As my time as an intern for Edison Nation comes to a close, I’ve been looking back on my “Intro to Entrepreneurship” class I took at school this past year, tying together what I learned on paper and have now seen in the real world of innovation.
One lesson has very much stuck in my head since learning about it last fall: Drucker’s Five Principles of Innovation. Peter Drucker, “the man who invented management,” was a writer, professor, management consultant and helped inspire the businesses of P&G, The Salvation Army, Red Cross, and IBM to name a few. Needless to say, he’s a pretty inspirational guy!
Of his 39 books, Innovation and Entrepreneurship provides some basic principles that come in handy in the business world, and I have especially seen them at work in my time at Edison Nation. As a student, it was helpful to learn these and try to apply them to my daily life. Hopefully they will also help you all as entrepreneurs as you continue to invent!
“Purposeful, systematic innovation begins with the analysis of the opportunities. It begins with thinking through… the sources of innovative opportunities.”
This goes back to the idea of finding a solution after identifying a problem. Don’t come up with something that there is no need for, that is like solving a problem that has already been solved. That’s not to say some current solutions can’t be improved! Go through your daily life, jot down those issues you repeatedly see, and work from there.
“Innovation is both conceptual and perceptual… Successful innovators…look at figures, and they look at people. They work out analytically what the innovation has to be to satisfy an opportunity. And then they go out and look at the customers, the users, to see what their expectations, their values, their needs are.”
Test out your innovations. If an idea fits to you and your life, go make sure others are experiencing the same issues. Look, ask and listen to feedback. Find people of all backgrounds, people not related to you who can actually be truthful. If necessary, pivot your invention idea after receiving feedback if you realize that you could go in a better direction. To be successful, your invention must be universal. Make sure your problem is big enough in the lives of normal people that they would want to spend money in trying to find a solution.
“An innovation, to be effective, has to be simple and focused. It should do only one thing, otherwise, it confuses. All effective innovations are breathtakingly simple. Indeed, the greatest praise an innovation can receive is for people to say: ‘This is obvious. Why didn’t I think of it?’”
The biggest inventions of our lifetime are not the multi-tool, made for every occasion, confusing products. People like simplicity and want to look at something knowing exactly how and where it will help them in their lives. This is especially important in the realm of As Seen On TV, where products must be easily understandable to a TV audience.
“Effective innovations start small… They try to do one specific thing.”
Similar to the last point, you don’t need to think big to be successful. People are not looking for the next big thing in life, rather they are looking for ways to help their current lifestyle. Not to say it can’t build: the iPod started as just a music player, and eventually out of that came the iPhone. If Steve Jobs had tried to start out with an iPhone as his first product, who knows if people could have gotten past the initial confusion. Start small and easily understandable to make your invention the most marketable.
“A successful innovation aims at leadership [within a given market or industry]… If an innovation does not aim at leadership from the beginning, it is unlikely to be innovative enough, and therefore unlikely to be capable of establishing itself.”
Don’t pursue a market that is already crowded with successful leaders. Enter a market where your invention will be the best, where your invention is so different from the others in the industry that it is an obvious leader. Make sure your idea is different enough from the current products to make it marketable on its own and more attractive than the existing.
In my Intro to Entrepreneurship class, we went through all of these steps as we “invented” an idea for a semester-long project. My group found a problem that existed, talked to people in the target market: students, parents, and even a farmer from Eastern North Carolina to get valuable feedback on how to improve. We took the feedback, changed a few things, and even went back to step one in analyzing everything all over again. Eventually we got to a point where we created a successful idea, with all the kinks worked out.
So just as I learned these tips from Drucker in the classroom, you can use this as a lesson in innovation and try to apply it to the real world.