History is littered with complex and ingenious solutions to problems nobody was trying to solve. Ultimately, the brilliance of your invention is completely pointless if there is no market for it. Most markets are already saturated with products, so coming up with something unique that at least hasn’t been attempted before is very unlikely. However, technology and materials have moved on, and a perceptive inventor can always come up with better solutions.
Often, the most successful inventions are a simple variation on an existing idea or a combination of existing tools to simplify a process or task. In fact, some of the most impactful inventions of all time are simple. Consider the wheel, the pen, or a chair. Who was the first person to add a cushion to a chair? Who used the concept of the chair to create the first armchair?
Considering these questions, and examining the numerous variations of each product highlights how inventions evolve. Just because something already exists doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for an improved version. Why do such simple tweaks and ideas usually prove more successful?
They are already familiar
Regardless of how dramatic the changes are to the product itself, the function of the product is already familiar to consumers. They understand the purpose of your invention because they already use something to perform that task. The question is, does your product perform the task significantly better enough to justify switching from their existing preferred choice?
A perfect example of this type of manufacturer is Dyson. They release a vacuum that does exactly what all other vacuums do, they just believe their design does it so much better that people will pay the extra money for their product. They used a similar strategy with their new fan design. Although it looks nothing like a traditional fan, they believe the improvement in design, style, and performance justifies consumers making the switch. In fact, to get an idea of just how much innovation can happen in a single market, check out justfans.co.uk, for example, and see the enormous amount of variation in the ways different manufacturers are trying to create products to essentially do the same thing.
There’s an existing market
Whether you are trying to get financial backing for your business or build a marketing strategy, knowing your market is essential. Even more important than understanding your target market is knowing the demand exists on a scale that means there will even be a market for your product. You will already have years of data you can use from the trends relating to the existing product. While you will still need to perform market research, this can help to reduce the amount of test marketing needed, and your costs.
Licensing becomes more appealing to prospective licensees
When a licensee agrees to part with a considerable amount of money for the right to sell your product, they ideally like things to go as smoothly as possible. The closer a product is to the products already in the company’s line-up, the more seamlessly they will be able to integrate it into the existing range. This gives companies a much better chance of making it successful. The reduced risk increases the likelihood of successfully selling the production rights to your product.
The vast majority of new patents are a combination of existing tools or solutions. With inventions as fundamental as the wheel, it is usually several great minds over a long period of time that contributes to the continued success of an invention. Each iteration adding the next step in the products natural evolution, whether because of technological or material changes, or simply because society has moved on and a product isn’t as relevant as it once was.
Simple normally equals cheap
While this rule doesn’t apply to all items, it’s usually true to say that the more simple a product is the cheaper and easier it will be to manufacture. This helps to ensure the product’s price point remains at a level where the invention is viable for production. The lower the cost of manufacturing, the more potential there is make a decent profit, or price your product in a more competitive way.
Being a variation on an existing product also makes affordable manufacturing more likely. However, just because something is similar to an existing product doesn’t guarantee cheaper manufacturing, but it certainly makes it more likely.
Start fostering the right state of mind
The technological revolution society has undergone has already opened up a plethora of new avenues for inventors. These don’t have to be complex technological solutions, just very defined and useful improvements to existing solutions that are becoming outdated.
As you move throughout the world, consciously become a keen observer. Every time you see a person perform a task that isn’t completely effortless, or you do so yourself, always consider whether there is a way you could easily improve the process or a tool used to increase the level of ease.
Avoid complex solutions to hard tasks. Practice looking at the minor tasks, whether it’s during your workday while preparing an evening meal, or enjoying an activity during your leisure time, you’ll start to see things in a different light.
Study what other people have tried
Various sectors are littered with inventions that seemed like a good idea. Some were successful while others never really caught on. From the baby grow that doubles as a mop; to the tie that has a built-in flask, some inventions should have remained at the idea stage. Other inventions, such as the baby stroller with a built-in scooter on the back, or the door that flips on a hinged pivot to double as a Ping-Pong table, sound like potential winners initially.
Study the successes and the failures. Whether you plan on sticking LED lights in slippers or eating utensils on pen caps, chances are, someone has had the idea before you. Don’t be disheartened if you discover others have already had the same idea, it just shows you’re thinking along the right lines. Persevere and who knows what contribution you’ll end up making to society.