The 4 types of inventor you must avoid as your role model if you want to monetise your idea might be slightly different from what you imagine. In this post I will share my findings so that you can be prepared should you come across any of them…
So you’re seriously thinking about or indeed starting to use your creative skills to invent the next best solution that you hope will shake up and transform an industry and change your own life in the process, – so, who do you look at to find your inspiration and role model?
I have successfully monetised around 500 of my own products in the last 20 years, and during that time I’ve observed the characters, traits and mindsets of many inventors, and found four types you must avoid as your role model if you want to monetise your idea, here they are:
The “mad professor”
The “mad professor” describes the archetype inventor many of us can probably identify with the most when we think about what an inventor looks and acts like. We might conjure up images of older, eccentric characters with wiry grey hair and the white coat, but I can assure you through my own experiences that there are many other forms who fit in the same category. I’ve met the retired teacher, engineer and civil servant and the village posh geezer who disappears into his potting shed when he’s not sharing his wisdom at the local pub.
This creature of habit is the most intelligent form of inventor in terms of how their minds work in trying to solve particularly difficult problems most of us couldn’t even comprehend, however such good intention is usually undone by their lack of organisational skills and failure to finish the project in hand. Enter their lab, shed or garage and ask them which of the dozen or so proto-types scattered around their “man cave” is nearest to the real deal and they might be temporarily jolted out of their trance before whispering to themselves as they look around, “good question.”
The “mad professor” inventor usually has a nest egg or some large pension to fall back on, their “stomach is full,” so the desire to monetise their idea any time soon isn’t high, and the thought of building in some type of strategy in case things take off horrifies them, they will cross that bridge when they come to it. Just being able to be known as an inventor is enough for now and on the rare occasion one of them cracks the code, they simply won’t have a clue what to do next, and continue the tinkering, instead of looking at how to capitalise. The “mad professor” inventors often end up eating into their savings to keep their patent alive because they are on the verge of something amazing, – these rather delusional creatures of habit have played their part well, delivering to the media exactly what they are perceived to be.
However, in their defence I do think that to make money from their endeavour isn’t as high on their list as their passion is to solve a big problem, which can include saving and improving the lives of so many people.
The “court jester”
Go to any inventions fair and you will see the “court jester” in action. This fun version of what we sadly associate with as an inventor knows exactly how to attract media attention and draw in the crowds. Follow the trail of any TV camera as it travels the aisles and the court jester will be at the centre of the carnival, their colourful clothes, bright shoes and crazy glasses give them away.
I have never seen a truly great invention behind such a masquerade, (although I am sure there must be one or two out there) and more often than not a novelty or fun idea is usually what is left when the hype dies down – a musical toothbrush caused some attention at one show I attended, the “inventor” charmed the crowds for three days but left with zero investment or awards for his “ingenuity.”
The “court jesters” love the attention, as do the organisers who pull them off their stands to feed the media channels with what they want, whilst the mainstream of inventors, the majority with far superior ideas, are left in their wake. You see, both the jester and organiser work as a team, they know that without such efforts there’s no entertainment and little point in putting the show on in the first place- and again we inventors become the laughing stock.
If there is anything to be admired from the court jester it is that they know all about marketing, and how to hog the limelight, business traits most other forms of inventors lack.
The “destroyer” is the type of inventor who demonstrates arrogance instead of confidence and aggression as opposed to a healthy passion. They have some great ideas and know it, and being humble about it isn’t going to get them their first £million, so these imposing characters force themselves on anyone they think will listen.
Unfortunately the “destroyer” doesn’t adhere to any rules, it doesn’t enter their head to spend any amount of time making calls or sending emails to potential investors, manufacturer’s or prospects as they always seek a short cut to success.
The “destroyer’s” tactics can involve roaming a trade exhibition relevant to their chosen market and demanding to see the decision maker, not respecting the fact that the decision maker has booked in customers all day, because that’s why she’s there, to sell!
Two “destroyer’s” I have met stand out in my mind, one wore a sharp suit with his lawyer in tow at a print show in Germany and the other wore scruffy jeans and T-shirt whilst roaming an exhibition hall in Chicago, both had the gift of the gab and swagger to match. The casually dressed “destroyer” verbally chastised those manufacturer’s who turned him away, as if those of us he was telling cared! Unfortunately, an inventor with a bad attitude really can kill a good deal and both these guys are still working in their day jobs.
The “regular guy or gal”
I think that most inventor’s fall into “the regular guy or gal” category – they often have marketable ideas that could really do well, but they don’t have any particular plan, or even a basic strategy to get them where they need to be. They tell you that they are just the ideas people and expect that someone might guess how their product might be attractive or beneficial in their market, they might simply ask, what do you think?, This attitude doesn’t bode well in front of potential investors, if they somehow happen to attract one.
I saw a “regular guy” inventor on a TV slot a few years ago, oh how I wanted him to do well because he had an amazing DIY product, I’d met him at an inventions show and his idea blew me away.
His body language was all wrong as he was slumped in his chair wearing jacket and jeans, and his eye contact with the interviewer was poor (bad start, but I hoped he could still pull it off). Then when asked about his goals, he confessed that he wasn’t in it for the money, he just enjoyed creating things, until he then admitted to remortgaging his house and borrowing £30,000 to pay debts and to try and get his product manufactured, which didn’t add up. So with his credibility as a businessman gone I could imagine B & Q executives watching and rubbing their hands together, thinking they could get his invention at a snip because the inventor just enjoyed tinkering. The interviewers voice became quirkier as our DIY guy played his stereo-typical inventors card perfectly.
The “regular guy or gal” is usually casually dressed on the rare occasion they venture out to pitch their proto-type and understate themselves to the point of annoyance. They don’t like to be seen as seeking a great fortune for their invention, but secretly hope that some mega corporate representative will come knocking on their door with a suitcase full of life changing cash.
Taking inventors from delusional to real
You might, at first, think my comments are harsh, but I speak from my vast personal experience as an inventor and a successful businessman who’s profited from bringing to market hundreds of my own ideas. I also speak as someone who has often been tempted into adopting many of the bad habits described in each category, simply because when things got really tough it was easy to shrug my shoulders and tell myself I’m just an inventor, and refuse to take responsibility for moving forward.
The world and the media have their own view when it comes to subjects associated with invention, and much of it is negative, and we as inventors play our part by feeding that hungry media monster, and I have been guilty of it too.
Now is as good a time as any for inventors to refuse playing the part of the pantomime characters and mover closer to our place on the “West end stage?”
In my next post I am going to talk about how you can make your invention the 1 in 500 that actually makes money. Read it here.