Our two past Make48 invention contests have had some great inventor teams. So today I wanted to see, what makes a great winning Make48 inventors team? I believe it takes a lot of steps to lineup perfectly. From the right team members, solving a real problem, having a unique idea/product; all the way down to the correct way to pitch it. So let’s break it down into some simple steps:
Step 1: Selecting the right people to be on your team.
Selecting your team mates for Make48 is probably the most important step in this process. If you have one person that is not a right fit it will be hard to even get started. It is the dynamics of the team that help with the synergy of inventing. Everyone should respect each other’s opinions equally (no egos). I think that everyone has great ideas inside of them, despite what their qualifications and background might be (don’t prejudge). Also do not pick people on your team that are similar as you. You want diversity; maybe a person that is mechanically minded to someone who is great at sales. Think about what your weaknesses are and select someone who has those strengths.
Step 2: What is the problem to solve?
Many times I have seen Make48 teams come up with ideas that are pretty neat, but they don’t really solve a real problem for the customer to justify them to purchase in store. For example, if the inventor team makes a new coffee cup with two handles instead of one, the customer already has a coffee cup that works so there really isn’t a need for the two handle coffee cup. The goal is to invent a product that solves real problems, and ultimately has a massive amount of customers seeking for the solution to their problem. The more you know your customer’s problem the better. Become an expert in identifying the customer’s problems and invent around that.
Step 3: The winning idea.
Now you have a “real problem” to solve for the customer, it is time to come up with the solution to the customer’s problem. I like to call it “the winning idea.” In our product development group, “Steel Table Group,” we ask for everyone on the team to write down on a white board the ideas to solve this customer’s problem, regardless of what everyone thinks qualifies as a solution. Your idea might spark someone else on your team to add to that idea and to make it better. Or maybe mix your idea with his or hers to make a unique winning idea. I also always try to “borrow brilliance” from my past experiences and memories even if it’s not related to this problem. Inventors like us see the world in a different way. So, they might remember seeing an episode on “How It’s Made” about how ink pens are made, and use a part of the clicking mechanism to solve their current problem. Now that you have the winning idea to solve the customer’s problem it’s time for the next step, “Product Research.”
Step 4: Product Research
Now its time to see if your product is already on the market or has ever been patented. Generally, a great start is to search on Google images or Google shopping the idea you have. Google even has copied patents from the United States Patent Office to look at as well. You can search for prior patents here. If you found the product on the market, or has a patent already that’s okay. You could always look at customer reviews about the existing product. Maybe the existing product doesn’t have great reviews and are telling you what’s wrong with the existing product. This will help you again to see if there is a way to improve on it. Remember your customer is the one you are trying to make happier. Once you have a product that fits the customer better, it’s time for the next step, prototyping.
Step 5: Proof of Concept/Prototyping
This is where Make48 separates itself from the rest of the inventing world. We have assembled a group of Tool Techs that specialized in different field of fabrication, such as CAD drawing, 3D-printing, Laser Cutting, Metal Fabrication, and Woodworking, Patent Lawyers and even Voiceovers to Video Production. Your team doesn’t have to be talented in prototyping, you simply just go to the tool techs that specialize in that field to help you create your prototype. Once you have a prototype that “looks like and feels like” the real off the shelf product, then it is off to pitch your invention.
Step 6: Creating the Pitch
Creating the pitch is another one of those steps that is extremely important. You can have the best invention in the world, but if you don’t express the features and benefits of that product to the Make48 judging panel, they won’t understand what you have. Again, use the Make48 Tool Techs that are provided to help your team create a video and/or documents that help tell about the great things that your invention has to offer. The person on your team that is pitching your product is also important in selecting. He or she has to be comfortable, and not nervous when talking to the Make48 judging panel. They should be able to communicate easily, even adding a little humor in the pitch never hurts.
Step 7: Judging
Now you have done everything above to the best of your team’s ability, it’s up to the judging panel to decide the winners. The judges will then evaluate the inventions and ask themselves: is it marketable? Easy to manufacture? Does it solve a worthy consumer problem? Retail cost? They have a lot to work through, but will come to a decision. The teams and prizes will be announced soon after the judging ends.
We hope you learned along the way what it takes to create a consumer product and hope you even made a few more friends!
Apply for the next Make48 challenge on June 10th-12th here!