this applies to almost any other activity in life, including, of course, inventing. First, the “secret” to doing something with awesome results is rarely contained within the mere steps to get to the result. We look at people of great accomplishment and we like to ask, “how did they do that?”, “what were the steps they took to get there?”, “what do they know that I don’t know?”. But armed with the answers to these questions, gained by reading accounts of other people’s successes in biographies and magazines, never leads by itself to success. I recently read a detailed history of George Westinghouse during the advent of the electric lighting revolution. Westinghouse invented the pneumatic train brake in his early twenties and started a major corporation to produce them, prior to electrifying the United States. Knowing the steps he took doesn’t get me any closer to being able to make that kind of achievement!
The “secret” to awesome results, of course, is in how you view the world. The perspective that allows someone to see around a corner that no one else can, allows you to see opportunties that no one else can. It is also a certain perspective on the world that allows you to take action on the opportunties you see; a perspective that you can, through will and dedication, cause your vision to come to pass. It is a perspective as well, which allows you to see the correct approach to a task in order to achieve the best results. If someone can share this with you rather than just a series of steps, they are giving you something much more powerful and lasting. It’s the old “give a man a fish” story. It is for this reason I called my eBook “Inventor’s Mind”. Clearly, it is helpful to break things up into steps so information can be logically organized, but what is really important isn’t the actual steps, it is the mindset in approaching each one of them.
The last point I want to make, is that builidng sand castles, is of course, a beautiful metaphor for building our visions, whether an invention, a restaurant, or an insurance brokerage. They are all our dreams, and will ultimatley be washed away by time. What isn’t improtant is that they never wash away, but rather that we have the insight to reproduce a fresh one each time an old one’s time has come. And to get predictably awesome results by having the secret rather than the steps. Also, the specific secrets and techniques that Bruce gave to me apply to almost every endeavor: confident actions, no mistakes, a strategy rather than a plan, sculpt by removing, start big and then add detail, and short precise strokes.
I’m going to the beach now to play in the sand!
Chris is an inventor; he’s very informed in these matters because it has been his life’s work. From the age of 16 he has surrounded himself with gadgets, and opportunity to create and innovate in an industry. Now at the age of 36 he is creating an opportunity to share his knowledge with the rest of us, most importantly, the up and coming inventor, or just the average person with a great idea. The weekend before Chris and his family embarked on their latest adventure, he had a sit down with local entrepreneur and social networking guru, Lewis Howes (www.lewishowes.com) and brainstormed ways to create a product to give back to his following. We are currently in the baby step phase, but the end project will be an informational video that walks you through not only the steps, but also the mindset necessary to bring a product to market. I’m not saying that the process will become easy, but coupled with your drive and Chris’s wisdom, it will be a much smoother and less worrisome road.
The truth is that every successful invention project has a determined team behind it. Doing things by yourself can only get you so far, soon enough you will need the help of other people who have information specific to the things you are doing. This is where the video comes in, it will provide you with a knowledge and a process that has been perfected by Chris and his team, that will help to bring your product through the finish line. The final video is a ways off, however. So, the first step in our process is getting you some quick bits of information, informal videos of Chris explaining something that’s going on in the industry or something that relates to the invention process. The first of these will be rolling out soon, so keep your eyes open and remain open to all the opportunities out there that surround us.
P.S. a few videos here for you to check out, one of them is of Chris giving a quick talk about inventing, and the other video is from Stuart Jenkins a successful business man and one of Lewis Howes’ mentors.
Here is Chris’s inventor talk:
Here is the user guide video from Stuart Jenkins you will also like:
The last few days as I have been at CES, I have been hanging around a lot with my good friend Thomas Meyer of Sonos, my favorite technology company. I don’t say that lightly. They are truly my favorite. Thomas is maybe the most amazing connector I have ever met. He appears to love nothing more than introducing people who he thinks might like to know each other. And in the consumer electronics world, he knows seemingly everyone. He is like a guardian social angel for a large contingent of people at every CES, making sure everyone is having a good time, meeting good people, and getting into whatever parties they want to. I typically see him once a year, at CES, but I consider him a great friend.
As I hang out with Thomas, I meet lots of the Sonos people. Everyone I have met there projects a similar positive, passionate, obviously skillful vibe. Everyone of them is open and interested and interesting. They are all youthful (in attitude if not in years) and excited. Seeing this consistency made me realize how important choosing team members is to creating a company culture. You can intentionally try to create a culture, but picking the people who create the kind of culture you want is the only way to ensure that you’ll have what you want over time. And nothing is more important as the culture of the company, both in insuring that a company is going to be effective at accomplishing its goals and in making it a place where you want to spend your days.