Home > Inventing

Four Ways to Get Your Invention Unstuck

Matt Yubas

Is your invention stuck? Here's four ways to Getting Resolution, Gearing Up, and Moving Forward.

Melissa (not her real name) has been working on her invention for over three and a half years. It's not a complicated invention, but she's not making any real progress.

She says that she's uncomfortable doing the market research, has uncertainty about getting a prototype made, and isn't sure of the manufacturing process. These are common obstacles that all inventors must get past. Some inventors get past these hurdles relatively quickly, while others seem to linger in the early stages.

On the surface it appears that Melissa is entrenched in the technical details. But in reality there's probably something deeper going on.

Four Causes of Being Stuck

In general, inventors get stuck for one of four reasons: 1) fear of failure, 2) fear of success, 3) being in a state of diversion, or 4) lack of a roadmap. If you're stuck, do you know the reason?

The first reason. Often is the case that inventors personalize their invention with themselves. The invention is your baby, or a reflection of yourself. If the product doesn't sell or people comment negatively, then you might take this too personally as if you're a failure. These fears will only keep you in the continuous loop of thinking, planning, and tinkering over and over again, which keeps the invention stuck.

The second reason for being stuck might be the fear of success. While on the surface, many inventors dream of being rich and famous, but we may perhaps have some deeper concerns. As a future famous inventor, you might be required to make public appearances, be in the limelight, or "forced" to do marketing and selling, instead of enjoying the creative part of inventing. And not only that, the pressure will be on to make the next great invention. While success is the promised land, it's also a territory of unfamiliarity and uncertainty. If you find yourself prolonging the research phase, repeating earlier activities, or not setting deadlines, fear of success might be the cause.

The third reason for being stuck is the desire to be in a state of diversion. Inventing is a soothing escape to get away from the daily demands of life and responsibilities. While inventing, you're in a safe environment that you control. You either tinker with an idea for years, or move from idea to idea. Sam, an inventor friend, has a notebook full of ideas. He has no intention of marketing them, but enjoys the challenge of figuring things out. Sam says he's a collector, and in his case, it's product ideas. He's not really stuck. He just likes to exercise his brain. But, an inventor is stuck if there's a conflict in which a state of diversion, and getting a product to market, are both desirable.

The fourth reason for being stuck is a lack of the roadmap of the steps to get to market. Imagine you were to take a trip driving across the country. And suppose you didn't have a roadmap. You would likely take wrong turns, backtrack, and zigzag your way across the country, assuming you even make it. That's the same with inventing. Without a roadmap, you'll likely be spinning your wheels in place.

In some cases, it's a mix of these fears and uncertainties. As with any major undertaking, there's some apprehension in not knowing what lies ahead.

Getting Resolution, Gearing Up, and Moving Forward

For fear of failure, a few simple remedies can help. First, disconnect you from the invention. You need to de-personalize your relation to the invention. If you receive negative feedback, it's not a sign of personal failure. It's a lesson of experience. I heard a speech by Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 discuss this issue. When something does not turn out well, the experience is reframed as a "learning moment." They do this as a way to drive out the fear of making mistakes within the organization.

Also, move the focus away from yourself and on to the people who will benefit from your new idea. Instead of dwelling on your fears, shift your attention and visualize the people that will benefit most from using your product. Imagine getting letters from people, thanking you for making their lives better. When writing my book Product Idea to Product Success, I was scared stiff that people would hate it. By getting positive feedback with initial drafts, and changing my center of attention to helping others, I was able to move forward.

If you have identified fear of success as a potential problem, there are ways to overcome this. The thought that success will bring on new responsibilities that you can't handle is not necessarily true. Going through the invention process, and getting a product in the market, will strengthen and empower you along the way. To get there, make a list of all the steps to complete the product. Then focus your attention on the current tasks at hand, rather than what could happen in the future.

Inventing as a state of diversion is OK, as long as you're clear on your goals. If you're not seeking financial rewards from your ideas, then tinkering with inventions is a great hobby to pursue. But at some point if you really want to test market your ideas, spend some of your time learning other aspects of inventing such as marketing and product development.


Think in terms of degrees of success rather than all or nothing. Making millions of dollars is a tough standard to set for your invention. Completing a product is a success itself. Maybe your first invention sells a hundred units, then an improved version sells a thousand, and more the next time. Being creative you're likely to come up with new inventions that are better and more marketable. Few successes are made overnight.

If you're spending many months or years on an idea and not making any real progress, you're either dealing with fears, lacking a roadmap to follow, or a combination of these. The formula for invention success is a mix of creativity, knowledge of development and marketing (Market-Step process), having the mindset to take risks (even small ones), willingness to learn from mistakes (rather than quitting), and the right timing in the market.

You don't have to struggle with this alone. Get assistance from people who have gone through the invention process before. And, most importantly, look at what might be holding you back, and resolve those issues first, then move forward one step at a time.

Going Forward

This article is a brief overview of how to turn your idea into a market success. To learn how to apply these principals to your ideas, I'll take you step-by-step in my Invention Success Kit.
For details on how to get your invention to the market, click here.

Best Success,

Matt Yubas