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If You Think You Really Have Product Innovation, Treat it Like Fresh Fish!

From time to time, some smart entrepreneur, somewhere, will come up with a true product innovation. But, a product breakthrough is a tricky situation and sometimes smart people, outsmart themselves. Even though they believe they have designed or built something that nobody's done before, they delay introduction trying to make it perfect, or worse, holding out for a "better deal" from potential partners or investors.  Any innovative product or true breakthrough should be treated like fresh fish - it has a high spoilage factor! Fresh fish only lasts so long before it's no longer edible. Same thing with a great product innovation. They only last so long before somebody else either also discovers it or moves on the original breakthrough in a faster, better way.

I'm sure most of you know who Tom Watson, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg are. But I bet many of you don't know who John Mauchly, Gary Kildall, Ted Codd or Jonathan Abrams are. You see the first set of guys capitalized on the great breakthrough or innovation the second set of guys developed.  A lesson that a true breakthrough has a limited shelf life.

Often, the single biggest decision a start-up entrepreneur has to make is when to launch his/her initial product. And the timing, usually, has little to do with the market into which it will be launched, but whether or not the product is "ready." And "ready" is a subjective issue that has both product and founder implications. Ego is often at the root of all of it. Gary Kildall could have been a billionaire, instead he died, not rich, on a barroom floor.If only his ego would have let IBM re-name his original PC operating system. John Mauchly continued to try to improve the technology of the first computer, while Tom Watson had IBM take the concept and market it like no other technology product before it. If only Dr. Mauchly would have realized that it ain't a product until somebody is buying and using it!

So, if you think you have a real product innovation here are some guidelines about what and how to do with it, so we aren't talking about you in the past tense:

There's no such thing as the perfect product.
Most engineers and product designers that I have known, can't seem to fathom the concept of "done," constantly striving for perfection for their product. No such thing. Plus, every step toward perfection, is, usually, a step toward complexity. Keep it simple to start with, and know that every product, no matter how innovative, has "holes" and "warts." And then live the next guideline.

Use "Lean Start-up" principles
Every product designer should embrace "Lean Start-up" principles with earlier and iterative product releases to shorten product development cycles, measure progress, and gain valuable customer feedback. In this way, not only do you get your product out the door, but you find out whether it really is as innovative as you think through customer corroboration and you do so without requiring large amounts of funding or constantly-moving product launch schedules.

There are always two "other smart guys" in a garage somewhere.
You're not the only smart guys.There's little new under the sun that somebody else, somewhere hasn't also thought about and is either making it better, getting it out faster, or is better funded. Worry about who else might be just as smart...or smarter than you!

Don't let ego drive your bus!
It's hard to be passionate about a product or a business and not have a lot of ego invested. When it comes to making both a reality, however, put your ego in the drawer. Don't be afraid of what customers will say, embrace that. Don't run away from potential partners. Listen.Don't be overly paranoid about what you tell people or who you tell (unless, you ignore most of what I've said up to this point - then you need to be).

Product innovations or breakthroughs have a short shelf life, before they are no longer either. If you really believe you have a product breakthrough or superior product innovation, your attitude should be that the sooner you get it out there, the sooner you'll find out if it is truly breakthrough and sooner that you will make money with it.Otherwise, all you'll be left with is a bad smell and a lot of "if only's!"

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things.He's been there.May success be with you!

Have you ever been involved (or are you now) with a true breakthrough? Tell me how in your comments.It will help other entrepreneurs!

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.

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2 COMMENT(S)

2013-03-24 07:59:46 by Rodger Gibson

This is a General Purpose Technology; Mobile Robotic Platform Called Eagle System. This remote controlled machine can run on a single cable, it provides power (Low Voltage DC current) and carries weight. Think if a zip line, only it can be linked in series to travel any distance required. Problem my invention solves: The ADA mandate requires assistance for people with disabilities getting in and out of swimming pools. 1 A standard technology involves installing chair lifts. These present several challenges, including lack of improper use (e.g. as a diving board), vandalism, liability, and an insensitivity to the users. My invention makes chairlifts unnecessary, and provides a secure, and dignified means of assistance that will not create other safety concerns.
Impact: My system will provide discreet, secure solution that promotes dignity, minimize disruption to business and aesthetic , discourages vandalism, and is easy to use. With a zip line installed over the pool and the Eagle System parked next to a wall with the chair attached and resting on the floor away from the pool, no diving can take place. Additionally, only the remote control can operate the machine. Vandalism will be difficult, because the machine is close to the ceiling, and the chair alone remains on the floor. Without bulky machinery, the chair could easily be made private and integrated with the facilities' surroundings. In some cases the chair can be used to access more than one pool/spa tub at a location.

2013-03-24 20:32:20 by Dale Hill

I have such a product and agree with most everthing you say. I especially agree that a product is never perfect or finished.

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