After a decade and a half of working with patents, I still have people who will approach me with their “million dollar idea.” As a Leader, how do you determine what next ideas brought to your desk should be pursued?
It is actually not as hard as you think, as all you need is more of the right information. And that right information is free and available within your organization.
Often I have seen where Leadership is told an idea - much like I am by inventors. Of course, it is often just that - an “idea” or a concept, but nothing that has ever been made tangible. And making the invention tangible in some way is critical to understanding if the idea actually works and how the parts (or steps) interact.One of the fastest ways to start making an invention tangible is to write it down. I have found that upwards of 50% of those will possible inventions will walk away from their idea when they right it down.
And why do they walk away from it? They walk away because they often find that it really is not that inventive when they get it out of their mind and onto paper, or they find the invention really doesn’t work the way they conceived.
So, as a leader, how can you improve your innovation success within your organization?
- Encourage Writing. This is the foundation of having innovation success. As the leader, you cannot truly evaluate and understand an invention unless the inventor can clearly convey WHAT the invention is. And they shouldn’t worry about the legalese - seriously - leave that to the patent attorneys. Your role is to encourage explanations of inventions in writing that everyone in the organization can understand.
- Support Searching. Yes, lawyers are NOT required to do a first search for similar inventions. Everyone in your organization should be doing this as basic research as they are working. Not only will it aid in determining whether or not the idea/invention has already been done - it may spark new ideas for other inventions. Would you check the weather at a travel destination before leaving on a trip? Of course you would - so you would know what to pack. The same is true with patents. Support searching for similar inventions so you have a better idea of the landscape before you invest financially as an organization.
- Identify Differences. Enable those creating the inventions to identify what truly makes the invention DIFFERENT from similar inventions. The Patent Office doesn’t care if the invention is better, faster, cheaper than anything else out there. They just want to know how the invention is DIFFERENT in its FEATURES or steps. Having those closest to the work point out differences early increases speed and decreases risk with your innovation.