Thursday, March 10, 2011

Million dollar inventions for under five dollars

Nearly every day I receive a call or an email from someone with that “million dollar idea”.   The more I work with inventors the more I realize that there is no “right” formula for successfully taking an idea and turning it into a million dollar home run! Sure there are steps one can take – researching the idea and the market opportunity, researching and possibly securing a patent for the idea and finding a manufacture to help you successfully bring it to market.   Sounds easy enough but the truth is it’s not.  A majority of good ideas never get from the “aha” stage to the market for any number of reasons.

But some do and that is what inspires inventors to keep on trying.   Yahoo recently published an article that originally appeared in Investopedia that listed 7 products under $5.00 that made millions!  These products included:  Post-It Notes, Slinky, Crazy Straw, Silly Bandz, Pet Rock, Antenna Ball and Koosh Ball.

What’s interesting about some of these products is that their inventors did not set out to create what they turned out to be!   For example, the Slinky was invented in 1945 by Robert James for the Navy as an anti-vibration device for ship instruments. However the Navy didn't use them so James searched for another use for his invention. He made it into a toy!  Over 300 million Slinkys have sold since!

“Post It’s” resulted from a huge “fail” after a 3M employee was tasked to create a new strong adhesive and came up with the adhesive that didn’t stick well so he started using it to attach notes to his reports.   Soon his fellow employees wanted it and the rest as they say “is history”.

The moral of these examples is that sometimes the most successful products stemmed from “failed” inventions that were “re-purposed” into something else.  Failure can lead to great success if we are willing to think beyond the obvious and see potential where others may not!     

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