What should I do if I think I've got the idea for the next big thing?
This is something that I was asked the other day by a client in Holland. "I've got a great idea that the world needs. What should I do next?" He actually had taken a couple of steps, part of his idea involved some technical assistance and after consulting with an engineer he was quoted that to develop the idea would cost over a $100,000 dollars! Obstacle no. 1. Money.
There are many obstacles to realising ideas, which is exactly why there are not that many innovators out there. Innovating takes some hard work. The good news is when we know what the most common obstacles are going to be when executing and realising an idea we can create a strategy to work around them.
In this post and the ones coming up, I'm going to take you through some of the key critical phases to taking an idea from concept through to market. This as you can imagine, would easily fill up a book (of which I've written one specifically for this purpose before - called Ideas with Legs), I've also created a nifty one page flow chart on how to help you realise an idea from scratch step by step.
Let's talk about the first steps and this is where most of us get caught up on.
When we have a good idea, the most basic step we want to take is to capture it by writing it or recording it in some fashion. Really? You might ask, you'd be surprised as to how many good ideas have been lost to a weak memory.
So we've written the idea down, what next? There are many instances and examples of people who have been working on the same idea from different parts of the world, only to find out that the other person protects and registers their idea as a patent before the other. This means we want to look at protecting our idea if it's protectable.
We can do this through applying for a patent or a trademark if it's more of a visual/ marketing idea. There are many instances where we will not need to go down this route (for example it's an internal process that no one outside of our world will know about it).
Before racing off to a patent attorney or beginning a patent search you can do a couple of things that can help legitimise your original idea and the date it was conceived. A simple activity is to document your idea and send it via registered post to yourself. Once you receive the package, leave it all sealed up and keep all the documentation with it that proves when it was sent and received. I've done this plenty of times, it's cheap and can help in any documentation if ever required to prove creation around an idea or trademark at a particular date.
Okay, now we've got a basic idea that's in the post coming back to us what next. If you think patenting an idea is what will be required down the road it's important to start the process early as it takes time to complete the registration. Depending on which country you are in filing a patent can range from $300 - $500. Some ideas might need multiple patents and you are likely to want to file for registering in a number of countries.
Filing a patent is relatively straight forward, but getting one has become made more difficult in some countries especially the United Sates where following the dot-com boom where the Patents Office was inundated with a plethora of vague and ambiguous patent applications, they created tougher stipulations as to what is designated as an original idea and the type of validation that is required to prove it. Bottom line is, you need to have thought through your idea thoroughly and know the 'ins and outs' of it if you want to get a patent.
Next we want to be sure that there are no existing competing patents so a patent search is a great place to start. These are not that difficult to conduct or alternatively you could engage the services of a patent search team that may be part of a patent attorney service or separate to it. The same activities apply to trademark searches, though these are far simpler to conduct.
The key places to begin are:
World Intellectual Property Organization
Until recently China was in the past like the wild west where everyone ignored patents but now with their own patent service they are now playing the game with everyone else meaning that you can have some protection over there as well.
Now that we have some protection under the way, we might want to start to think about the dollars required to make it happen. Do I use my money, someone else money or steal some money? Please don't rob a bank, there are however many scrupulous operators in the venture capital world. Then again, if they are taking a risk in funding an unproven idea they will demand a very high return.
There are a few option to funding the execution and development of an idea.
1. Do it yourself
2. Crowd fund
3. Venture capital
4. Partner ventures
5. Selling the idea to a organisation with the funds to develop it
Before we break these down something worth considering is what's the minimal viable version of your idea that you can create quickly.
A prototype will help communicate your idea, no matter who you're pitching to or trying to communicate the value of your idea to.
The D.I.Y funding is self explanatory, you put up the dough to pay for your executing you idea. Remember that building your idea is only one part of the challenge, you're going to need to market it, sell it and deliver it too. You might be able to organisae a business loan if you've got a track record or some strong equity.
The greatest thing to happen for inventors in the last 15 years or so is the development of digital crowd funding sites such as Kickstarter. There's a plethora of sites out there now to choose from , but in case you've been living under a rock and don't know what I'm talking about generally, a crowd funding site operates by you creating a pitch that documents your idea and setting a target amount in funding that you are looking for to develop it and in return for people pledging various amounts of money, you give them a special offer in relation to the new product you are developing. It's estimated that the crowd funding movement makes up over 30% of all venture capital investments today totalling to some $XXX billion.
If you've got the right idea and the good to deliver it people will be willing to loan you money for a big piece of the pie. The higher the risk the more they will want in exchange. Venture capitalists are looking for a speedy execution and speedy return of their idea. Pitching is a crucial part of this route as the VC is keen to know, what's it like, how's it work in basics, why's it different/ unique and what are the potential returns versus the risks. Risks might include the number of unknowns, technical skills, feasibility and the sort.
Let's partner up
A tangent off the crowd funding is some organisations that are willing to help develop the idea in conjunction with you. One such organisation is called Quirky.com.
How Quirky works is a little bit different to the crowd funding model in that you pitch your product idea with a big emphasis on what problem doesn't it. solve, why is it uniques and what value it brings to the customer. If they like the idea they will start to help develop it for you and eventually sell it to the social platform they have of supporters and potential customers (this is the crowd funding part of it).
The more people who pledge to buy the product the more products they will manufacture. As opposed to building millions of your products the emphasis is on smaller production numbers.
The more you are involved in the development of the product the more your share in the profits increases.
Sell the idea without developing it
Believe it or not, there a number of people who do this for. living, they create a great idea, they protect the intellectual property IP and then they pitch the idea to a suitable organisation to take further.
This takes a lot of work in terms of having the commercial status that people will be willing to sit down at the table with you for you to pitch your idea and you also have to have iron clad IP agreements in place. You may choose to license your IP or sell it outright.
The wall we all encounter
When it comes to realising ideas there are always going to be obstacles. I believe that all obstacles can be classified as either being behavioural or logistical, and that within these two main groups there are six subgroups of obstacles.
To deal with behavioural obstacles (that is, the obstacles we've created from our thinking, feelings and actions) we need to take a leaf from the behavioural sciences and become a psychologist of sorts. On the other hand, dealing with logistical obstacles (such as having a deficiency in knowledge or financial and time constraints) requires the mind-set of a modern day logistics project manager.
The six subgroups
of the two main obstructions are:
These six obstructionsâ€”or "anti-creators' as I like to call themâ€”are something we all face from time to time. These anti-creators are not exclusive to creating ideas, so you may very well discover that dealing with these anti-creators will have a big impact on other aspects of your life.
The important thing about these six anti-creators is that they are all quite common and all surmountable. With the right awareness and skill, you'll find that realising your idea is much easier than expected.
The unfortunate issue that you can face as a creator is that the greater the potential size of your idea, the bigger the anti-creators you face. Our anti-creators are generally in proportion to the size of our idea.
A simple, everyday idea such as a new kind of meal for dinner or a new angle on a project at work will therefore generally have low anti-creator resistance. On the other hand, a revolutionary or life-changing idea that involves significant resources and personal investment will often have anti-creators of overwhelming size. Understanding each of the anti-creators not only reduces their magnitude, it also makes getting past them much easier and even enjoyable.
When it comes to making ideas happen and dealing with our anti-creators, virtually any means (within reason) is justifiable. When you make necessary adjustments in your thinking and behaviour to make your ideas happen, you may find yourself the target of often unfair criticism and irritation from people close to you. And while these changes may disturb others they will ultimately work for you and your creative output.
To tackle your anti-creators you'll need to be brave and resolute in your commitment to your ideas. You'll have to take physical and emotional steps to get you there. It is worth it.
Okay, let's find out how you handle each one these anti-creators one by one. Chances are, you may be feeling that you don't quite know what to do next with your idea and how to do it. So let's start with your behaviour and more specifically your attitude.
Dealing with anti-creator no. 1: attitude
Your attitude can become an anti creator: when you don't believe you can do it and feel that don't deserve it, you consequently don't feel motivated to make it happen. Our attitude is a combination of our internal and external worlds: beliefs, self-talk, self-image or identity on the inside; physiology and body language, verbal communication, actions and the things we do, commitment and results on the outside.
There are many different variables that can affect our attitude in life and subsequently how we go about making our ideas happen or how we end up letting them slide away. Without a doubt, one of the most important things we can look at is how our internal and external worlds work together, whether they align or conflict with each other. More than any other factor, the element that influences and in turn reinforces how we regard ourselves, what we believe we are capable of and therefore our results is the internal world and our thinking, or self-talk.
Thinking is power
Research has shown that if we believe we are confident, productive and able to deliver then we are more likely to be so. In many ways, our beliefs are really just constructions of our mind that filter how we think and feel about all experiences in life. The good news is, once we know that thoughts and feelings and beliefs are just thatâ€”constructions of the mindâ€”we can do something about them.
Failure occurs when we have the knowledge, skills, desire and talent to make it happen but lack the vision and optimism to get going. The effect: we either stop shortly after we have started or don't even start at all. Optimism plays a large part in the mind of the creator. The pessimist who thinks bad things are going to happen usually finds out that the worst does happen and then gives up, while the creator with an optimistic mind-set has the ability to see a bad event as merely a setback. Obviously, a dose of pessimism is called for when evaluating our ideas (which we cover in Part 4: The Execution phase) but as a general rule pessimism gets in the way of making our ideas happen. When we find ourselves hitting a wall, possibly when we are starting a project or at a challenging or critical part of the work, being optimistic and changing our thinking is one of the keys to removing this block.
To succeed as a creator you need to be able to see negative situations as short-term challenges that can be overcome. For a creator, there are no real setbacks just more challenges. Embracing an optimistic outlook creates persistence and determination, both of which are vital ingredients in the creative process. As unconventional priest and writer, Walter Elliott, said: "Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races, one after the other.'
If you're saying to yourself that you must have been born a pessimist and can't change then it's time to think again. While pessimism is a learnt behaviour from your childhood and teenage years and can reflect how you see your chances of creating your ideas, the good news is that optimism can also be learnt. The father of positive psychology, Dr Martin Seligman, sheds light on this important topic in his book Learned Optimism, by looking at the mind-set of the successful salesperson. The persistent salesperson knows that a sale is just around the corner and is unaffected by rejections and setbacks. For them these are simply short-term challenges to work through to not only reach the goal but also become stronger in the process. Overcoming challenges builds self-esteem, another aspect of attitude.
The higher your self-esteem, the better your attitude and the more focused are your actions towards making your ideas happen. The lower your self-esteem, the lower your self-confidence and belief in your ideas, and the less focused will be your actions.
Obviously, self-esteem impacts on your ability to make your ideas happen. If you can't believe in yourself and you don't have any confidence to take action, then it's highly unlikely you'll make your ideas come to fruition.
The best way to deal with pessimism, low frustration tolerance as well as low self-esteem is to use the ABC model described below.
Learn your ABCs
Our thoughts drive our feelings and emotions. The more erratic thoughts are, the more unpredictable the results. If you can train yourself to think the "right' thoughts (that is, useful and appropriate thoughts) that steer you towards realising your goal, you can alter the way you feel, behave and create.
During the 1960s, psychologist Albert Ellis developed the cognitive behaviour model that aims to re-program negative thinking and behavioural patterns and that many psychologists use today. Essentially, Ellis got tired of having patients complain about their life and wanting him to solve their problems. His response was "stop thinking wrong and start thinking right'. Ellis understood that our self-talk, our thinking about ourselves was the key driver to our feelings and behaviours. If our thinking wasn't working for us, he concluded, we needed to stop it and change it.
The ABCs is an effective technique Ellis devised to stop people thinking "wrong' and start thinking "right'. The more you use the ABCs, the more you can use your thinking to help deal with any self-defeating attitude and start creating what you want. To show you how the ABCs work I've used some of the thinking I had to change when it came to writing this book:
• Activating event: Write down and describe, just as you would think about it, the event which creates the attitude. Avoid evaluating your thoughts, just write them down in the words you would say to yourself as they run through your mind, for example: "My book's still not finished and I've been working on it for months and months.'
• Beliefs: Write down the beliefs you have about yourself and your conclusions about the reasons for the activating event, for example:' "I think I'm not smart enough', "I know it's too hard' and 'I'm wasting time.' "I don't know what to do' and "No one will want to read my book when I finish it.' Aim to record thoughts that express beliefs, and ignore feelings.
• Consequent emotions: Write down how you feel and how you will feel if you keep thinking this way, for example: "I feel angry, dejected and like a loser.' "I will end up wasting the rest of the day eating food, sulking about doing nothing.'
• Dispute irrational beliefs: We're good at defending ourselves if someone else is attacking us, but usually we suck at defending ourselves against our own thinking, especially our irrational beliefs.
We need to learn to observe our communication with ourselves and defend ourselves from ourselves by coming to objective conclusions.
To do this, find the evidence for and against your belief and make accurate statements, for example: " I've written and published a great book successfully before and it took close to a year to write.' "What I've written is already substantial in size and quality. I am more than 75 per cent complete.'
Finally, create a real disputing statement based on these facts, for example: "I know I have the ability, determination and resources at my disposal to make this book happen.'
• (Positive) Effects: Now write down some rational beliefs, alternative possibilities to your original faulty thoughts behind the activating event.
For example: "I have been speaking at more conferences this year, while writing this book, than ever before, so I have actually had less time to write.' Or "I have been testing a lot of my theories with clients through consulting and running workshops, all of which takes time. And although it's not time spent writing it is the precursor to it and essential.'
Write down how you feel after you've questioned your faulty thinking and beliefs to see if you have been energised by the event. For example: "I feel better realising that I have done more than I thought, other than writing the book, and I'm now putting my energy into making it all happen.'
Talk your talk
Your attitude is reflected in the choice of words you use to communicate with yourself and others. The "anti-creator' uses words like "can't', "should', "must' and "have to' and creates unwanted stress. Find out for yourself how these small words affect you. Say: "I should do this. I can't do this.' Can you feel how this impacts on your motivation? Remember: thoughts drive your feelings and behaviour, and using words like this will generate "anti-creator' behaviour and feelings.
Creating a "can do' attitude sometimes means changing our thinking and the language we use. Replace the anti-creator words with "I can', "I could', "I want to', "I like to' and "I am doing this'. Say to yourself "I choose to do this' and become aware how this changes your motivation.
The anti-creator also uses small phrases such as "It's too hard' or "I don't know what to do'. Instead, challenge yourself to be specific. For example, challenge "It's too hard' by using "The one thing I am specifically finding too hard right now is â€¦ '. Challenge "I don't know what to do' with "At this point in time, with all the information at hand, my best decision and course of action will be to â€¦ '. As you can see, we always have a choice in our thinking and our attitude.
Walk your talk
Your body language is much the same as words. The anti-creator body language is one of defeat: slumped shoulders, torso sagging forward, head down, arms crossed or in pockets, shuffling feet. When you notice your body doing any of these, be it sitting, standing or walking, simply do the opposite: straighten your back, square your shoulders, lift your head and your feet etc. As simple as it sounds, you'll notice an energetic lift almost immediately.
Make up stories
Another component to our attitude is based on our perception of the results we have created in the past, which in turn impacts on the results we are getting today. How we interpret our everyday results directly affects our thinking and therefore our feelings and behaviour. The anti-creator within us will constantly mull over past mistakes we've made and use them as fuel to reason why to not do something. Mistakes in the past become an excuse for non-action in the present; they may subconsciously stop us from making ideas happen today.
Failure is fun
We all make mistakes. Yet few of us acknowledge how much we actually learn from our mistakes. So the more we embrace the huge benefits in making mistakes as a part of the creative process, the more we change the usual story of hardship and misery. The more you look back at an event and see the learning in it, the more your mind adapts itself to moving on from any setbacks. This reduces the fear of failure. Thomas Edison saw his thousand-plus attempts to create the light bulb not as mistakes, but merely as thousands of tests to see which solution would not work. With an attitude like Edison's even failure can be fun!
Do this: Ten biggest mistakes
Make a list of what you consider the ten biggest mistakes or failures in your life (whether they are personal or professional). Next to each one, write down at least one thing you learnt from the mistake.
DIY success story
If our beliefs and patterns in life reflect the stories we have made up about ourselves which are based on how we review any given event in our mind and not necessarily on what actually happened.
Why not change the stories? We can utilise the notion that our beliefs, patterns and stories are just in our mind or "are a construction of our mind'.
However the mind is extremely powerful, regardless of whether what it creates is based on reality or fiction, so saying "just in our mind' sounds a little dismissive of this power; we do, though, have the choice to reinvent ourselves (if we want to).
The only hurdle we have to overcome when we make up our new, empowering stories is our ability to convince ourselves not to believe. If we say something about our ability and experience that we know contains no ounce of truth because we have never experienced it, or feel that we don't possess any of the needed skills, talents or abilities, then we will consider the new story a fantasy. To reinvent the story we need to create evidence that proves to ourselves we can do it.
Changing our "can't do' attitude is easy when we utilise the pattern-detecting ability of the brain to re-pattern our thinking. Re-patterning isn't brainwashing, it's simply a technique of changing 1. how we see a situation 2. how we think about that situation and 3. what actions we take.
"The can't do' attitude is usually backed up by the sabotage team, "don't know how' and "don't have the experience'. When we re-pattern the brain we are purposefully looking into our past for skills we already possess in other areas that could be applied to the activity at hand.
While we may not have the exact skills, if we look hard enough we will find useful skills that are transferable to the new task or activity. For example, I might think I need specialised research skills to complete this book, and may feel daunted or overwhelmed by this project.
After a bit of prodding, my unconscious mind realises I actually did do lots of research at university as well as in a number of my career positions. Are these research skills transferable? Of course! All I need to do is access the experience of having used the skills for my pressing project.
To help speed up this process and make the certainty of your experience available to you as a reality you need to feel whenever your "can't do' attitude wants to take charge. I have adapted a technique developed by Dr John Grinder, co-originator of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), whose tools in the hands of capable NLP practitioners have for years helped people re-pattern their thinking and consequently change their lives.
This exercise helps to generate a super state that can be used any time you want to be more resourceful and creative. Focus on the three mind-sets that help you realise your ideas: creativity, analysis and productivity.
1. First, find a small movement you can intentionally do and that involves exerting some pressure so that it can trigger the super state. My trigger is pushing my little finger into my thumb. Try it. If it feels familiar, do it the other way around and push your thumb into your little finger. Still feels familiar? What about pulling on your earlobe? Find something you would not normally do, that will not be triggered accidentally but requires you to deliberately engage it.
2. Focus on your area of creativity, find a time where you came up with a creative idea. It doesn't matter when or where it happened. It could be that great idea for your friend's 21st birthday party many years ago, the powerful proposal you wrote last week, or the holiday to a brand new, exotic destination you are already planning for next year. Close your eyes, and step into the event. Make sure you relive the experience through your own eyes, and hear with your own ears. If you see yourself from the outside, shift into your body. It is important that you actually step back into the memory and feel what it feels like to be creative.
3. As you re-experience the event, notice how the feeling of being creative, the excitement of coming up with a great idea is getting stronger. When it is just about to peak (and you will intuitively know when this is so), quickly push your trigger for a moment: squeeze your fingers together or pull on your earlobe with a quick movement. Then let go, look around the room and remember another event. Repeat numerous times.
4. Now, find experiences that come to mind when you think about being really analytical and research-orientated, e.g. reading a book for new ideas and background information, heading to the library for a project, or a conversation with someone where you gathered a lot of information that helped you reach your goal. Now repeat step 3 with this analytical experience in mind.
5. Next, re-discover times when you've felt super productive and gotten things done on or ahead of time, e.g. getting a bid in to buy a home before anyone else, cleaning the house in record time before a guest arrived, handing in a paper before it was due or even arriving early for an appointment. Again, repeat step 3.
6. Finally, after many repeats, test your trigger and notice how your state changes. The more examples you have put into your trigger, the better the trigger will work when you need to get into your super state.
While creating this trigger may take some time, it will eventually help you move to a point where you literally have your subconscious abilities at your fingertips. One squeeze, and you find yourself ready to face the challenges that confront you as you create your ideas.
Still stuck? Take a walk
Obstacles are best faced with a fresh perspective. Simply walking away from a problem and coming back to it enables us to look at it from a new perspective and see the possibilities and new ways to overcome it. Whatever the obstacle, whatever the attitude, we can always spin it to look at it in from a new direction.
In the next blog we’ll cover the next obstacle - Procrastination
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