10 Rules for Successful Product Development

Richard C. Levy ,Special to EO
Article by:
Richard C. Levy
Special to EO

This article is excerpted from Richard's newest book,“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cashing in on Your Inventions".

Succeeding in the exciting, frequently gut-wrenching enterprise of product development and commercialization takes a lot more than a good idea, a strong patent and luck. In fact, the idea is about 10 percent of the equation. If you want to beat what can sometimes seem like insurmountable odds, study the following concepts:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t take your idea too seriously, either. The world will probably survive without your idea. Industry will probably survive without your idea. You may need to it to survive, but no one else does.

  • The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep running. It’s a mistake to think anything is made overnight, other than baked goods or newspapers. My first corollary is: Nothing is as easy as it looks. My second corollary is: Everything takes longer than you think. You win some, you lose some, and some are rained out, but always suit up for the game and stick with it.

  • You can’t do it all yourself. My success continues to be the result of unselfish, highly talented, and creative partners and associates willing to face the frustrations, rejections, and seemingly open-ended time frames inherent to any product development and licensing exercise. I’ve also been lucky to meet and work with very creative, understanding, and courageous corporate executives willing to believe in me and gamble on our concepts. When we all work well together, nothing can stop this combo.

  • Keep your ego under control. Creative and inventive people, according to profile, hate to be rejected or criticized for any reason. They’re usually critical of others. They are also extremely defensive where their creations are concerned. An out-of-control ego kills more opportunities than anything. While inventors need a healthy ego to serve as body armor, it can quickly get out of hand and become arrogance is not tempered. Great mistakes are made when we feel we’re beyond questioning.

  • You will always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you don’t out forth the effort, you won’t fail, but you won’t succeed, either. Inaction will keep opportunities from coming your way.

  • Don’t invent just for financial rewards. We all want to make money. That’s only natural. It is what we are taught from the earliest age. But you should be motivated by the gamesmanship, as well. It may sound trite, but people who do things just for money usually come up shortchanged. To put it another way, pigs get fat, while hogs get slaughtered.

  • If you bite the bullet, be prepared to taste gunpowder. Not every idea or decision works. So often to I find myself victimized by the Law of Unintended Consequences. On day you get the gold mine; another day you get the shaft. It’s easy for people who live by their creative wits to go from drinking wine to picking grapes. But I find the risks and gambles are what I love most about a career with no safety net. Knowing how hard the business of invention development and licensing is keeps my feet moving.

  • Learn to take rejection. Don’t be turned off by the word “No,” because you’ll it often, as in, “No, we’re not looking for that at this time.” “No, you will have to do better than that for us to consider it.” “No, your idea isn’t original.” Rejection can be positive if it’s turned into constructive growth. Don’t let rejection shake your confidence. My experience is that products get better the more times they’re presented. Rejection is a rehearsal before the big event.

  • Believe in yourself. One of the first steps toward success is learning to detect and follow that gleam of light that flashes across the mind from within. We tend to dismiss our own thoughts without notice because they’re ours. In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back at us with a certain alienated majesty. It’s critical that you learn to abide by your own spontaneous impressions. Allow nothing to effect the integrity of your mind.

  • Sell yourself before you sell your ideas. Be concerned how you’re perceived. You may be capable of dreaming up ideas, but if you cannot command the respect and attention of corporate executives, associates and investors, your product will never get off the mark, and you may not be invited back for an encore.

Richard C. Levy has co-created, co-developed and licensed more than 250 items in the past 35 years, including one of the most popular toys of all time, Furby®. He has been profiled on Discovery Channel’s Invention series, NPR, and CBS News, and has been interviewed by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Richard’s newest book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cashing in on Your Inventions,” is available for purchase in stores.

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