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5 Ways to Profit from Good Ideas

5 Ways to Profit from Good Ideas
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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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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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