I have written previously about culling your ideas to keep only the best ones. In that post, I posited that culling many “inspired” ideas down to a very small number of final candidates was essential to inventor success – a sort of survival of the fittest ideas.

In this post, I'd like to expand on that idea a bit.

While every invention begins with an idea, every idea cannot be a successful invention. In fact, very few ideas yield valuable inventions. I believe there are 3 categories of ideas for inventions:

  1. Dim bulbs – ideas with no chance for success
  2. Low wattage bulbs – ideas with minimal chance for success
  3. Incandescent bulbs – ideas with great success potential

Ideas and inspirations are gifts that our subconscious minds quietly deliver to our work-a-day conscious minds while we are not paying attention: when we are sleeping, in the shower or relaxing. We should never hinder this creative thinking gift/idea delivery system and, in fact, should do all we consciously can to encourage it. But it is then the job of our critical, analytical conscious mind to analyze each of these ideas, culling the dim and low wattage ideas and keeping only the incandescent bulbs for further development into useful products. How do we sift and sort the ideas?

Dim bulb ideas are impractical or difficult to convert into useful products. The benefits to consumers are lacking or just difficult to explain. I once had a consulting client whose idea was a sort of shower cap with artificial hair attached to it for women swimmers. The thought was the hairy cap would cover their real hair and keep it dry but allow other swimmers to perceive it was their real hair. It would have been expensive would need multiple hair colors and very few besides the inventor would ever buy the product: a dim bulb idea. Just to clarify: smart people come up with dim bulb ideas, lots of them

Low wattage ideas have innovative aspects and solve a particular problem and so have potential in the marketplace. But, they have at least one or two fatal problems that would keep them from success in the marketplace.

One such idea I had was an innovative car cover that would prevent hail damage when properly draped over a car using unique materials that would expand to repel hailstones. It would likely be costly to properly develop and auto dealers would be the strongest niche market. Lastly, I was skeptical that the logistics of quickly deploying a bunch of hail repelling covers over 50 or 100 cars in a dealership could be managed.

Incandescent bulb ideas (the few, the proud) solve a problem faced by many consumers, can be produced at low cost with at least a 4X to 5X mark up from manufacture to retail. They can be generally described in 30 seconds, are attractive to consumers and wholesalers and can be retailed at competitive prices compared to similar products.

Much like a wildcat oil well developer, you'll likely find that only about 1 out of 7 raw creative ideas are incandescent bulb ideas. The key is to sort your ideas and work to quickly cull the dim bulbs. In this way, the few incandescent bulbs can be isolated and you can begin developing them expeditiously.

Stay tuned!