2 steps to invent great products

  1. Ask people what they want.
  2. Give them what they asked for.

In my experience, this is really what inventing new products is all about.   A simpler way to put it is the old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention”.  Having invented many, many failed products and a few modestly successful ones, I’ve learned it really comes down to that.

The other thing to note is that process never really stops.  You need to keep asking them, keep paying attention to what your customers are saying, and keep refining what you’re providing based on their desires and needs.

To clarify, sometimes asking isn’t as straight forward as a question, it may involve making some kind of minimum version of your vision, or as Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup puts it, the Minimum Viable Product.  This could be a working prototype, or simply a statement like “An orange that only gets juice in your mouth and costs twice as much as a regular orange but is otherwise identical” written on a piece of paper.  You can then ask people “well?  What do you think?”

The really amazing thing is how many inventors and start up folks simply don’t get this at all.  In my experience, the first tendency is to have an epiphany and immediately start spending $$ and time making that exact thing in the dream.  Asking people is often the *last* thing inventors do, and almost invariably this results in a bunch of stuff off to storage or the dump.

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