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Turning a good idea into a successful innovation requires the glass to be full. A half full glass simply isn’t enough. There are many things involved in bringing a product to market successfully or turning an idea into reality and each one of them needs to be right, or at least close enough. The innovator starts the process with a set of resources and draws upon them until the idea, product or invention “sells”. This innovation process is like starting with a full glass that has holes in the bottom of it. The challenge is to find ways to plug the leaks before the glass drains completely and then make the glass overflow. Here are 5 ways to profit from good ideas.

  1. Assume your idea is terrible. Assuming an idea is terrible can be quite liberating. This is not the same as not believing in what you are doing and it is not about being negative. On the contrary, it is about changing the frame of reference to give due consideration to the real operating conditions. Consider the advantage of having accurate maps and a compass to navigate from one place to another rather than a ball of string and a vague idea. Having an accurate understanding of the conditions has its advantages. It prevents people and companies from squandering resources on dead ends or irrelevant excursions. Anyone moving forward who is positive, highly motivated and well equipped with accurate, relevant information and sound plans becomes virtually unstoppable. Eliminating the tendency to rely on untested assumptions can be done by simply assuming a product or idea is a terrible one and then taking steps toward making it better.
  2. Know your customer, industry and business well enough to publish a book. Writing is a process that distills thought. Corporate innovators are often asked to prepare detailed plans. Companies employ a variety of planning tools and they can be tremendous aids in working through the necessary thought processes. Everyone seeking funding who has approached professional finance people to get a project financed is aware that he or she is expected to come with a written business plan. The thought process that goes into the writing is more important than the document itself.
  3. Steal from others and let others steal from you. Copy, copy, copy. Originality is overrated. The advantages of duplication over originality are numerous. Something that has already become tried and true is just that: tried and true. That decreases the risk and uncertainty considerably. Duplicating something is less costly than producing an original. Something that has been in use has likely had a lot of the bugs knocked out of it and has already become perceived as useful and acceptable. For manufactured products, it is almost always less risky, faster, cheaper and easier to incorporate an existing part already in production than to design and make an original.
  4. Create a powerful network of outside advisors. The importance and value of having a powerful network of outside advisors cannot be overstated. Famous inventor Thomas Edison surrounded himself with the most powerful people in the world. He needed a great deal of help to develop his grand visions so he went to whatever lengths were needed to get that help. As an example of an Edison gathering, he had United States President Herbert Hoover, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone at his 82nd birthday party in Fort Myers, Florida on February 11, 1929. Successful people are usually more than happy to share constructive insights and where appropriate will exercise candor if something seems off.
  5. Involve and embrace passionate customers in the development and marketing processes. For most types of innovations, there are ways to actively engage end embrace passionate leading customers in the development and marketing processes. This can happen at an early stage or long after a product or service has matured. Bringing customers in close can be a tremendous aid to the innovation process. Innovators would be remiss if they did not consider this approach.

The above 5 ways are intended for those who are interested in achieving commercial success and maximizing profits from their ideas. There are many settings where making money is not a primary or relevant concern where these ways can still become quite useful. University researchers striving to gain a deeper understanding of our universe and natural laws are among those can benefit. Hobbyists and part-time practitioners can likewise apply them to their particular circumstances as they work toward meeting their project goals. It is not an all or nothing proposition. The key is to use them wherever they make sense to incrementally increase the success rates for turning ideas and inventions into successful innovations, however success is defined.

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