This is a story of failure.
I failed to execute on an idea. Eventually, someone else did. They brought my idea to market. They got the sales. They got the money. All I got was Procrastinator’s Remorse.
One thing that I pride myself on is seeing things a bit differently from most people. I don’t mean in an artsy, Warhol or Picaso, kinda way. What I’m pretty good at is looking at something, be it a product or a process, and ask why it should be the way it is. Why couldn’t it be done differently? How could it be improved? Is there an opportunity to create a new product or service that could do the job better?
For several years now, I’ve been making notes as these ideas and inspirations hit me. I can’t tell you exactly how long this has been going on, but I know I’ve been doing it a long time because the first time I did it was in a Sony CLIE (anyone remember that nifty little pre-smartphone handheld organizer?). Then the list got transferred to my Blackberry. Today it lives in the Notes app on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I don’t make note of the date of my ideas – although I think I will from now on.
Not long after the first Wolverine movie came out in 2013, I had an idea that I added to my ideas list. From what I can recall, I was in my Mum’s backyard, looking for something in the shed and came across some crusty old leather gardening gloves. Right beside them were some small hand tools for gardening, including a small fork. Why can’t these two gardening items just be combined into one?
THE IDEA – Wolverine Gardening Gloves
At first glance, they look like normal gardening gloves, but when you press the release button on the wristband, out pops four long ‘fingers’ that you can use just as you would a hand held gardening fork. Just like the Wolverine! Genius, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
Like all my ideas, I took to Google to see if there was something like this on the market already. I figured if Bunnings, Australia’s leading hardware store, didn’t have them then they probably didn’t exist. They didn’t. But still, I Googled…and Googled…and Googled. Nothing. So I then moved on to looking for possible materials to use to make my Wolverine Glove, then what sort of price points I thought it could retail for, then working that back to a wholesale and then manufacturer’s price. It all seemed doable, it was just going to come down to how much of a demand would there really be for a product like this. Ultimately, I wasn’t able to convince myself that there was a big enough opportunity here to warrant me spending too much more time on it and certainly not enough to risk investing my money on making a prototype.
And that was where it sat – until a few weeks ago. Look what one of my friends shared on Facebook…
OK, so it’s not exactly the same as the concept I had, but it basically does the same thing.
It’s too early to say if these will be the greatest invention in the home gardening sector since the fork – or maybe since the gardening glove. Chances are it won’t be. But the fact remains someone had enough faith in the idea to bring it market and at least some people are buying it. And those sales could have been mine!
So, what can I (and YOU) learn from my failure to launch?
Here’s a few points to consider…
- At least one other person, somewhere in the world, has already had the same idea you have, or at least they will soon enough. The difference is one of you will actually execute on that idea. It might as well be you.
- Most ideas, on their own, aren’t so special and unique that you need to worry about protecting them or keeping them secret. By all means check to ensure you’re not infringing on someone else’s already published and protected IP (patent, trademark, copyright, etc), but don’t be obsessed about protecting your idea, be obsessed about bringing it to market.
- Speed matters. First to market is still and will always be a great business strategy.
- Seek out the doubters. If you can convince someone who initially doesn’t think your idea is very good, then there’s a good chance it has merit. If you can’t, maybe it doesn’t.
- Seek out partners who can help you bring your idea to life. Often we resist partnering with those that could infact be the difference between our success or failure. Partly it’s greed. We don’t want to let someone else share in our ideas. Partly, it’s fear they’ll steal your idea. In reality, in most cases, you probably shouldn’t go it alone. Look for partners who bring something to the table that you don’t. Share the problem and share the reward. Without them, you may never get there.
- It may not be too late. First to market is a great strategy – but it’s not the only one. Even if you one day find someone else has ‘stolen’ your idea, you still may have an opportunity. If they’ve had success in the market then it proves there’s a demand for your thing. You just need to do it better. Many of the most successful companies in the world have made their mark building a better mousetrap. Apple didn’t create the first pc or laptop or portable personal music device – but they did it better.
- Keep an open mind. I’ve always thought horror movies are dumb. If I had an open mind about watching Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy Krueger may well have inspired me 30 years before Hugh Jackman flexed his burly fingers.
What ideas are YOU sitting on?