We’ve all experienced the value of running a structured brainstorm or idea generation session to come up with some new ideas. There are some excellent books on the subject to help to get those ideas flowing, such as those by Edward De Bono. You may well have come across his 6 hats. But more often than not the session generates lots of ideas. You discuss them as a group to attempt to filter them down, but everyone seems to have different favourites. For product ideas, there are two key questions that you need to answer. The ideas that tick the box for both of these are those that have the most potential to take forwards.
The first question is “has it been done before?”. Even if selling ‘me too’ products is part of your company strategy, you still need to be sure that if you were to proceed you wouldn’t infringe another’s patent rights. The only way to answer this question is to do your research. Browse product catalogues of all of the companies that you think might sell something similar. Google the idea and Google the problem that it solves. This should flag up other people’s solutions to the same problem, and indicate whether it has been done before. Wouldn’t you rather find out now than downstream when you have made a big commitment in both time and money?
The other way to find out if the idea has been done before is to do a patent search. This will determine which ideas are novel and inventive and could warrant patent protection. It will also help you to see if your competitors are working on anything similar, and flag up any possible infringement issues.
The second question to ask is “will it sell?”. You need to test the market and understand your ideal customer before you’ll be able to answer this question. Again it comes down to doing your research, and making a fair guesstimate of market size.
Answering these two questions provides you with two filters to help whittle down the results of your brainstorm to just those ideas with the most potential.