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Generating a Unique Product Idea

November 18, 2016

Think about the times you have said something like, “Why hasn’t someone invented a product that would do ______?”

That question can be the beginning of a unique product. You have probably had those thoughts and let them go without capturing them.

Write down your ideas for products the next time you notice them surfacing in your thoughts. Capture an idea without judging it and regardless of how incomplete it is in your mind. It can be developed later if you decide you want to take it to the next level.

Day-to-day chores or problems bring opportunities for new products. Many new products, such as the Weed Eater, were created to make a chore much easier or to save time doing an unpleasant but necessary task. We all have too little time in the busy world we live in. Some of the most successful products save us time. If your product idea makes life easier, it may have potential. I say too often, “They can put a man on the moon but can’t make a coffee pot that doesn’t spill when you pour from it.” Some of the best products come from very simple ideas.

Go to the US Patent and Trademark Office web site if you think you have no product ideas of your own. This web site can provide ideas regarding the competition you may encounter.

In addition, the US Patent and Trademark Office web site has thousands of patents and many can be leased from the patent owner for a percentage or royalty. Look at expired patents, too. Patents generally only last 17 to 20 years. Anyone can produce a product that has an expired patent. Sometimes an old idea is much more valuable when made from today’s materials. You may be able to file a new patent on an old idea by improving it in some way.

Leverage your first idea into additional products as you develop your business. A unique design in one form can be expanded and manufactured in other forms. This will allow you to create an entire product line from a single idea or group of ideas.

It is important for your idea to serve a niche in the market. The smaller the niche the better, because a small niche allows you to concentrate on that market and that market only. Later, you may migrate into new niches as a way to expand your business.

My idea began one day on my job in 1995. I was employed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station near the Kennedy Space Center in Central Florida. During a discussion with some co-workers the subject centered on our mutual dislike for wearing mandatory company identification badges. Just by chance a man from another company came by and gave us a lapel pin that his company was handing out for a promotion. After everyone left, I happened to attach my ID badge to the lapel pin by attaching the little alligator clip to the bottom of the pin. That’s when the idea hit me. I thought if I just put a little cutout at the bottom of a lapel pin, it could accommodate the alligator clip attached to any and all ID badges.

I set out to design a lapel pin with a cut-out space and a bar at the bottom. I wanted to make it possible to create custom designs from logos of corporations or to make stock pins with logos from several industries to keep on hand so they could be sold individually. It took me weeks to prefect the design.

I drew designs on pieces of paper for many days. At night, I would wake up with another idea as to how it would look. I got to the point that I kept a pen and paper on my nightstand to write down ideas that came to me in the middle of the night. This is something I still do today, however, I have modernized a bit and now use a digital recorder.

Good ideas keep you awake at night. I would go so far as to state that if you do not stay awake night after night, you might not be passionate enough to pursue your idea.

Most ideas come to people on their day job. Many come while addressing problems that cannot be solved. Other ideas come to people while spending time working on a hobby. Your idea does not have to involve rocket science. You do not have to invent a new super computer. A simple idea is often best. An idea that inspires others to say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” can make millions of dollars.

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