Innovation…we want it, we need it and a focus on innovation attracts talent to your organisation. As we build innovation ecosystems and delivery methodologies for our clients the question of “how do we manage the ownership of innovation ideas and IP”? Working through the complexities of innovation on a daily basis with our clients, they often tell is us that innovation is an art. In reality, innovation is more of a science and being intentional about the strategy, processes and management of the information will have a significant influence on how people see the ownership of innovation ideas.
There are enough ambiguities and challenges with corporate innovation, without adding in the complexities of who really owns the innovation ideas and Intellectual Property. I have three easy steps to help you navigate the potential ambiguity of idea ownership. Each of these steps can exert an invisible influence on behaviour. Being more aware of this in addition with being really open and transparent with your communication around innovation will remove these ambiguities.
You want the entire organisation to participate in the identification of future markets, the creation of new revenue streams, and the realisation of these ideas. Your biggest resource and your biggest advantage will be the creativity, inventiveness, and problem-solving capability of your people. Grab it and harness their capability to build and develop the biggest asset you have in the organisation.
The following three steps will not only help your innovation portfolio succeed, they will clearly ensure the ownership of ideas:
1. Have a clearly defined strategy
Be clear about where you want to go, the rules of engagement, and the boundaries for how far people can go. Why is this critical to the ownership of innovation ideas and IP? Removing any ambiguity around the direction of your innovation strategy and how it needs to be aligned with your overall strategy ensure that your people are clear on the boundaries.
Create an explicitly clear mission, vision, and strategy for innovation to get everyone moving in the right direction. Don’t be ambiguous on the goals and vision for the future. Give your people the direction and allow them to creatively help you fill the gaps on how to get there.
You need to send a powerful message that this is about building a strong core of innovation focused on building social capital inside the organisation to unlock human potential and the genius inside the organisation. You are planning for and anticipating the future, and you are building it together.
This might sound like I am telling you to do the bleeding obvious, but you want the ideas and work being done on them to enhance and fill the gaps in your organisational strategy. When you identify these priorities and opportunities it is clear how ideas will be developed through your innovation process.
2. Structured innovation process
Give your people the structure, framework and tools to set them up for success from the beginning to the end of an innovation project. This also sets the tone for everyone to understand that innovation will be managed and it will not be a money pit to play around with ideas.
The focus needs to be on the outcomes of turning ideas into concepts. So make it easy for your people to do this. Give them an end-to-end process that has just enough governance to keep them inside your defined guard-rails to allow them to fulfil the higher vision and purpose of the innovation idea.
Not only does this help your team manage an innovation project from beginning to end, it clearly becomes a standardised way of working inside your organisation. Having a clearly defined structure and way of working inside your organisation provides extremely clear guidance that all work done in this area belongs to the organisation. This isn’t meant to be a stick approach, rather it becomes a fabulously creative and collaborative co-creation. An innovation is never the result of one person. It is the work of many, many people and a structured process enables this transparency and collaboration.
3. Put it online
This might sound obvious but a weakness across many innovation programs is their lack of data and document management in this space. You don’t want to go through the all the work brainstorming, researching, building business intelligence and testing concepts only to lose or misplace that information.
Management of data, documents and information is an increasing area of risk that we work with our clients to ensure that have the right systems and software in place to minimise lose or errors. The data, knowledge and concepts being developed are assets of your organisation, and you need to treat them as such.
If you build an innovation process that includes these three fundamental steps, you will get more than the clear ownership of the ideas and IP. You will also have the additional benefit of improving productivity, engagement and data quality. With innovation, all roads lead to our people. When we provide them with the tools, support and processes we create ecosystem for innovation inside our organisations.
Ally Muller, author of Corporate Innervation: Unlocking The Genius Inside Your Organisation is an Innovation and Strategy Expert and Managing Director of GOYA Consulting. Ally works with Boards, executive teams and leaders to build innovation eco-systems and entrepreneurial cultures that add extraordinary value to any bottom line. At GOYA we have all the tools you need to succeed. No matter what stage you are at, we can support you to deliver value and increase the ability of your people to turn strategy into action.