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On Becoming a Successful Inventor, Innovator or Entrepreneur: Insider Secret #1

By James Laughren |

We’ve all heard about those people with great (and some not-so-great) ideas who’ve made millions with their inventions and product ideas. And if they can do it, why not you? After all, you’ve got an idea that’s every bit as good as clap-on light fixtures, stove top grills that drain fat or vacuum systems that compress sweaters and blankets into paper-thin packages for easy storage.

In fact, everyone you've shown your idea to (though maybe you shouldn't have shown it to anyone) has told you they'd buy one in a minute. There's no question about it ­ you've got a winner. Now you only have to show it to the right company, or person, and they'll jump at the chance to pay you big bucks for that great idea. Right? Wrong!

The first requirement to becoming a successful inventor ­and making those millions you've heard about ­is to understand the difference between an idea and an invention. And to realize that in most cases, ideas alone have little or no value. This is no different than in any other area of business, the arts, or any creative endeavor.

If, for example, I told you that I had a great idea for increasing your online income, that somehow you could entice others to make a sales pitch for you ­ to actually sell your products from their websites ­ and that in return, you would give them a percentage of the resulting sales, you might agree that I had an interesting idea. But if I asked you to pay me for that idea, you would probably tell me to take a hike.

On the other hand, if I had designed a workable and easy to understand affiliate program that included a simple but accurate tracking and pay-out system, plus a brand new twist on re-seller options, and it was all packaged for easy, 1-click installation on any web site, you might very well consider my invention to be worth purchasing. And therein lies the difference between an idea and an invention.

One is only a concept, interesting perhaps, but hardly saleable. The other, however, is an actual product (though it may still be in the design or prototype stage) that a company can manufacture and market. This transition is referred to in the invention world as a “reduction to practice”. Just as reducing an idea to practice is required before applying for a patent, it is likewise necessary before trying to sell or license your new concept.

Ideas are just a starting point, far too ephemeral to package and sell. They also happen to be a dime a dozen. A single idea can become any number of actual products, some of them good, some not worth the time of day. So if you do have a great idea, consider that to be step one. Now reduce it to practice, take it to the next step.

Design and build a mock-up of that grill that drains fat; produce a drawing or write a detailed description of how your vacuum system works, the type of bags used, the power required, the valve closure that's the key to the whole operation. Once you have done this, you've crossed the line, gone from being only a dreamer to becoming an actual inventor ­ and maybe now you do have something to sell.

When you have successfully taken this next step, when you've come to realize what real value is all about, you've begun the process of converting yourself into an achiever. And now maybe you'll have an honest shot at all those millions ­ because when you understand how it's supposed to be done, you really can invent your way to wealth.

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