Now that we have an idea on the table, what do we do next? This of course depends on our expectations as well as the idea itself. Licensing may be our best choice. For our purpose here, however, I assume we will venture a device all the way to market, that it will be around for awhile, and is something the typical handyman can conceive and make from scratch, given the tools and materials. It is also an apparatus that the owner will want to use and rely on for several years before replacing. Because of its long expected market life and vulnerability to competition, our device must be patented to secure and maintain a market. So how do we proceed?

Our initial question must be, will our concept work as visualized? On the way to proving functionality, we expect to encounter complications-a downside. However, more often than not, complications are opportunities for improvement and even brand new concepts-an upside. Done right, a product development cycle will reveal extensions of the original concept as well as new opportunities. Edison showed this repeatedly, as have others. The keys here are to think creatively all along the venture path while looking for opportunities. Invention breeding invention can be an ongoing process.

A successful development will depend on the mindset of the innovator(s) as well as the rules of the free enterprise game. Given the basic concept, how do we use our creative juices to achieve the very best result we can for a given market while we maximize returns to our bank account? At the same time, how do we provide a base for the best possible patent coverage and ensure marketability?

Let's start with our own attitude. How enamored are we with our concept? Being enamored is a little like being in love to the point of being blind to serious incompatibilities with the other person. Being enamored with what is essentially a business venture is a recipe for disappointment. Many inventors are in fact in love with their own ideas. That is not all bad, of course-we all tend to do it-it just gets in the way of the development process. The "enamor trap" is the most common bias inventors face. Unfortunately, most of us are blind to our own biases.

Developing an original takes as much creativity as creating an original-and more energy. If we are unbiased, we find it easy to look for problems needing attention; we can clearly proceed on a development course based on knowledge, logic and experience instead of blind emotion. A healthy enthusiasm with reality checks is the key.

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