The next several blog posts will be upon “checklist” items for inventors:
Today’s topic: Inventors Checklist: Passion, Persistence and Patience
Much has been written about the importance of being passionate about your venture, your dream and, you hope, your success story.
As an engineer, I tend to look at things from an objective, fact-based perspective whenever possible. But what is objective or factual about passion? Nothing. But there is a case to be made for the value of emotion and passion in certain circumstances.
During stressful, challenging times, every entrepreneur and every inventor will ask themselves a plaintive question:
Why am I doing this?
If money is their primary motive, they may answer, “to make a lot of money.” But if they are losing money or not barely eking out an existence (very likely in the early stages of a venture), the money answer is simply not going to sustain them and propel them forward.
If, however, the passion behind making their dream a reality is the primary motive, they may answer, “because what I am doing really matters and it can make a positive contribution to society.” This motive can give strength and encouragement in difficult times, helping the inventor to continue moving forward.
Persistence and Patience
To use a sporting analogy, invention is not a sprint it is a marathon. The runner who bursts from the starting blocks will soon find himself or herself falling behind the slow but steady runner.
Invention is a very risky business and, like the marathon analogy, persistence and patience are key elements for success. Persistence is extremely important because there is no simple or crystal clear formula for success; every product has a different path to the marketplace. Nothing happens quickly in product development. Prototype development takes time and much trial and error. Attempting to shortcut the prototype process – to arrive at a final prototype too quickly – yields an underperforming product.
A typical patent may take three years to issue and the inventor must work closely with his or her attorney to attain an allowance for the invention. The patent examiner generally disallows most or all claims initially and it takes persistence and solid strategy to overcome the examiner’s objections. Patience is certainly required.
It gets no easier marketing the product. Retail buyers are often disinterested in new, innovative products. The inventor may have to be very persistent with a variety of retailers before one of them agrees to stock the product. The process requires a great deal of patience as well
Lastly, for most inventors, licensing the product resembles an obstacle course. They can see the goal in the distance (the licensing agreement) but there seem to always be one more (or two or three!) obstacles they must clear. Many companies will not license a product that is patent pending – seems too risky. But is it wise to wait three years for the patent to issue?
Manufacturers want a very solid business case for a new product that is not theirs (not invented here syndrome) before they are willing to commit the risk capital. Promising licensing initiatives often fall through. In many cases the manufacturer will want to change the product in significant ways; cheaper materials, design refinements, and other changes the inventor may not like.
Persistence and patience are the two key elements that will help the inventor to stay in the game for the long run and, just possibly, to succeed.