What To Invent? Characteristics of a Great Invention


We’ve talked plenty about “how to invent”, but if you’re a creative problem-solver kinda person, your best path to success is to make sure you know “WHAT to invent” first.

See, most first time inventors are randomly struck with an idea, then do their best to get it out into the world.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  No invention is guaranteed to be succeed, but if you start with with the end in mind, you vastly improve your odds.

Here are the 6 Key Characteristics of a Great Invention:

1.  Proven Category  Focus your talents on a category that has many existing buyers who have a track record of buying the latest and the greatest.  This is much less stressful than hoping there will be enough people who ‘get’ the problem you’re trying to solve.  If you golf and also basket weave, channel your energies on the problems shared by the larger of the two groups because it’s better to have more competition than fewer customers.

2.  High Value  A successful invention is one that is purchased by lots of people.  One of the best ways to do that is to convince them that it’s worth more than they are paying for it.  The bigger and more painful the problem you are solving, the  higher valuation people put on the solution.

3.  High Margin  A great invention should have a great return on investment, and the more profit available on each unit sold the better.  A minimum ration for any new product is 1:5, which means make it for $1 and retail it for $5.  High value and low cost give you more options to market and distribute, and profitable sales equal success.

4.  Simple  The best new ideas are completely obvious AFTER you see them the first time.  As you finalize and improve your design, think about what you can remove rather than what else can you add on.

5.  Consumable  The only thing better than someone buying your product is when that same someone buys it over and over again.  If possible and reasonable for your niche, try to create a product with a consumable, or refillable element.  You don’t need to work so hard finding ‘new’ customers if you are creating customers for life.

6.  More Better  We all think our ideas are better than the competition, but better has a big sliding scale.  Remarkably better should be your target, and this can be a combination of better price, better usability, better features or better styling.  The more betters the better.

Take a look at this list and use it as a blueprint as you decide what to invent.

What else do you think makes a great idea a great invention?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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  1. Posted by Ryan Grepper, at Reply

    Any one of you selling a product right now that fits some of these characteristics? Go ahead and share it!

  2. Posted by Nick Hein, at Reply

    Your comments seem to be directed at the current economic paradigm of endless (unsustainable) growth and transportation that doesn’t pay for its environmental damage – which isn’t economy at all but rather profligacy. This wouldn’t be a problem if industries were conscious and responsible about their unmitigated environmental (and social and life quality) damage. Is there a model and a market for inventions that are directed at individuals (without involving a lot of middlemen)? I think an invention is better if it is environmentally responsible by being made locally with a minimum necessary number of middlemen in the invention-development-marketing-distribution loop. More so if it enables the customer to stop using products that cause environmental damage or degrade living quality. My particular area of interest is transportation and it seems the market is ripe for replacement of the automobile, rather than just making cars that are a little less damaging as is being done now.
    I have several inventions in development that are directed at this.

  3. Posted by TERRY V DEMERITTE, at Reply

    I am an inventor who has three things that I would like to bring to market and i need financial assistance. Would like to have a partner. Can you assist?

  4. Posted by Ryan Grepper, at Reply

    Unfortunately I don’t have the time to work one-on-one with everyone who reaches out for guidance on moving forward with their ideas. The way that I try to help is through the creation of my program, Inventors Blueprint.

    A good idea is a great start, but in order to reach your ultimate potential you’ll need to make sure attention is paid to each step in the invention process. Many inventors rush to bring a product to market before doing the thorough research, design optimization, or even exploring if a licensing partner would be a better path to market. The Inventor’s Blueprint program was created to provide this framework, and guide inventors to reach their goals.

    You can go to the website and sign up for a free trial account which gives you access to several training videos, including info on getting financial help, that will hopefully put you on the right path.

    Best of luck with your idea, and I hope this helps!



  5. Posted by Ryan Grepper, at Reply

    These are all good points, and you rightly point out that a truly great invention is socially responsible in it’s execution.

    The rise of Etsy, crowdfunding , 3D printing, and the growing locally sourced movements are all going to contribute in ways we can’t imagine to transform how we buy and consume in the future. Exciting times indeed!

  6. Posted by Jim Eagles, at Reply

    One of the Maxims we use in consumer products marketing is that the invention has to deal with a consumer’s pain. In managing a $100 million food brand we did a lot of research on new products where the consumer said yes, they liked it and yes they would buy it. But it was a like to have not a need and the product died on the shelf.
    I have just launched a aluminum-free antiperspirant that is great. There is real pain of itching and a rash for many users. It is my personal product so I do not have the big $ to research. Are there enough people with this pain? We will see

  7. Posted by Eric Briggs, at Reply

    Thanks for sharing so much great content! I’m excited to run my idea through the process to see if it is in fact a viable one.

  8. Posted by Joel Gonzalez, at Reply

    What else do you think makes a great idea a great invention?

    A great invention is one which covers most or as many of the areas you and others with experience in the process suggest. The invention I have in mind covers many of the points made in most of the articles I’ve read in years. I have been sitting on the idea for about five (5) years now and 2014 is the year I’m going to make my move. First, I’ve done research to the point of overkill. It’s patentable and this will give provide me with 20 years of monopoly power. The prior art is well known world wide. Not only will it remove other products of the shelf, it can be incorporate onto the billions already in use as it’s a very durable product. It will help other companies to sell a specific product when my invention idea replaces the old prior art which is a must have component of the spicif product. It solves a big problem that many users of the prior art have been convinced that there is nothing they can do about it. It’s worth more than they will pay for. I believe the margin can be 1:7 or higher. Talk about “simple” and completely obvious after people see it. I got that covered! Consumable? The key piece of the invention will most likely need to be replaced (refill) at some point and I have the option of designing a heavy duty type for durability (of course that will cost more). Remarkably better indeed it is and a side by side comparison with the prior art will leave no doubt. What I found to be interesting is the claim made by all those selling the prior art, “It won’t cause damage.”
    The buyers of the product would most like buy it when I demonstrate or remind them of the damage caused by the prior art. The best part is that I’m 100% positive that when people see it, they will say, “I thought of that once.” I’ve been honest with myself when an idea isn’t as good as I originally thought considering the many advice and tips I’ve read on the topic of inventing. It’s sad to watch those people who have appeared in Shark Tank refusing to accept reality and facts from the investors in front of them. If all works out well with the money I’m expecting to come in in 2014, money will not be so much of a problem. Reading your blog encourages me to move ahead and realize that I do have a great idea worthy of a try. Thank you.