One Simple Idea: A book review by Bob Morris

One Simple IdeaOne Simple Idea, Revised and Expanded Edition: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work
Stephen Key
McGraw Hill Education (2016)

From acorns to oak trees

This is a revised and expanded edition of a book first published in 2011. Its subtitle suggests that the material will help the reader to turn their dreams “into a LICENSING GOLDMINE while Letting OTHERS DO THE WORK.” If only that were easy to do. The fact remains that very few “simple ideas” have that potential. However, there are exceptions that Stephen Key examines in the book.

Years ago, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. purportedly observed, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Let’s assume for purposes of discussion that you have a “ simple” product idea. You have three options:

1. Do nothing.
2. Obtain working capital and take that idea through a process of design, research and development, production, marketing, etc.
3. Enter into a licensing agreement with someone else who then takes the idea through that same process.

It is a rare product that generates thousands, then millions, perhaps even billions of dollars in sales and is on “the other side of complexity. Of course, very few of those who select option #2 reach that other side and the same is true of the “someone else” with whom a licensing agreement is made. Why? There seem to be two primary reasons: deficiencies in the product itself and/or the aforementioned process. Key offers an abundance of information, insights, and counsel to help achieve success in there two separate but interdependent areas.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Key’s coverage in Parts One-Six:

o Welcome to the New World of Innovation (Pages 13-15)
o The Golden Churn (19-23)
o Manufacturing 101 (31-36)
o A Few Practical Tips, and, Study the Marketplace (40-48)
o Discover Sleeping Dinosaurs (48-50)
o Make a Game of It! (54-57)
o The Four Characteristics of a Winning Idea (59-64)
o Trust Your Gut (68-70)
o Will It Sell? Evaluate Marketability of Your Idea (75-77)
o Is It Doable and Affordable? (83-84)
o Types of Prototypes Prototype (95-101)
o A Primer on Patenting (107-110)
o Inventor’s Logbook: Still a Must-Have (112-114)
o A Necessary Precaution When Sharing Your Idea (127-129)
o When to Toot or Silence Your Horn (129-131)
o Create a Door-Opening Benefit Statement (136-140)
o Create a Deal-Generating Sell Sheet (140-142)
o Create a Professional Image (151-152)

Those who purchase this book will have the “next best thing” to retaining Key and working with him on every phase of the process that begins with what is, initially, “a simple idea” (e.g. selling books online) and then (a) taking it to market or (b) consummating a licensing agreement with someone who will. Because this is a revised and expanded edition, it includes new material that is probably in response to different questions that have been asked during the last five years.

Here are Stephen Key’s concluding remarks: “To play this game, you do not have to be a creative genius. You don’t even need to come up with your own ideas; you can play — and win — by connecting people with great ideas to the companies that want to license them. If you have a passion for innovative products [or an innovative way to distribute products or ideas], a penchant for selling, and some licensing expertise, you, too, can reap the rewards of the licensing lifestyle by becoming a product scout. That’s the beauty of the licensing lifestyle.”

It’s not a lifestyle for everyone. However, it is certainly worthy of consideration. Reading and then re-reading One Simple Idea will help you make the right choice, whatever that may be.

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