Tips for inventors

Do companies want your invention?

It's true! This is an ideal time to come up with a new product. Because of recent recessions, large and mid-size companies have cut back or cut out their research and development departments. However, the public's search for newer and better products still marches on. For a company to be competitive in today's marketplace, they must continually introduce new products. Now, more than ever, manufacturers are looking at products from the "outside" In this new global economy, thousands of companies are relying more on ideas and designs created outside of the company. This practice, referred to as "open innovation", this has created a unique opportunity for us with new ideas and Inventions. Global Fortune 500 companies such as Apple, Google, Proctor and Gamble, Black & Decker, General Mills and many others are seeking new, unique product ideas.


Do you have what is takes to be an inventor?

You are among a unique and special segment of our population who dares to do
something about your dreams and ideas rather than just think about them. Congratulations! You've already taken the hardest step. The first one! Every product you see in stores in catalogs and on TV started in the same location – someone's mind! A person who comes up with a new product idea is no different than anyone else. They're not necessarily smarter or more creative or trained in engineering.

Product developers are simply trained to look at things in a different way, and you can do it too. It's not hard, it's just different. A product developer is a person who asks "Why," a person who says "What if…," a person who "zigs" while others "zag", a person who is not satisfied with the status quo.
As a freshman design student, one of my product development teachers asked us, "How did you arrive to class today?"

We were puzzled by his question – but someone finally said "We walked in," to which the teacher replied "Fine. Tomorrow I want you to come in some other way." Needless to say, the next day was quite interesting: students rolled in, skated in, flew in, one male student came in wearing an open lab coat with nothing on underneath. One student rode in on a Harley Davidson motorcycle! This was the beginning of our training to see things differently.



Where do New Product Ideas Come From?

Ideas for new products are all around us. They emerge as the needs of individuals
change and grow. Needs change according to the changing trends in society. At times, new product ideas come from not being satisfied with things as they are. If you have the desire to make the world more to your liking, then the source for your best ideas will probably be those areas you want to improve.

For example: As the number of working mothers has grown, the need for better child care and products for entertaining and educating young children has grown. A second example is the changing attitude about cigarette smoking. As people become more aware of the negative effects of cigarette smoke in the air, the need for air purifiers and even a "smokeless ashtray" has arisen.


Your product idea will come from something that you care about. Maybe you're a golfer and can create a new tool to help improve your swing accuracy. Maybe you like to be organized and have an idea for a new way to organize your tools, your accessories or your clothing.

Your idea should fill a legitimate need Every successful product does. Even the "Pet Rock" filled a need. The creative packaging and clever instructions for caring for the Pet Rock were funny enough that people were willing to pay $5.00 to add some laughter and happiness to a friend's life. In reality, all products are nothing more then organized bits of plastic, metal or electronic components. These components represent a small fraction of the final cost of the product (about 20%). People pay the retail price for a product when the perceived benefits equal or exceed the price tag.

Your new product idea should be something you really love and are excited about. It takes a lot of persistence and time to carry your product from concept to a salable product and if you don't love the product, this adventure could turn into another unpleasant task rather than the exciting journey which it should be. If you love fishing, come up with a fishing product. If you love cats, come up with a pet care product. If you love to cook, come up with a new cooking utensil. Chances are that because you're thinking about a product in an area you love or have experience in, you will have the necessary knowledge of what is already available in that area.

Still, it is wise to do a thorough check of what is available already in your product area. How much does it cost? Where is it sold? New product ideas are in the air waiting for an alert individual to tune into them. The individuals who tune in to these ideas are the ones who are bold enough to ask, "Why does it have to be this way?", "Why can't it be MY way!?"



11 Ways to Inspire a Successful New Product Idea


1. Being dissatisfied with the way something works.

2. Being an "expert" in an area and seeing a need for something new that helps make a job easier.

3. Listening to others describe their problems.

4. Starting a sentence with "wouldn't it be great if…"

5. Being aware of changing trends in society.

6. Ask your kid what the latest fad is and try to capitalize on it.

7. Visit a foreign country and see if you can adapt from an unusual product you find there.

8. Remember what you use to love to do as a kid and think of a related product.

9. Go to a crafts show – see what people are buying most. Design a consumer product around it.

10. Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Center yourself; ask for a new product idea to manifest.

11. Mix and Match characteristics of products to combine and create a new one.


Thirteen Traits of a Successful Product


1. UNIQUE FEATURE IS PATENTABLE AND EXCITING
There are thousands of products out there competing for the consumer's dollar. Your product needs to be unique and exciting. It should illicit the response. "Gee whiz, that's really neat, I've got to have one…".

2. FILLS A REAL NEED
Even a whimsical product fills a need - which is the need to have laughter and fun in our lives. Think carefully about what need you are filling and make sure you fill it in the best way you know how.

3. MANUFACTURABLE – NO MAJOR MYSTERIES TO SOLVE
One of my clients came in with the idea of a cordless lamp that would light up a room and work by remote control. Well, the remote control part is easy enough, but the cordless part is tough. Lamps need quite a bit of electricity which means you would need a huge rechargeable battery. These are quite costly and make the manufacturing of this product infeasible to produce at a reasonable price. Even if the product is great, the manufacturer will ultimately make the decision if they want to license your idea. If it is too costly for them to mass produce and tool up, they will most likely decline your idea. Think in the mindset of the manufacturer and what they have to do to produce your product.


4. PEOPLE LOVE THE WAY IT LOOKS
The product should have sex appeal. Someone should be proud to order it and display it, rather than embarrassed.

5. PEOPLE LOVE THE WAY IT WORKS
The physical use of the product should be safe and easy. People should not be frustrated while using the product.

6. FILLS A PSYCHOLOGICAL NEED
There should be a feeling of satisfaction when using the product and there should be a strong justification factor when the consumer is considering the purchase of your product. There should be a definite way that this product will improve the consumer's life.

7. EASY TO UNDERSTAND
A person should be able to look at the product and, at the most, read one short sentence about the product to know exactly what the product is and what it does. If it takes 10 minutes to explain how the product performs, you will probably need a huge marketing budget to educate the public on the benefits of your product.

8. BORROWS SOPHISTICATED PARTS FROM ALREADY EXISTING TECHNOLOGY TO FILL A NEW NEED
The Piezo Electric Transducer was developed originally to act as a simple signal device or buzzer. There's one in every electric alarm clock and some smoke alarms. Someone took this new piece of technology and applied an ultra high frequency to the transducer and discovered that it drove away rodents and other unwanted pest. So… and exciting technology, when used in a new way, gave birth to a new product – The Ultra Sonic Pest Eliminator.

9. BUILDS TRAFFIC IN STORE
Store buyers are always looking for new products to attract people to their store. A new Housewares product may get the consumer to go into the Housewares Department where they will not only see the new product, but other standard products which they may also decide to purchase.

10. NO MAJOR SAFETY PROBLEMS
The whole country has become "Lawsuit Crazy." And these days, lawsuits are filed for the most trivial reasons. If your product has the potential to hurt someone or - even worse – kill someone, if not used properly, then you should get legal council about the consequences of making such a product. It is crucial to then follow all the safety rules governing the manufacturing of such a product. And last, but not least, you may want to check out the cost of product liability insurance.

11. GREAT PRICE TO VALUE RATIO
The second thing consumers do after looking at a product and saying, "Hey, that's neat," is to look at the price. The price should be equal to the value that the consumer sees in the product. If the price is higher than the perceived value, they will put the product down. (Sometimes, in more ways than one!) If the price is lower than the perceived value, that person may feel suspicious and think the product was cheaply made and will not last.

12. GREAT GIFT
50% of retail sales take place around the Christmas season. Your product should be appealing and glamorous enough to be given as a gift. Attractive packaging can make all the difference in the world.

13. GREAT DEMONSTRATION PRODUCT
More and more products are being sold on T.V. through one, two and thirty minute infomercials. It's a plus if your product produces some dramatic results or has an interesting action and, at the same time, can be appealing to a large segment of the television viewing population.