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This episode: Your End Result: Products, Patents & Unicorns!
The party’s over – what do you do next?
As you are planning the outcomes of your innovation program – if productizing the ideas coming out of the program, its key to have a place for these ideas to land so that they can be productized. They need to have people, place, and budget so that they can go-to-market. Otherwise, you won’t be successful. Idea after ideas will hit the brick wall and never go anywhere, and your inventors will start becoming unhappy about where their ideas end up and maybe even stop submitting ideas completely. I’ve seen this way too many times: where does the idea go once it’s got legs?
You’ve got some great ideas from your inventors. They got a lot of votes. Your reviewers thought that they were great. Your approvers gave them a big thumb up. Now what?
Depending on if you are running an innovation program or hackathon which is supposed to end with a prototype (such as a lab or a traditional hackathon) or not (this is more for those who are not) then the next stage in the process would be to prototype the idea.
Sometimes an idea is so amazing, you can convince someone to put it straight into the product pipeline, and it will just move forward on its own. This is really great (and rare) when it happens. Again, the chances of something like this occurring really depend on the culture of the company. I remember taking really great ideas to different groups within one of the companies I was working at and them basically telling me that they already had an incredibly tall stack of stuff to work on, and they had no time to do anything about the ideas I brought in. They didn’t even look at the ideas to determine if some of them were so good that they should reprioritize the stack in order to fit a few of these in. Other companies may be more open to slotting some new ideas in, especially those with a much more agile management style.
If you can’t get your company to prototype or productize your idea, and you still think it’s an awesome idea, and no one else has done it, then you really should file a patent on the idea, just in case you or your competitors wish to build the product in the future. I’ll go more into this in the next chapter, but patenting an idea is great for those really good ideas to go if they have never been done before.
Depending on if your company already has a patent or patent awards program, an awards program would be a great incentive for the inventor.
Always Have a Landing Strip
Every idea, no matter how big or small, must always land somewhere. Even if it lands in “NotHappeningVille” you must always let the inventor of each and every idea what is happening to their idea. Feeling that their ideas are disappearing into black holes is the kiss of death for any innovation program. If you want to keep the ideas flowing out of your inventors, you must keep the flow of feedback and communication about their inventions and the innovation program itself going strong.