How many tests have you taken during your life? Hundreds, maybe thousands? Okay, let's not count tests you took in school or college. Now how many? Perhaps more than you realize.
There are proficiency tests for almost every career. Architects, engineers, doctors, lawyers, police officers, and even cosmetologists must pass proficiency tests in their careers. But, there has never been a test for inventors.
Finally – a Test For Inventors
I was unable to find a proficiency test for inventors, so I decided to invent one (isn't that what inventors do?).
What uniquely qualifies me to create such a test?
I have been an inventor for 15 years and have achieved success – a rare commodity. Also, I was a business consultant with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for 14 years, meeting with over 3,000 small business owners, including many inventors during that time.
Here's the Test
1. When you are annoyed because a product doesn't work as well as you'd like, do you think?
- I wish there was something that worked better than this. Oh, well.
- I wonder if this would work better if you added ……?
2. When you face a big problem and you just cannot seem to find an answer, do you:
- Look to find someone who may have expertise you lack?
- Decide to set it aside, take a break, and go for a walk in the park?
3. When you are at a crossroads and must make a decision, do you generally feel that:
- There is a single best decision to take?
- There are several different decisions, any of which might work well for you.
4. When you make an important pitch and you receive a disappointing rejection, do you?
- Feel angry because they obviously didn't ‘get it', didn't like you, or both?
- Feel disappointed, but take the opportunity to ask them what they would do if this were their product?
5. Whom do you ask for validation and feedback on your invention?
- Friends, family, and loved ones who are not inventors.
- Other inventors, clients who buy from you, or even skeptics of your product?
6. Why do you spend so much time, effort, and money pursuing your invention?
- Because you are certain you can make a lot of money from it some day.
- Because you feel a mission: that your invention will make a difference in the world, even if you never make much money.
7. When should you give up on your invention?
- When someone you respect imitates Kevin O'Leary and tells you: “Take it behind the barn and shoot it.”
- When quite a few of your customers feel your product isn't very good or an improvement.
Clearly, the above is an unscientific survey. But, to my experience, the above 7 scenarios are ones that reveal a person is well suited to the challenges of inventing – or that the person is not suited for inventing at all.
You score one point for every B answer (the second choice) and 0 points for every A answer. The top score is 7. When I started as an inventor, I would say my total score to this test would be 4, but now is 7 – based upon changes of attitude I have developed over the years.
Some of the “right” answers might need some explanation. Regarding 2, of course there are times when seeking an expert is the better choice. But, very often, you need to let the issue marinate in your subconscious for a while and turn your attention to something enjoyable, that doesn't tax your brain at all (like walking). Often when your attention is somewhere else, the answer will suddenly pop into your head like magic. Many successful people used this process effectively, including Edison (who took afternoon cat naps), Marie Curie and others.
3 is also in some ways counterintuitive.
Most of us, as children, are taught in school there is always a “right” answer: 2+2 = 4; Christopher Columbus discovered ‘America' in 1492, etc. This sort of rigid thinking can get baked into our psyche over the process of many years to where, as adults, we lose the ability to think creatively.
But, outside of mathematics, there is rarely one right choice, but rather many choices that offer different future paths, none of which are right or wrong, just result in different outcomes.
Of the 7 questions, there are two that, to my experience, are of much more importance than the other 5. They are 4 and 6.
A big turning point in my business came as a result of a huge setback that made me seriously consider just giving up. I had made a pitch to Tandy Brands Accessories (no longer in business today). The CEO liked my wallet a lot and his design team even tweaked the design some to produce their own samples. I was eagerly anticipating a green light on licensing as I was driving to the follow up meeting. Instead, they gave me the news they decided not to proceed. They felt my wallet's larger size (than some wallets) would make it hard to sell in retail stores. Britt Jenkins, the CEO told me it was a sell on TV product, that I should take it to QVC.
On the drive home, I felt so furious I was almost shaking. “What idiots!” I thought. But, they weren't ‘idiots' at all, in fact they were right. A couple of days later after I had calmed down, I realized that Britt Jenkins had given me excellent advice.
I pivoted and decided to take my product to QVC as he'd advised – at QVC, I did very well there, selling over 5,000 wallets over 2 years. Next, I persisted for 5 years in my firm belief that my wallets would sell even better on DRTV (direct response TV) and I was right. I licensed to Allstar Products and they sold over 1 million wallets in the first year in over 10,000 retail stores.
Where would I be today if I had just stayed angry over their decision? That is why question 4 is in the test.
Lastly, as an example of question 6, I had many buyers singing the praises of my product and many telling me they no longer had sciatica as a result of switching to my slim, flexible wallet. In short, it was more than a simple consumer product, it actually made a positive difference in buyers' lives. When times were tough and money was short, and I just wanted to give up, I thought about how many other people I would be letting down if I quit.
In fact, there would be over 1 million people who enjoy Wonder Wallet today, who would have missed out because I gave up too early. Maybe you have an invention that could delight millions of people.