During a bit of internet cruising, I came across an article entitled “5 Multi-Million Dollar Prizes for Inventors.” Sounds AWESOME doesn’t it? You can win $1 Million discovering a way to grow chicken in a test tube, $10 million for developing a long-range car battery, $20 million for putting a robot on the moon and these are just a few of a growing number of competitions focused on coming up with exciting new innovative ideas. Sound familiar? The toy and game industry has essentially been doing this for years – just on a smaller scale.
As a toy or game inventor you could make millions of dollars coming up with hot new toy and game ideas, although most inventors don’t. But a good idea licensed to the right people could make a nice chunk of money. So this idea of dangling the golden carrot in front of a pool of highly creative people is a great way to get them motivated to start thinking about new product concepts. Thus the “Wish List.” If a company wants something in particular they may make a wish list for a select group of inventors they see product from regularly. Maybe they have a slot to fill or need a couple concepts for a particular license, but the goal of a wish list is to guarantee that a company will receive lots of ideas in one particular area.
From an inventor’s perspective, a wish list creates “targets.” Instead of somewhat blindly slinging ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks, we can hurl ideas in one general direction knowing there is an open slot there and we might be lucky enough to get our idea to fill it. On the downside, you know that lots of other inventors are going to be slinging ideas in the same direction. So do inventors like wish lists or not? I actually don’t know the answer. I’ve met inventors who will always invent new product based on them, others who might focus a little inventing time on them, and others who try to avoid them all together. Me? I like general wish lists and anti-wish lists. General areas like “a new girls game” or “low price-point products” coupled with what they aren’t looking for helps me decide what ideas to work on. Don’t want any games for tween girls – good to know! Don’t want trivia games – that helps too!
Sometimes what a company ISN’T looking for is obvious – for example, if a small game company releases a word game they probably aren’t looking for another word game right away — but I want to know what they don’t want to see that isn’t obvious. By creating a list of what they aren’t looking for I can avoid slinging ideas in those areas and focus on other areas they might be more receptive in. Think of it like a painting where the negative space creates the image. By crossing-off a bunch of areas, you’ve narrowed down the scope without being precise in what you want to see and therefore not too limiting. Is being too limiting a problem? Yes, there are a lot of companies out there who avoid creating wish lists because they don’t want to discourage an inventor from working on the next big thing because they were focused on their wish list. An anti-wish list maybe the way to go for them.
Why are wish lists even important to a manufacturer? Depending on the company, they may be losing out on the creative brainpower of their inventors. Obviously the big companies who sell an enormous volume of product are always dangling a monstrous golden carrot and as an inventor it’s hard not to want it. Some of the smaller companies have nice sized golden carrots but they are nowhere near as large and enticing as the monstrous ones Mattel and Hasbro dangle before us. But if another company’s carrot dangles a little lower because we have an idea of what they are – or are not – looking for, they may get more inventors vying for their carrot instead of it getting lost in the shiny glow of other, larger carrots.