I have long been an advocate of independent thinking and and keen on “inventions”.
I developed my first invention when I was about 5 years old, and it was not built out of necessity, but out of a desire to bother my siblings. There was not a sealed piggy bank in the house that I could not get into!
Technology today has made the invention and improvement of products much easier, with computer calculations, CAD capabilities and a world-wide market at your finger tips. There are still some basic rules which govern marketability, and sales for cost efficiencies to be maximized in production.
I came across an article that I had saved for the last several years about an inventor named Stanley I Mason. It was from 1998, 12 years ago. Mr. Mason passed away in 2005 at the age of 84. If you don’t know anything about Mr. Mason, here is a quick review; the squeezable ketchup bottle, the granola bar, microwave cookware, the Playtex plastic underwire bra, a new method for making cat litter, a sonic method of sealing chip packages, hair dye, baby wipes, and the peel open band-aid.
Mason consulted for dozens of the largest companies in America. He was not simply an inventor, he recognized the importance of planning, need recognition and marketing and created 4 rules for his inventions:
- Create something people want
- You have to be able to demonstrate it
- There must be a large “anxious” market
- It must be able to be modified to create product lines.
Mason recounted the time he was fired by American Can after being called in for a meeting. “”I thought it was for a raise. I understand you are working on a disposable diaper,” Mason quoted the chairman as saying. “Don’t you know that no one will ever use a disposable diaper? We got along without you before you came, and we’ll get along after you leave. Good-bye.”
I wonder if that chairman kept his job after Mason took disposables to another company.
Later in his career, Mason developed an alternative fuel derived from Tallow seeds, with edible oil and cattle feed utilizing the entire seed. It even smelled like honey when it was burned. The Government resisted the idea and refused funding. The “green” project was not a great success. (although today it may warrant further investigation and funding). Mason later described trying to present it to government officials; “it was like trying to brief a bunch of hummingbirds in an airplane hangar.”
Entrepreneurs will face the same kind of opposition today as Stanley Mason encountered with a number of his inventions, however the lesson that he presents is one of moving ahead, believing in what you have created and simply finding the right backer to make it work.
Disposable diapers, who would ever use them?