Recently, I was visiting with an innovator who was having trouble moving his innovation from creation to market. He has an interesting idea that people seem to like.  However, he has not been able to get the funding he needs to go to the next step. He is not the first innovator I have seen in this situation.  With these innovators I have asked the same question, “Have you ever watched Shark Tank?”

As you may know, this television show follows a very simple format. A person with a new product or service comes into a room with five potential investors (called sharks). The innovator presents their product, including what investment amount he wants from the sharks. The sharks ask questions.  Eventually, one or more of them will make an investment, or all of them bow out.

The program in very entertaining.  It also deals with real issues of growing a business.  In this case, it is taking a new and sometimes innovative product or service and turning it into a business. I don’t watch the show every week, but I do catch it when I can.

Here are a few principles I have learned from Shark Tank that apply to innovation:

1. Often we need help with our innovation. Frequently, innovators have the skills and experience to go a long way toward completing their innovation.  However, they don’t have enough experience to finish it.  Partnering with others can make all the difference.

2. Sometimes very creative ideas are never going to make any money, or at least not very much. Edison only wanted to create innovations that made money and could demonstrate utility. A creative idea that no one will use is just a creative idea. But, if you can show that a few people are willing to pay for your invention, you may be on your way to an innovation.

3. In order to get funding (or just to move forward) you need a plan. If the plan is that you think everyone is going to want one of these, you don’t really have a plan. Plans need to be detailed and very specific.  Preferably, plans should be filled with ideas that have worked in the past. 

Spend time with some sharks and you might gain insights into what you need to complete your innovation.  We have learned from the sharks.  If you try this and learn something new, let us know.