What exactly is step one to inventing?....good question. And I’m sure if you polled 100 professionals all 100 of us would give you a different answer. So let me see if I can wrap my mind around what my step one would be.
I’m thinking…..still thinking….OK, got it!
Step #1. Understanding. Yep, that’s it. “Understanding”. But what does that mean?
I think what I’m saying is you have to take some time to understand the industry (and yes, inventing is an industry) We often think of inventing as the art of getting a product on a store shelf, but it’s not really. It’s just one part of that journey and it’s important to understand that the process can be broken down into a few fundamental steps.
Inventing, Product Development and Distribution - So, in an effort to “Understand” let’s take a quick tour of the basics-
Inventing: Welcome to Inventing ladies and gentlemen, or should I say inventors? Your eyes are not playing tricks on you; this is your garage, your basement, and your kitchen table. You have just entered the world of ideation and front line problem solving.
You have that great idea on your way home from work. You jot it down in your trusty inventors notebook, and the first chance you get you start to hobble together the parts needed to make a basic version of what was in your head. This basic prototyping effort is all about proof – proof, that what you see in your mind can be transformed into reality, and function the way you claimed.
Product Development: Ladies and gentleman you have just left invention and are now entering Product Development – please watch your step!
In this stage, we’re taking that now proven invention and we’re starting to evaluate it for its market viability. After all, let’s not forget this is a business, and we want to make money. Not all inventions have market viability – in fact, most do not. Like climbing a hill, the road gets harder as we are forced to traverse each barrier on the product development journey. Barriers like, understanding the category, Intellectual property, manufacturing processes, packaging, branding, cost to manufacture –vs- cost to retail –vs- market value. These are the planets that must be lined up in order for that invention you worked so hard on to ever see the light of a store shelf.
Distribution: Welcome to distribution. I see looking around the group has gotten much smaller, in fact there appears to be only a few of you left. Not surprising, it happens every tour.
As I said, this I distribution, it’s actually broken down into several parts. Import and Fulfillment, Marketing, and Sales. In distribution we take the invention that some of you were able to turn into market viable products, and we ‘Distribute” them to retailers. It’s sounds pretty easy, but in fact it’s one of the hardest parts of the process. We have to bring those products in from the factories, through the physical inventory systems, at the same time we have to set them into the category and at a price the retailers will accept, and then we have to get to those retailers and convince them they can’t live without your invention. …not so easy, and yes, several of you will not survive.
So to me “Step #1” is all about understanding – even if all you want to do is license your invention to a manufacturer - if you know how the processes they have to go through work, you are much more likely to be able to invent to them.
If you want to take your invention to market yourself, you have to understand the steps from start to finish or you will never get there