Are you suffering from Inventoritis? Test your innovation skills?

May 16, 2012

Chris Pinter

A classic definition of an inventoritis is a person who “Frequently wastes his time and his money trying to extend his invention to uses for which it is not suitable.” Henry Ford (Founder of the Ford Motor Company.)[1]

So… How does an inventor become an inventoritis. It is simple. So simple in fact it is hard to avoid slipping into this comfortable state. It all starts when the inventor wants to create a new invention. Many if not most inventors look at invention from the point of view “What can I build that will make money?” and generally once the focus is on this question the inventor fails to answer the questions “ What does the market need?”

It is not easy developing an idea that is innovative and so many inventors will only focus on aspects of the project in which there have experience and which they love the most, which is creating the invention. The market research that proves the need for the invention is often given curser attention; which is just enough to be able to answer superficial questions about who will actually use the invention. Many times the level of understanding about the need is an intuitive one based on what is believed to be “common sense”. Little research is done understanding the target audience and developing a verifiable unique value proposition.

This puts the inventor in a very safe place and provides him the level of confidence needed in order to overcome the technical walls that will confront the inventor as the idea is developed. Failing to investigate the market need allows the inventor to remain blissfully ignorant of the reality of who will actually buy the invention. Instead the inventor relies on the picture he has painted himself on the market potential.

Now lets be fair to the poor self-delusional inventor. He is motivated to succeed. He wants to make the invention work. So when looking at the market the questions are often asked from the point of view as to how to justify the cost of developing the invention. I know this to be true because I myself have falling into this comfortable trap. I have learnt the hard way that building a product based on a dream is not the smart way to go. Now that I am focused on helping others overcome this nasty trap I can see a lot of my clients fall in as if diving into a tropical swimming pool. I find it easier to see the faults of others ideas because of an obvious observation of my position. I am not emotionally attached to the innovation that my clients hold so dear.

There are a couple of tell tail signs that will help you self diagnose if you are comfortably setting into the inventoritis mentality. Here is a quick test.

1. Are you building a Better Mouse Trap? Are you looking to improve something that is already on the market? The mindset here is a focus on the fact that the product is not already on the market and it should be because you might have needed it at one time or another. Maybe you have identified a hole in the market based on a technology void rather then a market need or maybe you have identified new technology (often promoted by an IC manufacture) that could provide the same level of service as something already on the market.

2. Poor knowledge of the Target Audience – A cursor understanding of the market based on the inventor’s knowledge of the market is not good enough. Even talking to 5 to 10 close friends is not enough information to truly understand the target audience. Most inventors have a technical background and probably do not understand how to do market research. If you cannot answer marketing questions with knowledge from data obtained from surveys, focus groups or polled data you do not understand the market well enough. Consider asking questions such as. Do you know your target audience well enough to write a book? What motivates them to buy? How much would they be willing to spend? Where would they buy? Will the target audience still want to buy at this price point when the development is complete in 6 months, 2 years or more?

3. Poor Business Model – Many new business people will look at the sale as the way of making money. There are many other ways of improving revenue and value to the business other than just the sale of the initial product. If you have a high in the sky view of your target audience without a clear road map as to how to get there or you have a weak understanding how others will make money selling your product you will find it hard to penetrate a competitive market place or find space on the shelf. Don’t forget distributors and sales people want to make money too.

4. Developing in Isolation – If keeping your idea secret is more important than learning about what others think of your idea than you are most definitely suffering. You need to continuously communicate with people in order to learn about the need for the product, resources to help you develop the product and build relationships to help you build a business.

5. Rejecting Criticism – If you find you are always justifying your position and explaining yourself to others who point out inconsistencies, lack of market knowledge on your part or you are regularly avoiding questions you do not know the answer to than you are too attached to the invention and likely avoiding answering questions because of lack of know how in obtaining the answers or unwillingness to accept a negative consequence as a result of the answer. It is important to take all criticism seriously and follow up on suggestions to get a complete understanding of the direction of the project and the needs of the target audience.

6. Lack of Support – If you find that everyone around you questions your idea or does not share in your vision you need to understand why? It could be they do not like you…(ya like your mother does not love you.)… Or they do care and are attempting to tell you this idea is bad or you are not capable. If you are finding that people like your idea well enough but are unwilling to support you than it is possible they do not trust you or they lack confidence in your abilities to follow through with the project. It is very important to keep relationship strong, active and be honest with others in order to gain support when you need it most.

Chris Pinter’s 10 Anti–inventoritis Keys to Success

I have found these 10 points have helped me and many others overcome or avoid inventoritis.

1. Assume all of your ideas are horrible.
2. Know your industry and target market well.
3. Understand your business model and develop a leveraged based money strategy.
4. Build a network of trusted outside advisors whose opinions you value and ask their opinions often.
5. Build solid communication between marketing, engineering and sales.
6. Leverage your resources to the max. Gain as much support as possible.
7. Be willing to share your vision by sharing company ownership.
                      Ownership = Motivated Staff
8. Commit to constant improvement. Be prepared to be proven wrong.
9. Lead by process and give up control to competent leaders.
10. Maintain bi-direction communication with your customers. Involve passionate customers in the development of new innovation.

[1] Overcoming inventoritis, the silent killer of innovation Roosen and Nakagowa, Happy About info © 2008 …Buy the book Here.

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