Pick the Fruit You Can Reach
Why you need to take the baby-steps in order to take the giant ones
By Don Skaggs
Inventors and entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are big idea people. When the rest of the world just asks why and wanders off, we ask why not, and then go find a solution. It is both part of the essence of who we are and part of the secret sauce of how we’re able to come up with what we do. But there’s a problem: when you get caught up in big dreams and aspirations, using the very creative talent that likely brought you to your great idea, you can fall into the trap of thinking so big that you forget about the little steps necessary to get you from the place you’re at now to the destination you envision.
A lot of people are just wired this way, and if you are - you know exactly what I’m talking about. You have 6 new ideas before breakfast, and by lunch you’ve got six more. When that creative wave hits you, it just hits you. Many of you are probably like me and try to write them down and save & sort through later. When later comes, you may be as perplexed as you were when you first thought of them. Which one do I work on first? Should I try and do them all at once? How do I know which one will be successful? These are questions that I hear a lot from inventors and entrepreneurs at the Inventors Council. Not to worry; we’ve all been there, and we can help.
If you’re faced with this quandary, however, ask yourself this: Which one is your lowest-hanging fruit? Which idea is the easiest and fastest for you to prototype, ramp-up and get to license or market? Is it the one that will take tens of thousands to build and sell? Or is it the one you can make and sell a smaller number quickly, easily and cheaply to prove your market? If you pick the fast/cheap/easy one first, it will do two things for you. First, it gives you a chance to make more money (& gain experience) in less time than the others. If you’re successful it also gives you more resources, which in turn gives you a longer reach to the next idea that was a little further up the tree. What if the idea turns out to not be successful? Then you will have spent less of your time and money, but will have gained more of the precious wisdom necessary to try and reach the next idea. If you’re going to fail (and we all do), fail fast and fail cheap.
How Tall is Your Ladder?
Picture a tall tree. And on that tree are all kinds of fruit, some high and near the top and some closer to the ground. These fruits represent your ideas, and their distance from the ground represent how much time, effort and money it will cost you to get each up and running. Now picture your ladder. This isn’t just any ladder; this is the ladder that represents your resources. It includes what you are able to put into your idea: your time, money, and wisdom (which includes how familiar you are with the product, the industry, the market, implementation, etc.). For some it may be a tall ladder that reaches high. For others, it may just be a short stepladder. The good news is that with fruit all over the tree from top to bottom, you can reach some with either.
So yes, do aim for the stars. You never know if you might actually grab one. But in the meantime don’t forget to first grab some of that low-hanging fruit that is currently within your reach. It may be just exactly what you need to keep you from going hungry on your way to the stars.
Don Skaggs is President of the Inventors Network KY, which includes the Inventors Council Louisville, a non-profit dedicated to helping inventors & entrepreneurs through education, engagement and empowerment. Free meetings on the first Thursday of every month. http://KYInventors.org