I thought we might take some time to wonder what exactly is innovation and how does it apply to you.
First, let’s say up front that innovation affects every one of you reading this.
A good definition is that innovation is anything that is new and useful. You have to have all three of these words because something new that is not useful is, well, useless. And something useful but not new is not innovation. Innovation has three components — the three I’s — so let’s look at each one.
Idea. Innovation starts with having an idea. If you have ever watched the show “PitchMen” on the Discovery channel you have seen a lot of ideas. When we think of the word “idea,” we see in our minds this picture of a light bulb burning bright above people’s heads as they have had that eureka moment, and come up with the next big idea that is going to solve the world’s problems.
In reality, most ideas and especially great ideas come from someone who has experienced or seen a problem and wondered if there is a better way. This leads to some creativity cells in the brain that begin firing and next thing you know, you have an idea for the better way. Everyone has ideas, some good and some bad, but all of us at one time have said, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Or even worse, “I had that idea 10 years ago.” The difference is that we either didn’t bother wondering if there is a better way, or we didn’t think that our idea was any good or that we could do anything with it.
Invention. Once you have an idea you have to take it to the next level and create your invention. In other words, you create a prototype. There is a lot that goes into this step.
The first is obvious. We build something. Prototypes take several steps, however. The first is to develop a model. This is the ugly version that doesn’t work or often resemble in any way the final product. But it helps us evaluate if our idea is even feasible. We determine if this will work as intended, whether we can produce it, what the problems are that need to be addressed. Is this something that can be patented? You can look on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (ustopo.gov) or Google patent search.
Is there anything else out there like it? You also look at questions like, such as does this meet a market demand or solve a problem?
Could this make money?
Who will buy this and for how much? How much will it cost me to make?
Next you build a working prototype that represents the final product, and you complete a marketing plan and business plan. Finally you make a final production prototype and test the performance.
Implementation. This is where you take the idea you had, take the invention that you created, or your production prototype, and launch into a business.
Here you make sales and grow a business. You follow the road map you prepared in your business and marketing plans and see the fruition of the idea you had.
We can see now that this is a lot of work.
I am reminded of Thomas Edison’s famous remark that “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
The myth that if you build it they will come is just that _ a myth. Creating and selling a product and getting it into the marketplace is a lot of work, and many fail.
It is important to remember, however, that even if you fail, you learn so much in the process that your chances of success with your next idea increase because you have improved your learning curve.
Remember also that there is a lot of great help out there for you as well. Next time we are going to talk more about innovation and how it applies to you.
Loretta Daniel is director of the Murray State University Regional Business and Innovation Center. She can be contacted at 270-809-6071 or email@example.com.