Did you just come up with a great idea? What do you do next?
Myra Per-Lee developed, manufactured, and marketed about a dozen products in a ten year period, most on her own with very little start-up capital. The most successful of her inventions, massage tools for adults, animals and infants, known as Nukkles®, Nuzzles®, and Snukkles®, is still going strong after eight years on the market. Myra lets us in on the secret of what to do after you've come up with the next best idea.
Here's her article:
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When you get a brilliant idea for a new product, don't you wish you could just write it down and drop it into Wal-Mart's suggestion box and, then in a week, receive a big fat check? Boy, I do!
I have a colleague, though, who is fond of reminding me that "ideas are cheap." This comment is always meant to burst my bubble when I've come up with something simply smashing. But, bottom line, he's right; very few companies pay for ideas. Most of them just pay for your proven, marketable, hot product! So, let's get going....
You're excited about an idea, but you don't know if it's a good one, and you don't have a clue what to do with it if it is a good one!
Let's explore. For today, we'll cover three steps in the exploratory process that you should conduct, even if you have the opportunity to sell just your idea. (Oh, how I envy you!)
1. Draw Your Product.
Diagram and describe your product, keeping all your creativity channels open. Draw your vision of the idea before you conduct a product search, so that you don't limit your originality. Graph paper can help the dimensionally-impaired draw their products in relative perspective.
Make drawings from all angles with as many details as you can. I recommend you keep all diagrams, descriptions, and research in one notebook and date each entry, because you will be expanding your product vision as you get more information. And, if your idea is ever challenged (for example, someone accuses you of stealing his or her idea), the notebook can serve as chronology of your creative process.
2. Describe Your Product.
Write a description of your product as an entry in your notebook. What does your product do? What problem(s) does it solve? How does it function, and how does the design contribute to its function? What materials are used to make it? How are they manufactured?
Answer as many of the questions as you can. Don't worry if you don't know all the answers; if you decide to pursue your idea further, you will find people who know the answers. I don't know how to magnetize my walls. I don't even know if that's such a good idea; I mean, imagine the possible results! But if I really wanted to pursue that idea, I would find the experts in that field and work out some sort of agreement with them. (By the way, this idea is a give-away, if anyone is interested in pursuing it. Hint: magnetic spray for tiled and cement walls.)
Have you seen anything like your product on the market? Something designed differently, but used for the same function? How and why does your idea work better? Does it do more things? Realistically, even if you have not yet conducted an active product search, you may already be familiar with products that are functionally or visually similar to yours.
For example, when I got the idea for a new backscratcher, I already knew about one, the little "hand on a stick." In comparing my idea to the hand on a stick, I recorded that my backscratcher would feel like real fingernails, scratch in all directions, and have an ergonomically designed handle to enable more pressure to the middle of one's back. My drawing also showed these features.
Once you have diagramed and described your idea, it's perfectly all right to go look for it. So... let's go shopping!