(By Gil Gerretsen) I had a recent conversation with a referred prospect about the importance and timing of their product inventions and innovations. He had been first to market, but some others had recently entered the fray with various modifications and were now winning more customers than he was.

It raised an interesting dialog about success and wealth creation. Most people assume that self-made billionaires and noted entrepreneurs are pioneers. However, research has shown that in reality, they are generally latecomers with a fresh approach to a problem or process that other people have already been working on. They leveraged those initial ground-breaking inventions and novel concepts to create and optimize a major advancement.

They didn't invent something new ... they made something new more valuable!

As a result, they could tap into an existing and rapidly growing community rather than create one from scratch. They took advantage of an emerging trend and piggybacked on it or gave it a massive kick-start. Since there was an existing community, they could concentrate their initial focus with precision marketing and then expand outwards as the idea gained traction.

What's the lesson to learn? Certainly, you could launch and grow a great business pursuing almost any new invention. However, you are much more likely to prosper if you improve upon early innovations in a rapidly growing and novel arena where others have already made some early headway (such as biotechnology and the tech sector have been in the past). Improvements are often more lucrative than inventions.