Thursday, January 12, 2006

BasicIP's 6 Stages of Inventors

Today Rethink(ip) posted Bill Meade's part 1 of The 6 Life Stages of Inventors. As stated he does, on purpose, over simplify the article but as a result I think it causes a key point to be missed.

I think Bill definitely goes in the right direction with the start of his 6 stage. However, he seems to view one of the disruptive "off-ramps" from the bottom up where as I suggest a more prudent and long term view should be to address it from the top down in addition to Bill's bottom up approach.

This is where I thought he missed out on a key point: IP strategy needs to be supported from the top down and motivated from the bottom up. Simply motivating employees from the bottom up by giving them tools to overcome their anti-IP boss won't solve long term invention submission issues.
Contemplating short term fixes which include coaching the boss that people aren't "wasting time" by inventing doesn't seem to suggest that IP/Business training should be done at the manager and executive level. This should be done at, the very least, in parallel with employee training or incentive programs. Top level buy-in that IP is an asset to the company and should be taken seriously by everyone is a key success factor. I don't think merely stroking the non-supportive boss by making him a co-inventor makes long term sustainable advancements to the IP process. There needs to be an understanding that promoting and supporting IP furthers the business and long term value for the company. As well, just adding an inventor to make him happy may cause legal issues unless he really contributed to the invention.
War Story: Just by adding a boss to an invention caused huge litigation problems for a defendant in an IP lawsuit I was involved in. Simply "appeasing the boss" cost them an extra $10k or so in legal fees to sort it out a few years down the road once the other side found out about it.
I have found by spending time to really educate and promote the win-win benefits of IP to the management and executives, I have considerably more success in getting inventors to submit ideas and become involved in the patent processes. Why? Because the importance of IP and idea submission is preached to a wider audience (all staff) in several mediums (meetings, presentations, design reviews), all without a member of the IP Team there to remind them all.

On the inventor level while Incentive Programs motivate some, the enthusiasm fades quickly unless supported in parallel with fresh and innovative training programs. I have found success in doing both, but limited long-term success when I focus on just one.

BUT, all of the above is pointless unless quality ideas an innovations can be drawn from the inventors. Merely encouraging inventors to hit a quota of submissions does nothing for the value of the future patent portfolio. I am making an assumption by the title that Bill will address the quality of inventions in the "Calibration" stage.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of Bill's stages, and hope he addresses the quality/quantity issue.

And, for the record, I do like the cookie and T-shirt idea. I will try that one next time....

1 comment:

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