Million Dollar Ideas

Rejecting million dollar ideas is one of the most necessary, but least satisfying tasks the head of a corporate product development activity has to do. However, if you are bursting with great ideas, I have some suggestions for getting them implemented.

By million dollar idea, I mean an idea for an invention or solution to a readily understandable problem that will sell in great volume. Sometimes, enough marketing research has been done to make it clear to one and all that any workable solution could be a real money maker.

Take, for example, these problems: Protecting banks from being held up, stopping theft in retail stores, preventing employee theft in factories, and controlling access to secure areas. There are hundreds of people working away in cubicles, home workshops and at their kitchen tables who have potential solutions to these and many other problems. I know, because their ideas would come across my desk almost every week.

I was in charge of product development for a company which created new technologies to solve these long-standing problems. It became very clear to me that there is no shortage of million dollar ideas. In fact, we had more great ideas within the company than we could implement with the resources available to us. After I had taken a number of products from concept to mass production, I evolved a personal measure of the relative value of million dollar ideas to final product.

The million dollar idea will make money only after these and many other actions are done correctly:
1. The idea is sold successfully to management to get funding
2. A working prototype can be made which demonstrates feasibilty
3. Tooling is developed to produce the product at a cost where it can be sold profitably
4. Packaging, pricing and sales strategies are developed for identified markets.
5. Distribution channels are created
6. All of the production bugs are worked out to produce acceptable yields
7. The product hits the market while a window of opportunity still exists
8. The product sells in enough volume to recoup the investments in steps 1-7

The ratio of value between the most stellar product idea and the inspired effort required to implement it is about 1 to 300. Those of you who have developed your own products can probably verify this from your own experience.

What conclusion might you draw from this? You probably stand a far better chance of making money with a $10,000 idea than a million dollar idea.

As an example, there is a woman in our neighborhood who developed a line of specialty nut brittles. She has installed a commercial kitchen in her home and is barely able to keep up with demand. She has created a brand, Red Rocker Candies, which is practically flying off the shelves at local stores. The crucial difference, as I see it, is that she picked an idea she could implement herself.

Hang this up in your cubicle or workspace: What product or service can I develop with the resources available to me?

The answer to that could give you a new life and new challenges.

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