Inventing something new is not a small feat. The time, research, development, and effort that goes into creating an entirely new product is an achievement worthy of praise.
However, there are dos and don’ts in the field of inventing and entrepreneurship, just as there are in any other field. How you choose to proceed with your invention, your timeline, and your overall goals can ultimately drive your successes – or lack thereof, as the case may be – whether you know it or not.
The Challenges in Timing
Promptness is important in virtually all areas of life, from showing up to work to making plans with friends and family, but the creative process is often given a pass. Everyone from artists to inventors assumes that it’s fine to take as much time as needed to create a good product, whether this means days, months, or even years.
In many cases, this is true. Quality is often a predominant factor in the success of an invention; a lacking model can interfere with everything from patents to purchase decisions. With this in mind, however, it’s important to consider the influence of timelines and schedules in completing a project. With so many factors, from buying seasons to the changing nature of the technological landscape, that can influence the success of a product launch, dragging out an invention past its natural endpoint may prove to be problematic.
If you’ve never stopped to consider how timing can affect your projects in the pipeline, now’s the time to do so. Instead of assuming things will fall into place when the time is right, understanding the importance of a strict timetable can make a significant difference in the overarching outcome of your product, no matter what you’re working to produce.
The Roadblocks in an Elongated Process
Some inventions do take time, and that’s quite all right. After all, it took Thomas Edison over 1,000 tries and several years of work to come up with the concept for his first working light bulb model.
With this in mind, it’s vital to consider the distinction between time used wisely and time wasted. When time is properly invested in the course of an invention, it’s possible to achieve overwhelming advantages – and avoid major mistakes. Here are the consequences and challenges that come with a failure to mind the clock.
Procrastination can be a serious issue in even the most mundane of endeavors. When anything in life poses a challenge, from getting up on time to preparing reports at work before the deadline, it’s human nature to resist in hopes of an easier alternative down the line. In fact, one study found that procrastination is among the top reasons doctoral candidates fail to turn in their dissertations, thus prolonging the educational experience (and the associated costs).
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. At best, procrastination leads to little else but squandered time you can’t get back. Time spent procrastinating can feel good in the moment, of course, but the feelings of regret later can often sting far worse than the joy that comes from binging one more episode.
In the inventing space, time is often quite literally money. The more you invest in your product, the more likely you are to see a beneficial outcome. Days spent working hard instead of procrastinating can bring you one day closer to the patent process, which means a better chance of eventual monetization.
If you’re someone who frequently finds procrastination a better option than getting to work, you’re not alone. 95% of students, for example, procrastinate on a regular basis, putting academic performance at risk. However, a bad habit today doesn’t mean one that will last forever. Mindfulness and proper planning techniques can help you to overcome procrastination, making it easier to force yourself to keep moving forward, even when your prototype isn’t working exactly as planned.
Missing Holiday Buying Season
The holiday buying season is often the pinnacle of the year for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and inventors alike. Offering a dedicated period in which virtually all Americans will be shopping far more than usual, for both themselves and loved ones, the sales period is a wonderful opportunity to bring your product into the spotlight and see enhanced revenue. In 2017, the holiday season is expected to bring in approximately $680.4 billion overall – the highest amount to date. The rise of Generation Z is seeing sales soar as well; one survey found that 46% of those aged 18 to 24 plan to spend more than last year.
As the commercialization of the holiday season continues, the opportunities to cash in on sales do, too. Black Friday has now stretched into Thanksgiving Day itself, while Cyber Monday keeps the online sales going throughout the weekend and into the following week. As Christmas decorations go up earlier and earlier – most stores are decked out by Halloween – the sales season starts earlier, too, opening the door for increased sales over a bigger window.
The stats speak for themselves: the holiday season is one worth noting when it comes to marketing your newly invented products. Unless, of course, you’re not ready.
For inventors looking to make the most of their time spent inventing new concepts, the holiday season should be the end game of your production process. Many successful inventors schedule around these months, ensuring their creations hit the shelves in time to coincide with the seasonal rush. Bypassing this period can be a lost opportunity, forcing a 12-month wait until the next chance to cash in on holiday consumerism. While there’s certainly money to be made over the course of the rest of the year, few strategies can compare to the buzz associated with a holiday season launch.
Missing National Tradeshows
In terms of prestige and importance, few industry events are as important as tradeshows. Despite the seemingly antiquated concept – meeting in a room with all of the movers and shakers in your business as opposed to collecting on the internet – tradeshows still matter, and missing the right ones for you can be far more costly than you may realize today.
Offering an insider look into everything from upcoming trends to industry expertise, tradeshows provide an optimal opportunity to show your wares to those who can make or break your career. Giving you a way to test your products and seek results in a real, live market from those who care about what you do and who you are, your tradeshow experience can provide the insight necessary to take your invention to the next level.
In addition to what you can offer your industry via tradeshows, the tradeshow model has a lot to offer you as an inventor. As well as allowing you to peddle your own wares to those on the forefront of your market, tradeshows also enable you to take a sneak peek at what everyone else is doing. At local, national, and inventor-specific tradeshows, you can gauge the future of your field and judge how your creation stacks up. This process can give you some new ideas to tweak or improve the weapons in your arsenal, or it can show you that you’re heading down a well-occupied road and a little more innovation is sorely needed.
The timing for tradeshows, however, can mean everything. Launching too far in advance of a tradeshow – or, worse, directly after a tradeshow – can put you at a distinct disadvantage. Skipping tradeshows can mean skipping the opportunity to create some buzz about your product, and bypassing a chance to mingle can also lead to the competition getting a jump on you. A tradeshow deadline shouldn’t force you to skip crucial steps in the development process, but if you can coordinate your launch with top industry events, it may be worth readjusting your timeline.
First to File System
Patent law is an incredibly complex area of study, especially in the United States. And, with nearly 600,000 patent applications submitted a year in the U.S., it’s a busy one as well.
The success of an invention can live, breathe, and die by its patent. Without a proper patent – and this doesn’t mean just any patent, as utility and design patents offer quite different forms of protection – it’s possible for your competitors to claim your design, create their own prototype, and profit off of your hard work.
You may think that your forward progress on the road to a successful invention is enough of a head start, but this is no longer the case. Announced and signed in 2011, The America Invents Act changed the face of the patent system, forcing many inventors to alter their game plans substantially in order to guarantee patent protection.
Prior to this point, the U.S. patent system operated on a First to Invent system. Under this methodology, the first person to develop a concept with proven support had the right of way to apply for and receive a patent. While sometimes challenging to prove, this approach focused on an inventor’s ingenuity rather than his or her speed in obtaining a lawyer and filing paperwork.
However, this is no longer the case. The America Invents Act formally denoted a switch to a First Inventor to File process. Under these regulations, it no longer matters who first came up with an idea; it only matters who started the filing process the earliest. While some inventors enjoy this change as it negates the need for a lengthy appeals process when in competition with rivals, others feel that it stifles the creative aspects of inventing.
Inventors used to the old system in which detailed support throughout the invention process is adequate to lay claim to a patent might be in for a surprise under the change in ruling. There’s no longer any wiggle room in the patent application process, and inventors who don’t act quickly may lose out to someone who did.
Rather than waiting for every final detail to be complete before starting the paperwork to secure a patent, make filing quickly a top priority. The sooner you get the ball rolling, the easier it will be to protect your designs from the competition. When speed is essential, a lawyer may be, too. With a patent attorney by your side, you can ensure paperwork is as correct as possible as you navigate the troublesome landscape between conception and certification.
Fierce Competition and the Evolving Landscape of Business
Business is always moving and changing. What worked yesterday may not be good enough today, and planning a release date tomorrow for the trends right now can be a dangerous path forward.
As the adage in academia goes, “publish or perish.” While a fairly different landscape, inventing is often seen in a similar light. Without regular progress, it can be hard to keep up with the industry, your competition, and even yourself. Unless you are able to work hard to stay relevant, there’s virtually no way to remain a true contender within your market.
Competition in business is fierce, in even the most niche of industries. With the internet and the increased publicity of hot new ideas, it’s extremely hard to keep anything a secret for too long. Everything from online notes to patent applications can be accessed, making it significantly more challenging to launch a new and revolutionary product under the radar. Accordingly, time is frequently of the essence.
Research and development in any business application is seen as a serious endeavor that, generally, is not to be rushed, but project management comes with deadlines for a reason. Without a strong focus on a starting and ending point, it’s easy to get lost in the minutia in the middle, allowing someone to bypass you while you’re too busy fiddling with details that don’t really matter.
If you want to stay competitive and ahead of the curve, moving quickly is often the answer. Whether you’re stuck in a rut or motivated and on top of your invention, it’s always important to remember that your competition is moving just as fast as you are, no matter what stage of the process in which you find yourself. When you’re in the early stages of sketching, so is your fiercest competitor. When you’re working out logistical kinks, they are, too. When you’re raising the funds for a patent lawyer, they’re hot on your heels.
Competition may be frightening, especially when your toughest adversaries can cost you months or even years of effort, but your opponents should be a source of motivation, not stress. By remembering that someone else will beat you to the punch if you can’t keep up, you can push yourself to make a splash before it’s too late.
Missed Opportunity Cost
Most costs to a business owner or entrepreneur are easily calculable. Things like rent, utilities, wages, attorney fees, and revenue streams, for example, can be defined by finite numbers.
But, of course, one isn’t quite as concrete: opportunity cost. More of a concept than a definitive expense, opportunity costs weigh many intangible factors that, while theoretically measurable, are not necessarily correlated to a specific number or driver.
By definition, opportunity cost refers to the loss of a potential gain that could have been possible from alternatives other than the path chosen. Every business decision requires diverting resources from one source to another, and the cost of doing so can mean a loss elsewhere. For example, choosing to sell the licensing rights to your product versus selling it independently. While both situations offer benefits, the costs involved in marketing your own material may mean losing out on money to invest in your next project, even if doing so allows you to remain autonomous. On the other hand, licensing your product may increase your cash flows and reduce expenses, but the lack of control over your own product can affect your reputation as an inventor.
Time, while significantly less calculable than something like marketing costs, can be a strong component in considering missed opportunity costs. Choosing to spend more time in the invention process, whether that’s time spent procrastinating or time spent filing your own patent paperwork rather than paying a lawyer to prep papers for you, can mean losing out on other opportunities available to you that could potentially yield better results.
The concept of opportunity cost is virtually unavoidable throughout the world of business and entrepreneurship, but the more you can do to minimize the losses associated with allowing opportunities pass you by, the better. The best way to accomplish this? Focusing on the importance of timing, and what an elongated timeline can mean you and your invention.
Cell phones are a thing of the present, but the phone dates back 150 years and was first patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. While a far cry from the satellite radio of today, the wireless radio as we know it debuted in 1894 from Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. The electronic television was first introduced in San Francisco in 1927. The first cell phone call? It was made on April 3, 1973, in Midtown Manhattan by an employee of Bell Labs in New Jersey.
Every technology has to start somewhere, even if it doesn’t stay there for long. For those who can’t keep up, it’s quite easy to get left behind. Even the newest marvels just a decade ago, like the very first iPhone, have been abandoned in the dust in favor of newer, sleeker, and shinier alternatives that can do so much more.
If you’re working in an industry that is dominated by technological innovations, speed can be incredibly important. A product that is revolutionary today is unlikely to be considered as such in a year or two, and a delayed release can render everything you’re working on now virtually worthless.
Keeping up with the times isn’t easy. While industry experts often have an idea as to the direction of new technology – the growing presence of AI, for example, has been a hot topic as of late – there’s no real way to know how things will progress, which means that you’re stuck guessing on how the future will go. Wait too long to release your invention and you may find that the technology has taken a turn that you never saw coming. Obsolescence is an evenutal reality for many inventors, but the last thing you want is to release a product that is already obsolete.
Success in Inventing
From tradeshow schedules to holiday sales, timing is obviously important. When you want your product to succeed despite the pressures within the industry, these quick tips can help.
- Create a comprehensive strategy. When a new idea occurs to you, don’t just jump right in. Instead, develop a game plan. Draft plans, describe functions, draw out timelines, map financial goals, and schedule the ways in which you see the invention process progressing. It’s okay if you eventually veer off course, but setting expectations early can help you stay organized and focused.
- Draft weekly schedules. As the invention process continues, you may find yourself changing direction, rendering your original game plan null and void. If this occurs, it’s time to switch to a weekly schedule. By forecasting more accurately into the future, you can assign goals and tasks to the weeks to come to provide objectives on which you can focus.
- Stay focused. In any business situation, it’s tempting to make excuses and let life stand in the way of progress. Instead, commit as much energy as possible to finishing your product on a reasonable timetable. This may mean rescheduling social outings or bypassing vacations until the work is done.
- Give yourself a break. Sometimes, too much work under too much stress can be a death knell for a successful product. While timeliness is important, so is your mental health. Rather than pushing through a flawed patent app that will require revisions and steep costs, take a step back if you need one.
With a realistic idea of the road ahead and a commitment to minimizing time spent in order to maximize rewards, you can see success in your inventions that you never thought possible.