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Have you heard of a company called Bayer? Yes, the aspirin. Bayer AG is a Germany based pharmaceutical company that is into more than just the ubiquitous aspirin. Bayer makes plastic resins, among other things, that are sold to other companies to make a lot of the products we use today. Part of your cell phone is probably molded in plastic resin made by Bayer. Remember, I used to work at Motorola, I know these things.
Bayer asks their employees to submit product ideas through a company intranet portal. One employee suggested they make a see-through plastic snowboard. Why a snowboard? Because Bayer makes resins to mold clear plastic parts so why not a snowboard?
Bayer has a system in place to help evaluate the 9,000 ideas they get each year. They need to weed through the not so great ideas to find the gems. One in 250 ideas may actually make it to market but that one idea can be very profitable.
The following five questions are the basis for the selection criteria.
1. Is it really a new idea?
2. Is the idea feasible?
3. What is the benefit for the consumer?
4. Is there a need in the market?
5. Does the idea fit with the company’s focus, mission and portfolio?
Let’s break it down
1) Is the idea a truly new idea?
If not, why bother. You are not first to market and you can’t get patent protection. It’s a case of me-too. Not a path to sustainable competitive advantage.
How do you know if you idea is new? One word: Google. There are two tools at you disposal. Google Patents and Google Products. Use them early and often.
2) Is the idea feasible?
Can the product your inventing be manufactured? It is a product after all, not just a concept. Your product can’t be a time machine. Think of something practical like a blanket with sleeves. The product has to be producible. Most products are producible (eventually) but are they economically feasible? You need to get a basic idea of the cost to manufacture the product and see if it has a reasonable retail cost after mark-ups. Double the cost and double it again. Cost to make: $1 then the retail would be $4. if you are at 6X then even better so if it can sell retail for $6 you are in even better shape. Look at similar products at retail to get a feel if you product is in the right ballpark.
3) What is the benefit for the consumer?
You need to be solving a problem or offering some benefit. Why would someone buy the product, it has to do something, save time, add convenience, replace something else by doing a better job, etc.
4) Is there a need in the market?
It may have benefit to you but how about the market at large? If you have an extensive collection of 8-track tapes and your invention is a great way to store and sort the tapes. I’m thinking the market appeal may not be there. Invent what you know but make sure it’s mainstream.
5) Does the idea fit with the company’s focus, mission and portfolio?
As an independent inventor, you are planning to license your invention. You want to rent your intellectual property to a company, let them do the hard work of producing, marketing selling and distribution. You want to keep inventing and collect the royalty checks. You need to be sure that you product is a good fit with the company you are trying to license too. Don’t pitch a kitchen gadget to a company like Stanly Tools that makes hammers.
If you invention passed the five question test, congratulations! You are on you way to a possibly successful invention. If not, keep thinking of ideas so you can go from inspiration to innovation,
Wondering about the snowboard? Read the article on Forbes.com
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