Let me ask you a simple question. Do you love to receive praise, but hate to hear criticism for things that are near and dear to you?
Of course you do! We all do.
Your invention is much more than an object to you. It is a tangible tribute to your creativity, hard work and intelligence. You did something most people never do: you created something new and innovative from nothing but your imagination and ideas. Congratulations!
But, what happens when you pitch or present your ‘pride and joy' invention to a key decision maker and they respond, not with praise, but with criticism, sometimes harsh criticism?
Avoid Self-Inflicted Wounds
When a decision maker responds to your invention with criticism, it feels visceral, like a rejection, not only of your invention, but also of you, personally. How do you respond? Often, you become defensive, even angry. You may choose to counter-attack by questioning their credibility or understanding of your product.
What has happened here? You have created self-inflicted wounds by allowing your negative emotions to cloud your judgment and control your response. It happens all the time. Let me give you an example of when this happened to me and how I learned to turn it around, by changing my behavior and my perception of my critics.
When I pitched my slim wallet invention for licensing to Tandy Brands Accessories, they were initially quite interested. But, after further consideration, they told me that “this wallet will not sell well in retail because it seems too big – consumers will think it won't fit in their back pockets.”
I must have turned beet red as I felt the anger pulsing through my veins .Fortunately, I maintained my composure enough to rather tersely thank them for their time, then I beat a hasty retreat to my car where I could let off some steam. On the drive home and throughout the evening, I felt furious. Anger took control of my thoughts. I felt like they were idiots. I had shown them, after all, that the wallet indeed fit not only in my pocket, but let several of them try it in theirs. How could they say such a thing?
The next morning, I had cooled off and was able to think more clearly, less emotionally. It was then that I realized what they had said was not an attack on my product, but instead was their best objective assessment. I then realized that they had never actually said the wallet was too big. They said that consumers might think it was too big to fit in pockets. In fact, many of my customers initially felt the wallet was too big to fit in a pocket. This validated their criticism of how consumers would perceive my invention.
Re-evaluate and Find a New Path
Only after I cooled off did I remember the second half of what they had told me:
“This is a sell-on-TV product – you should take it to QVC.” This was positive encouragement. They weren't “raining on my parade.”
Of course! My product always sold very well when I would demo it to people, so why not demo it to millions of QVC buyers?
So, I did. I was on QVC for two years and sold about $150,000 worth of wallets to them. Because I re-evaluated their criticism, I was able to find a much better path forward. Ultimately that path led me to licensing to Allstar products and selling on TV, where over 1 million wallets were sold in the first year (and they are still selling today).
What I Learned and What I Want You to Learn
Today, I behave very differently than I did then. I learned that all feedback is valuable, whether it is positive or whether it is critical in nature. I learned to receive all of it with an open mind and to see value in every review and critique of my product.
Successful inventors sooner or later learn to receive criticism and to re-evaluate accordingly. Sometimes criticism is simply wrong, it doesn't align with carefully considered facts and experiences. At other times, criticism is an opportunity to re-evaluate, to consider making some changes in either the product or your approach and your path forward (as I did).
In the end, I profited nicely by finally hearing criticism and finding the hidden nugget within a harsh judgment. There is a good chance, you will have a similarly successful outcome if you are able to keep an even keel and an open mind.