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Curiosity and innovation are the two most prominent characteristics of inventors and change-makers. A craving to understand the mechanics of a problem — and to find the solution to that problem — drives curiosity to take action.
But once you’ve made it to the action phase of an invention, what’s next? How do you make your ideas work in the real world? In this post, I break down the seven steps it takes to bring an invention from idea to product.
Creativity, imagination, innovation and entrepreneurship are understood as a cycle of invention. Because people are as unique as their ideas, the cycle might look different for everyone while still following the basic tenants.
Once the end of this cycle is reached, some innovators might feel lost about how to proceed.
1. Understand your idea
You may be thinking, “It’s my idea, of course I understand it.” But knowing what you’re making isn’t the same as understanding it.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if you truly understand your product:
What is its most basic use?
Who needs this product?
What specific problems does it solve?
How does it work?
How do I describe this product to others?
If you can explain your product idea to someone outside of your industry, then you truly understand it. Knowing this explanation will guide you through the subsequent stages of production!
2. Conduct market research
Knowing your target market is half the battle when creating something new because it helps you narrow down features and desired outcomes. One way to conduct market research is by searching relevant spaces on the internet and social media platforms.
Consider the following questions:
Who are my target customers? Are they primarily millennials and Gen Zers or more experienced consumers?
What fields do most of my consumers work in?
Why should my target audience purchase and use my product?
How are my competitors appealing to our target market?
Moreover, understanding your competitors may also give you an edge by giving you ideas of how to fill the gap of what they don’t offer in their products.
3. Create a model
By creating a model, you take an abstract creation and make it tangible. This empowers you to see the idea outside of your mind. Then, you can make corrections, improvements and tweaks.
Digital sketches and wireframes are incredibly easy to make nowadays and give great visual depth. However, everyone’s creative process looks different. So, you have to do what sparks your imagination.
Once you’ve created your model, you can then have your prototype created. This will help you in the coming steps.
4. Test your product
Now that you have a prototype of your product, it’s time to test it! This can be an exhilarating yet anxiety-ridden step, so take it slowly.
While everyone wants their prototype to work on the first try, it’s neither a realistic nor practical outcome. Without failed models and setbacks, it’s harder to see what needs improvement and what is perfect as-is.
Try to take this time to be both proud of and critical of your design. Take extensive notes, ask for feedback from trusted colleagues, and then put your changes into action.
The prototyping phase can be stressful and test the resolve of many inventors. That’s why perseverance is a crucial step in the product invention process.
Take breaks when you need to, but remind yourself why you started in the first place. This is where having your understanding of the idea can come in handy because it can help motivate you to continue trying.
Remember, you’re not creating something for the sake of it, you’re creating a solution to a problem.
6. Gain funds
Unless you have a lot of capital on hand, funding the production of your idea won’t be quick and easy. It’s best to begin your funding campaign ahead of schedule in case it takes longer than expected.
So, how do you collect enough funding to take your invention from prototype to production?
Apply for an invention or business loan
Set up a crowdfunding campaign
Find a company that finances inventors
Find a venture capitalist to fund your invention
7. Hire a manufacturer
Once you’ve reached the end of your process, you should find a manufacturer to mass-produce your creation.
Some things to consider before signing an agreement include:
Location of the facility: Is the facility domestic or international? This matters greatly for legal and financial reasons. Plus, the closer it is, the sooner you can get your product.
Expenses: Ask for a breakdown of expenses and extra costs. These might include shipping, equipment fees and more.
Quality: Imagine putting a bunch of money into manufacturing just to find out there are no quality assurance experts on-site. This is a valid concern and greatly affects the sale of your products. Make sure quality assurance is part of their offer to you.
Order amount: Before negotiating with a manufacturer, know how many products you want for your first order. Some companies have a minimum order policy that you’ll need to make sure is compatible with your needs.
At the end of the day, product development is a trial-and-error process. Furthermore, having a close-knit group of colleagues to help makes all the difference. One person can do a lot, but many trusted people can do more.
Moreover, entrepreneurship and invention takes a certain level of perseverance, intuition and bravery. If you have all those things, then following your invention through to fruition will be more than possible.