Inventors always are searching for new product ideas; and always seek the elusive secret to inventing success. Spoiler alert: there is not a secret to inventing success. Success comes from practicing a combination of many behaviors consistently over time.
I separate inventors into two key groups:
- Inventors who have no chance to succeed
- Inventors who have the character and resilience to succeed
The key separator between those in group 1 versus group 2 is grit.
Those in group 1 are forever seeking the “easy path” where someone else will take care of all the details. I have never met a successful inventor who did not have grit, lots of it. Successful inventors seek honest feedback, the truth, and useful suggestions.
So, what is grit? Merriam-Webster defines grit as simply mental toughness and courage.
I like what author, educator and consultant Angela Lee Duckworth had to say about grit in her TED talk:
Why is grit, by Webster's or Ms. Duckworth's definition, so important to invention success?
The odds of success as an inventor are not just low, they are extremely low. Accurate numbers are unavailable, but I believe that an aspiring actor and an aspiring inventor both have about the same chances of attaining notable success.
The consumer marketplace is a brutal arbiter of new products; thousands of new products are introduced every year, perhaps 5% succeed.
To succeed, an inventor must have a WOW product that makes consumers ask: why didn't I think of that? It must appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers, solve an obvious problem, be cost-effective and easily understood. But even products with all those key elements rarely achieve commercial success. Why?
This is where grit comes in.
The inventor must absolutely believe in their product. They must have great resolve, determination, and most of all be very persistent. It will typically take years for an excellent new product to achieve success. No inventor I met succeeded in less than 3 years; I took 13 years. I believe Dyson spent over a decade working on his vacuum cleaner before achieving commercial success.
Most people see failure in multiple setbacks and disappointments; after a bit, they simply “give up and go home.” Inventors with grit see opportunity in every presentation, regardless of the outcome: opportunity to take the next step forward; or opportunity to retune, tweak, and try again.
Every time I got a no (and I got hundreds of them), I asked probing questions to gather valuable information.
- Does no mean not now or is it no, not ever?
- If you were me, what would you do to improve the product?
- Please tell me the key reason why you don't plan to move forward with this product?
Asking question like these invites the reviewers to share with you their thoughts on your product. One company executive told me “this is a QVC product, you should take it to them.” I did, and he was right. Now my product Wonder Wallet has sold over 1 million wallets as a hot DRTV product.
Because a person with grit sees opportunity in every presentation, he or she does not seek validation or approval, but rather valuable insights that can be used to reshape, retool or redirect the product to increase chances for success.
One day the inventor who has encountered countless setbacks, roadblocks, and disappointments will receive a yes. Yes, let's move forward. Yes, we want to license your product and roll it out nationwide. Yes, we are excited about your product.
It happened to me, it can happen to you.