Securing intellectual property is a tricky problem. The growing trend towards open innovation methods makes it even more confusing. In reality what you’re trying to achieve is securing the value you can gather from the intellectual property.
Non-disclosure agreements are one way but those often make people unwilling to participate. You can attempt to give members of the focus group some benefit for keeping it quiet. Perhaps offer them some shares for the products? Or maybe just offer future cash payments contingent on it remaining secret? This is the carrot versus the stick of a non-disclosure agreement.
Bruce Schneier has said many times that secrecy can’t be the basis of security. Ideas get out. So you need layers that catch the failures of each other. That way no single failure will penetrate the barrier.
If one focus group can come up with the idea, another would also be able to come up with that idea. So instead of using focus groups to get ideas of ??how?? to solve a need use the focus group to accurately understand ??what?? will satisfy their need. A product or service is a ??how??. The customers don’t really care about ??how?? they just want their needs satisfied.
The specific ??how?? ideas that come from a focus group help you better understand ??what?? they are trying to accomplish and ??what?? will satisfy their needs. Its the innovators job to find the best ??how?? ways to satisfy all their needs related to the task they are trying to perform.
Every ??how?? idea covers less than 1% of the entire intellectual territory. This presentation explains that math. http://www.slideshare.net/MarkProffitt/predictive-innovation-overview
Using that technique you can uncover ALL the ??how?? ways to satisfy the needs for the task. With that information it is possible to then develop a layered approach to securing your intellectual property. One part of that can include patents.
OutCompete developed an approach and software that allows development of airtight patent fences around any valuable IP. this approach is based on thorough consideration of principles of protection of IP (after the patent is granted), as well as on research of patent trolls’ successes and techniques they use. So even if the 1% idea from the focus group leaks out you have built a patent fence covering the other 99%
The first layer was secrecy. The second layer is the patent fence. The next layer is flexibility.
Innovation = Satisfying Customers’ Unmet Desires. To produce the highest consistent value from innovation you must be satisfying unmet desires. When copy cats move in the pricing war begins. Its time to move quickly to the next area. With the complete innovation map you can both quickly and efficiently step to the next high value area. Plus you can do it in such a way that it builds on your strength which makes it harder and harder for others to copy cat you.
“The Mind of the OutCompete Strategist” by Len Kaplan describes strategies that do that. ??Fat Product, Lean Process?? and ??Catch Me If You Can?? are two strategies to build that third layer of security.
The forth layer is business models that benefit from sharing. Open Source projects have found business models that actually benefit from “giving it away”. The key element to these types of models is finding something not directly part of the intellectual property and can’t be easily copied, that is your unique competitive advantage. There are many ways to do this and the Predictive Innovation Method will uncover your unique competitive advantage.
When you are ready to secure the value of intellectual property, I can help you with each layer.
Emerging expectations are the things customers will start to demand next. These are features, benefits, and values current products are missing but customers haven’t started demanding yet. When customers realize these desires can be met they will demand it from all future products. It’s essential to have something ready when that happens or you will lose customers.
Working on things customers are already asking for puts you in a race with others. If you try to meet existing desires you are in a race against time. Even if you make it to market first, your advantage will quickly disappear. Others will develop competing products, if they haven’t already been working on them. If you don’t have the next product ready your innovation will be overwhelmed with copycats that make improvements on your design.
Revealing emerging expectations allows you to work two steps ahead so you always have the next great thing perfected and ready to release when the demand is strongest and profits are greatest. Plus if you can accurately predict the future innovations you will be able to overwhelm competitors with improvements faster and with less expense than they can copy you. You get ahead, stay ahead, and increase your lead.
Just because you can make it doesn’t mean customers will want it. To get the best return on investment you need to choose the innovations customers will do anything to get. And even if it’s something customers want it doesn’t mean its right for you to sell. So the innovation system you use must reveal a large selection emerging expectations, preferably all, and provide a way for you to compare and rank them in order of value to you.
Many people can think of pie in the sky “futuristic” products. Science fiction is full of those types of ideas. Some of those sci-fi products actually do become real products and are successful. The question is, when? Absolutely predicting the future is impossible but understanding the land marks to watch for gives you the information to plan your actions. If a new product depends on other developments then you should wait for those to be released before releasing yours. You can have everything ready to go and jump into the market at the exact right time. You maximize profits and minimize risk. A complete innovation system shows you those land marks with enough lead time to act.
Revealing the emerging expectations is what makes the OutCompete Predictive Innovation Method predictive and not just another feel good innovation system. The way it does this is by using certain laws of systems that apply to every system. Understanding that every system must follow certain laws allows you to see which things will become “must have innovations” and the order it will occur.
Innovation is more than creativity, it requires 7 steps and each step must satisfy 7 criteria. This video introduces the steps and criteria. In future posts I’ll explore some of the steps and criteria.
For a free 19 page report detailing the criteria contact me and ask for, “What Makes an Innovation System Complete”.