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How to Not Go Broke on Your Million Dollar Idea

How to Not Go Broke on Your Million Dollar Idea
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    Before you bet the bank on your next million dollar idea, you should do a reality check to see if the idea is worth it. People often fall in love with their ideas and as a result can experience tremendous pain if it turns out the idea is a bad one.

    Developing ideas into commercial successes is generally difficult work since there are many steps involved and the odds of success are not very high. You need to approach this with a process orientation and come at it with sufficient leadership skills and abilities to carry it though. Thinking in terms of getting rich on a one shot idea or expecting someone else to take the leadership initiative while you sit back and wait for a million dollar check to come in the mail will not work. That is something that people with inventoritis do. They almost always meet with poverty and its close companion – misery. On the other hand, people with good leadership abilities and skills who are teachable and follow sound marketing processes have a much greater chance of enjoying positive financial and career-enhancing experiences. Persistence counts and people who can pull this off tend to do so repeatedly. Famous American inventor Thomas Alva Edison was a master of developing ideas into commercial successes and died a rich and powerful man after a long prolific life. He cranked out over 1000 patented ideas, many of which were commercially successful.

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    We have prepared a list of questions you can use as a way to perform a reality check on your idea. It is intended to help you determine whether or not you actually have an idea that is worth something. If you are in a company, you want to know whether this is a career builder or a sure fire way to have the security people escort you from the property and demagnetize your company identification card. No lunch, no watch. If you are an inventor or entrepreneur looking for the million dollar check, you want to know this too so that you or your spouse does not end up having to take a part time job at Wal-Mart to help cover the losses. Anyone with inventoritis should make special note of the following 10 questions that will help you determine if your idea is worth pursuing:

    1. Can you explain your idea to someone within 5 minutes using no more than a single sheet of paper and a crayon as visual aids?
    2. Can you define your marketing strategy in 5 words or less?
    3. Do you know your 6 best potential customers twice as well as they know themselves?
    4. If someone stole your idea today, would you be willing to proceed anyway?
    5. Are you willing to proceed if it costs twice as much and takes three times as long as your presumably reasonable estimates suggest?
    6. Are you willing to sell it door to door if required?
    7. Is your idea media worthy? – Have you asked?
    8. Do you have a network of credible and qualified advisors who can help you through the process and to help assess things at various stages of the process?
    9. If it fails, can you afford the losses?
    10. Do you believe any of the following statements?

      “The idea will sell itself.”
      “Everyone will need this.”
      “There is no competition.”
      “I don’t have a problem letting go.”
      “No one can copy it.”
      “No one has thought of this.”
      “The marketing is no big deal.”
      “‘Insert big company name’ will pay millions for this.”
      “It’s not about the money.”

    If you do believe any of the above statements derived from a list of common lies told by inventors who are the best known group of people trying to turn ideas into money, you likely have inventoritis. If you have inventoritis then stop right now. Do not bug your boss. Do not go to the bank, family or friends to borrow any money. Get the condition treated first or you will fail.

    Assuming your idea passes the above reality check, then before launching into a whole bunch of expensive technical work into turning the idea into reality, do more up front marketing work. If the idea is for a product, find an inexpensive way to prepare some samples or mock-ups then conduct further customer prospect interviews, focus group sessions, surveys, test marketing trials and so on while observing customer behavior and developing the business case for your idea. As the business case develops, apply reasonable resources in a reasonable way toward developing the market in a profitable way. Do this whether you are selling the idea to a single customer for a simple check or moving toward a full blown multi-million dollar product launch. The process should be roughly the same.

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    If your idea fails these above tests, then move on knowing you haven’t bet the bank, risked your job prematurely or unduly stressed your personal relationships. This is not the same thing as giving up on your ideas. It is much better to kill something that doesn’t make sense than to have it kill you.

    Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa are co-founders of Atomica Creative Group, a specialized strategic product marketing firm. Through leading edge insight and research, sound strategic planning and effective project management, Atomica helps companies achieve greater success in bringing new products to market and in improving their existing businesses. They have co-authored Overcoming Inventoritis: Happy About® Not flushing Away Your Innovation Dollars now available.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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