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Guest Opinion: Dealing With the Devil — An Inventor’s Mindset

17 Aug, 2010 By: John Abdo Response

I would never recommend anyone associate with the devil. But in this piece, it is merely a comparative referring to all those cynics and critics who fester up unimpressed remarks about an inventor’s invention.

When I was first confronted by the devil myself, I took a firm defensive stance — emotionally and intellectually speaking. An elevation in my adrenaline levels fueled an uncharacteristic attitude as I defended myself against the (verbal) attacks on my invention.

I still have black-and-blue marks on my buttocks from doors slamming into my rear-end after getting kicked out of disclosure meetings for the original AB-DOer®. Surprisingly though, over time and through repetitive run-ins with the devil, I’ve learned to accept, and even learn from, unenthusiastic comments.

“Great ideas are often met with fierce opposition by mediocre minds.” Albert Einstein

The devil I’m obviously referring to is a “devil’s advocate.” Comments from a devil’s advocate can prove to be extremely useful for the development and refinement of a product. Much like the statement, “Any publicity is good publicity,” this falls under, “Any comments are good comments.” At the very least, dissimilar comments can provide information of what not to do, which is just as (or more) important as knowing what must be done.

“You never fail at developing your product. Instead, you gain the knowledge of how it can’t be done.” — Thomas Alva Edison

It’s quite customary for an inventor to assume a self-protective position when criticized. Controlling one’s emotions is a requirement for developing self-control and an attribute of professional conduct.

Differing ideas could spark a tweak in the product or, perhaps, influence a different version or prototype. Possibly it’s a prototype that never gets manufactured, but — like Edison said — intentionally disproving an idea can verify the proven version. Developing and documenting several prototypes can also be useful to fend off the knock-off artists who tweak the original idea just enough to deem it novel and patentable, and “not guilty” of any patent infringement.

Many of the great direct response and direct-to-retail agencies in our industry budget significant energy, funds and time to outsource professionally conducted focus groups. These groups are comprised of an assemblage of people paid to be — for lack of a better phrase — devil’s advocates who examine a product, then divulge the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of what they’re reviewing. Needless to say, focus groups can be very useful in identifying flaws and mistakes before the product enters the marketplace, which is the wiser option than the inevitable barrage of complaining customers.

When entering into a product disclosure meeting, assume an open-minded attitude. You might get a “Wow!” response, or encounter a statuesque stoic demeanor that leaves you wondering. You might just meet the devil himself and get black-and-blue marks on your own buttocks. Either way, remain poised during all feedback (especially the negative) and remember that “no” does not mean “never.” Your product might need more time to evolve by adding a little tweak or added feature that dials in the winning design.

Conversing With the Devil

The devil’s advocate can provide the necessary unbiased comments that help refine a product before it’s brought into the marketplace. In addition to asking the notorious “Do you like it?” question, also ask:

  • What don’t you like about it?
  • Where do you think it can be improved?
  • Are the assembly instructions understandable?
  • How much would you pay for this?

Stay open-minded when disclosing and discussing your idea. Welcome new ideas, even critical ones. Detach emotional connections while sporting a business-like attitude. Ask plenty of questions and get as many opinions from different types of people. A tiny suggestion — perhaps one that initially appears insignificant — might be all one needs to transform a so-so item into a grand slam home run! n

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