In our work we observe many barriers to innovation and IP development. The barriers cut across industries and technologies, and they hinder value creation for large and small companies alike.
The innovation and IP leader who is able to overcome the barriers has an opportunity to advance the company's competitive position with better products and services, faster time to market, more efficient operations, stronger IP, and the resilience necessary to respond to rapidly changing market conditions and critical business problems.
The first step in overcoming your company's barriers to innovation and IP development is to recognize that the barriers exist and audit the organization to define them. Below are some of the most common and impactful barriers that we observe in our work. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it touches on issues many innovation and IP leaders can relate to in some way.
This third article in a series of five on this subject explores ideas for overcoming the third barrier listed above - having no defined process. We will explore how to overcome the last two barriers in future articles.
Strategy is only as valuable as your ability to execute - an imperfect strategy that is well executed will generate much higher returns than a glossy white paper strategy that is poorly executed.
So, how can you help your organization turn innovation and IP strategy into business value?
First, find or develop the expertise needed to lead the effort. Despite the increasing media attention on the accelerating pace of global innovation and large IP-based business deals, most business schools are still not offering curriculums geared toward future Innovation or IP Directors who know how to manage innovation, build strategic patent portfolios, and negotiate innovation partnerships and licensing transactions. Consultants can certainly help roll out innovation and IP programs. However, we have found that an internal senior manager responsible for coordinating with the rest of the organization and driving these types of activities and is often required to keep the machine well-oiled over the long term. Unfortunately, individuals who offer this type of background and expertise are difficult to find. If hiring an individual to specifically fill this role is too difficult or otherwise not ideal, consultants can offer help in training internal staff and transferring expertise over time to staff who will grow into the role.
Then, once you have identified your innovation or IP leader, take the time to define and document an innovation or IP process that will be your framework for strategy execution. Process documentation is a critical communication tool to align expectations between top-level management and your innovators and inventors in the lab and in the field. Simple process maps and project plans with decision points, roles and responsibilities, best practices, and success metrics is a good place to start. Don't strive for complexity right off the bat - start simple so your projects teams can understand it. Documenting your process early will support continuous improvement and enhance accountability for execution, and it will also help ensure that your process for strategy execution survives the potential exit of key managers and employees.
Example High-Level Process Map
But even if you have a clear strategy, the metrics by which you plan to measure performance, and a documented process for execution, how can you motivate action? We will explore that in the next article in this series. Kate Shore also touches on how to support a "culture of innovation" in her article Onwards and Upwards.