by: Geoff Ficke

I have written in the past about the huge commercial opportunities afforded divergent products and inventions, as opposed to convergent features added to existing products. Divergent products are truly groundbreaking, destructive, disruptive breakthroughs. However, very few truly innovative divergent technologies are invented and make it successfully into the marketplace.

The original light bulb, the phonograph, the radio and the steam engine are examples of innovations that set the standards in their respective product categories and are still in use today. The inventors of these needed items enjoyed great riches and fame. We know the names of Edison, Fulton, Sarnoff, Marconi and many others because of the total market penetration that their inventions achieved.

Convergent products build on the already formed base of existing technologies. Adding a clock to a radio is a useful improvement. This type of embellishment can be extremely valuable. Typically, however, the convergent inventor is not rewarded, or as greatly revered as the initial inventor of the divergent platform product. Nevertheless, there are exponentially more opportunities for entrepreneurs and inventors to capitalize on their convergent creativity.

Consider the ubiquitous lead pencil. The original lead pencil was first created in England in 1564. Actually, the pencil was made possible by the discovery of graphite in Northern England. The pencil utilized graphite, not lead. Over many years, mined graphite was manipulated to varying thickness and hardness, allowing pencils to be sold offering degrees of performance.

This was the state of the pencil for almost three centuries. In 1858, Hyman Lipman of Philadelphia perfected and patented the eraser pencil. Lipman’s novel feature was to add a groove in the top of the wood barrel of the pencil and glue on a piece of soft rubber. Until his invention, erasers were blocks of unrefined gum rubber. The simple convenience of combining the eraser with the pencil made the new eraser pencil commercially interesting.

Hyman Lipman sold his patent and technology for $100,000. In 1858 this was a fortune. Lipman had taken a 300-year old commodity product and simply mated it with a pre-cut, glued gum eraser. The combination made him rich and is still used worldwide to this day. Inventors should keep Hyman Lipman and convergent product features in mind as they create their product improvements.

My product development firm reviews hundreds of new product and invention submissions every year. Like everyone, we are most keen to discover the next divergent product: paper clip, lead pencil or light bulb. After thousands of submissions we have seen only a few truly divergent offerings.

Product features that improve existing technologies, offer fresh benefits or fill unanswered needs are always needed. We counsel entrepreneurs to build their ideas around the following: a Unique Selling Proposition. Another way to say this is to build your product to fill an identifiable niche in the marketplace. In every huge product category there are small, under served niches. Attack these holes with creativity and convergent ideas will be hugely rewarded. Remember Hyman Lipman as you continue your endeavours.

If you have an idea or new product concept you would like to introduce to the marketplace contact Geoff Ficke at to discuss potential opportunities to commercialize your invention.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.