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Why do things seem to take 20 years to become an overnight success?

Our industry advisor, Les Gregory looks at how you can speed up the success of new ideas.

Last updated: December 2021

A man using a keyboard whilst on the phone.

New ideas, whether they be processes or technology often struggle to get traction.

Whether an inventor strives to establish themselves in the market or, as is more often the case, seeks an established business as its route to market, things are tough. Ralph Waldo Emerson is often quoted (wrongly and out of context, I think) as saying “if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door” – nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.

However, if you are seeking a general ‘law of innovation latency’ might I suggest that ideas take longer to get to market than the idea generator thinks because, from the point of view of the market, the risk-adjusted business case for so doing is not sufficiently compelling.

What this means is that the case for adopting a new gizmo will be overwhelming to the inventor when it’s on the laboratory bench or in the workshop – ‘even an idiot couldn’t fail to see….’. But from the point of view of a business seeking to pick up new ideas and take them to market profitably, there is a blizzard of other, and from the inventor’s view, often tedious and irritating, issues to be dealt with.

Being able to see both points of view – the inventor’s claim to be able to change the world AND the worry of “how do I know this isn’t a massive cash sink which doesn’t result in a differentiated market position?” is fundamental. Even more so when the language of the inventor isn’t necessarily the language of the market.

A better understanding of where it will be applied informs development, but it also gives you the opportunity to understand and explain your technology in a way that your target market can understand – accelerating its success. Funding is easier to source, investors easier to secure, adopters will demand its development and competing solutions will be left in the dust.

The key to not taking 20 years; integrate business development, communications and marketing early on in the process to provide vital insight, inform the development and ensure its success – or fast failure.

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