The Last Article an Inventor Wants to Read: How to Know When Your Product Has Failed, and How to Proceed from There

“An essential part of maintaining an Inventor Mindset is knowing when something is not working or needs to be set aside. Even an idea that has shown immense promise at times may still not make it to market.”

inventorEvery inventor has, at one time or another, had the moment where all seems lost. Every avenue that could possibly yield a fruitful alleyway towards profitability has been trodden, and each industry contact that could potentially offer a path towards success has been contacted. The item that began as a simple idea, was built into a homemade prototype, and was eventually turned into a real product by a professional design firm, has not gotten the interest from the industry that had been dreamed of.

This realization can be a serious cause for grief for those who have spent countless hours defining and tweaking their product, building relationships with designers, patent attorneys, industry insiders, and other inventors, and still have not achieved their ultimate goal of successfully bringing their product to market. These periods of time can be difficult, as it can feel like you are saying goodbye to a friend that has brought you so much hope, and joy throughout the development process.

While challenging and emotional, it can be very advantageous for an inventor to know when to step away from an idea. In fact, one of the best ways in which to spur potential new inspiration is by letting go of a past failure.

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Move on From Your Invention?

If you have contacted all of the applicable potential licensees or industry-specific manufacturers for your product, and there continues to be no interest, the likelihood is high that the industry’s insiders have determined that your product does not have potential profitability and value to the current market. This doesn’t mean that you have a “bad idea,” it just means that there is not a current place for it within the industry.

This cold dose of reality can be difficult, as oftentimes our friends and family members, who are dutifully supportive and encourage us to pursue our goals, might be telling us to press on, while the industry is saying no. While it’s important to make sure you’ve knocked on every door, and sent out every email to appropriate contacts, it’s also important to know when it’s time to halt efforts.

It’s Not Goodbye, It’s So Long

It’s important to remember that, while a product may not have a market today, there may still be opportunity for it to succeed sometime down the line. This does not mean that you should be constantly hitting the pavement, pitching your product to anyone who will listen. Tactfully deciding that the product may not have a “Today Market” can save some significant heartache and preserve unnecessary depletion of resources.

Rather than determining that your idea is completely dead, put it in a folder of inactivity that you can pull out and dust back off if the opportunity or need is to arrive.

A Numbers Game

The continued pursuit of a product rollout can be expensive. The money associated with such endeavors can easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars and become cost prohibitive. At some point, the money being spent on the potential success of the product may outweigh what is a realistic expected potential revenue. It is imperative to continuously weigh the risk/reward of your pursuit and be ready to accept that it may not be a viable business venture.


Where Do You Go from Here?

The renowned and uber-prolific American author, Stephen King, is known for using the phrase “Kill Your Darlings,” when it comes to his approach for continued creativity. The phrase, originally coined by noted American fiction writer, William Faulkner, encourages a creative mind to willfully and proudly let go of an idea that isn’t working out, no matter how much hope or pride is tied up in its potential. In practice, this allows for the creator to clear their mind and be welcome to new ideas that may solve the myriad problems that lack solutions and might benefit from a fresh set of eyes.

The most successful inventors tend to be those who have built the habit of developing multiple concepts over time and not resting on their laurels after coming up with a single idea. The more one immerses themselves into the headspace of creation, the more frequently they will be visited by the muse.

Get Organized

Habits for potential continued inspiration may include having a specific notebook set aside specifically for ideas to be written down or sketched as they come. When ideas come, they don’t always stick around for very long. It’s important to get your creative mind working at the instant an idea has fallen into your lap. By immediately sketching or writing your idea down, your brain will automatically associate this idea with your creative mind and allow for it to marinate in your brain as efficiently and effectively as possible. There is significant energy expelled when you rely on your brain to archive ideas accurately. Take advantage of your own organization with a notebook ready to go.

Invent For the Market

Inventors who have the ability to generate multiple ideas over their careers tend to have two things in common: Solid work habits and processes (see above), and the ability to invent for the market. “Inventing for the market” means that they are constantly aware of market trends,

consumer needs, and can anticipate where industries are headed. They do this by spending time with others and watching for market inefficiencies and problems that do not yet have solutions. This type of proactive market monitoring is essential towards developing a strong catalog of ideas that may have places on the shelves at retail stores.

Keep Your Head Up

Just because this idea may not be successful does not mean that your future concepts will not or cannot be successful. Part of maintaining a consistent flow of ideas is having the right mindset that will allow you to become a receiver for inspiration when it’s ready to strike. Inspiration tends not to strike when attitudes are low. Maintain a winning attitude and positive ideas will come to you.


An essential part of maintaining an Inventor Mindset is knowing when something is not working or needs to be set aside. Even an idea that has shown immense promise at times may still not make it to market. Learning how to healthily retire an idea and move on is an essential skill for any Serial Inventor to have. Developing strong and repeatable working habits can lead to a lifelong love of product development and ideas.

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Join the Discussion

2 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    December 15, 2022 02:35 pm

    No one should confuse invention, want, need, and even public acceptance.

    Marketing — as its own art form — makes any causal relationship among these concepts to be whimsical.

  • [Avatar for Erfinder]
    December 15, 2022 11:32 am

    Sometimes, an invention is precisely what the public wants and needs. But often, corporations have bought their own BS, (i.e., they can’t imagine that an outsider could invent industry changing technology.)
    And “everybody” loses . . . the public, the company, the inventor.