How to commercialize your ideas – part 1

There are plenty of innovation and ideation efforts that yield new ideas for growth but never generate a dime for their inventors or the companies that develop them. Why? Because many inventors don't understand how to jump the gap from ideas to actually selling them.

There are plenty of innovation and ideation efforts that yield new ideas for growth but never generate a dime for their inventors or the companies that develop them. Why is this the case?

In my experience over the last 30 years it’s in part because many inventors or developers of ideas don’t understand how to jump the gap from ideas to actually selling them. This is also called the “commercialization conundrum” - the idea for a new product or technology looks good in the lab or the shop but nobody can sell it.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to think like an entrepreneur rather than an inventor from the beginning? This means shifting thinking to finding opportunities to solve a problem or fill a gap to meet a customer’s needs in new or novel ways. Anticipating how to solve current and future problems in new and sometimes simple ways is at the heart of thinking entrepreneurially. Ultimately, the goal of any innovation strategy, ideation event or market growth plan is to develop sustainable and profitable business growth. In other words, making more money.

Growth by innovation typically comes from new products or services, finding new customers, providing new value to existing customers or communicating your marketing message more clearly to target markets.

Here are some key steps you should keep in mind when attempting to commercialize a promising idea:

  • Commit to think like an entrepreneur or a start-up business, by doing things cheaply, failing fast, getting smart and looking for new ways to solve customer problems.
  • Continually analyze the markets and customers you serve to gain insight into new opportunities.
  • Look for problems customers wrestle with and understand the root causes of these problems.
  • Take a hard look internally at your business and understand how your hidden assets – in terms of knowledge, access and capabilities – can be leveraged to solve customer problems.
  • Use an ideation event like Eureka Winning Ways to generate a large number of good ideas in a short period of time.
  • Clarify and refine your top ideas as quickly as you can, because you will likely learn new ways to solve problems that may modify the original idea for the better.

Make sure you answer the following questions about your ideas:

  • Overt benefit: What’s in it for me (the customer)?
  • Reason to believe: Why should I believe you?
  • Dramatic difference: Why should I care?

Conduct technical development or R&D to fill gaps in the product and how it solves problems. Build a quick and dirty prototype and get as much feedback from potential customers as possible to make it better. Develop a practical marketing and sales strategy before you go to market. Finally, execute your plan using Dr. Deming’s Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle of continuous improvement.

Following this step-by-step approach to commercialization will get you to market faster than your competitors and teach you a considerable amount about what works in innovation and business growth strategies.

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