Don’t Let a Corporate Bully Destroy Your Tech Company

Robert and I had been working on a new project for barely a month when I received a frantic phone call from him.

“We’ve been sued for patent infringement by Acme!”

Acme was a large corporation with very deep pockets.  This was Robert’s worst nightmare – a potentially deadly lawsuit right after starting his new job with the company.

Note:  Obviously the company names and product names have been changed to protect the actual parties involved in the litigation.

I started working with Robert’s company (Awesome Corporation) a month before that phone call.  Awesome was growing quickly and getting rave reviews of its new line of flux capacitors.  Many satisfied customers were enjoying excellent results using the capacitors.

Awesome had a great team of creative people who were regularly developing innovative ideas that created a “buzz” in the industry.  These ideas set the Awesome’s flux capacitors apart from the competitors and saved its customers time and money.

Based on the company’s growth trajectory, they were expanding and capturing more market share each quarter.  Their innovative capacitors offered features that the older, well-established competitors did not offer.  Things were going great.

Identifying, Developing, and Protecting Innovative Ideas

Robert was the VP of Product Development.  He contacted me to help build an intellectual property portfolio and develop a system for identifying, developing, and protecting innovative ideas.

An intellectual property portfolio is a collection of business assets, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.  These business assets are intangible, but provide significant value and protection to the owner.  A well-crafted patent can protect a company’s core technologies and key product features, which provides a barrier to competitors who want to copy those technologies or features.

Robert’s Nightmare

Robert’s voice was trembling when he called me.

But, the nightmare was even worse because Awesome had no patents.  That meant they had virtually no intellectual property and no negotiating power to try to settle the lawsuit by cross-licensing intellectual property assets.  Acme likely targeted them because of their lack of intellectual property assets.

Awesome had recently gone public with a successful Initial Public Offering.  Robert was terrified…

“How are we going to explain this huge liability to all of the shareholders?”

It didn’t take long for Awesome to start receiving calls from its customers, “What’s this lawsuit about.  Acme called us and said we may have to stop using the flux capacitors we purchased because they infringe Acme’s patents.”

What are you doing to fix this?”

Robert also had to handle questions from the sales team and prospective customers who were justifiably concerned about buying Awesome’s capacitors with the dark cloud hanging over the company.  With the pending lawsuit, it was next to impossible to sell capacitors.

Call us after the litigation is settled,” was the usual response to sales inquiries.

Surviving the Litigation

In an effort to save the company, its leaders hired a litigation firm and got to work preparing a strategy to deal with the lawsuit.  Awesome’s leaders set aside most other projects so they could focus on this critical problem.

To create bargaining power with Acme, Awesome spent several million dollars to acquire some existing patents in an effort to negotiate a settlement.  Since Awesome had not been protecting their innovative ideas and did not have an existing intellectual property portfolio, they were starting from scratch.

Fortunately, the acquired patents helped with the settlement negotiations.  Eventually, the lawsuit was settled – which cost several million dollars on top of the cost to acquire the patents.  And, some significant legal fees on top of everything else.

In addition to these tangible costs, many of the company’s activities came to a screeching halt until the litigation was resolved.  These immeasurable costs had a huge impact on Awesome’s financial situation.

Robert, and Awesome, survived the litigation.  But it took years to recover financially and to regain their customers’ (and potential customers’) trust.

Finally, millions of dollars later, building an Innovation Strategy became a top priority.

Believe it or not, Awesome was Lucky!

This type of lawsuit would have destroyed many smaller companies.  If Awesome didn’t have the financial ability to fight the lawsuit, it would have been like a big bad wolf devouring three little pigs living in a worn-out tent.

Patent litigation is complex and costly.  If you don’t have funds available for a patent litigation attorney, you can’t even fight back.

Before filing a lawsuit, the big bad wolf does its due diligence to find the weakest victim.  “Find me some little company with no intellectual property and minimal cash.  We will make an example of them.”  After the wolf wipes out the first victim, it has set a precedent and can coerce other victims to give up or pay a hefty licensing fee to settle the litigation.

Sadly, this situation was avoidable – or at least could have had a much smaller impact on Awesome.

How to Build A Strong IP Portfolio

If Awesome had taken action a few years earlier, for a small fraction of the millions they paid, they could have developed an intellectual property portfolio that might have caused Acme to target someone else.  Awesome could have upgraded from a tent to a brick house.

With a stronger intellectual property portfolio, even if Awesome was sued, the company would have been in a much stronger position to negotiate a better settlement and reduce the disruption to the company’s operations and customer relationships.

In the past 25 years, I have worked with many companies who were negligent in taking steps to protect the innovative ideas that set their products apart from the competitors.  These companies believed that they were a group of good, creative people and they deserved to be successful.

We are constantly creating new ideas, so we don’t need to worry about protecting our innovations.”  Wrong.

It could happen to you too.

You have worked hard to assemble a team of talented people who create great products and give your company an advantage in the marketplace.  If you fail to protect your key product features, and ignore building a valuable intellectual property portfolio, it’s going to come back to bite you.

Take the important steps today to identify and protect the innovative ideas embodied in your company’s products.

Need Help with your Innovation Strategy?

If you don’t have an Innovation Strategy, or you want to expand your existing strategy, I can help.

Apply for a complimentary Innovation Strategy Session today.  During this session, we will review your current Innovation Strategy, explore your innovation goals and challenges, and create a plan for where to go next.  You will walk away from the call with at least 2 or 3 new ideas to grow your business…

Click Here to apply for your Free Innovation Strategy Session.

The Fun and Easy Way to Create an Innovation Culture

“Not another brainstorming luncheon!”

“I should have called in sick today.”

Is your company’s idea of creating an innovation culture to simply schedule a few brainstorming luncheons scattered throughout the year?  I’ve seen this tired approach at dozens of companies.

Predictably, companies schedule a mandatory brainstorming meeting with their engineers and developers.  The team members are “rewarded” with pizza and soda and asked to come up with creative ideas.

Unfortunately, most of these ideas are specific to the projects the engineers and developers are currently working on.  This approach does not solve big problems or generate disruptive innovations.  Instead, it’s merely an opportunity to think about the team’s current projects.

These traditional brainstorming sessions are usually limited to the engineering/development team members, which misses out on huge opportunities to get input from people in other departments.  And, the really valuable ideas rarely come out of unstructured sessions like these.

These old-fashioned brainstorming sessions are boring and end as soon as the pizza is gone.

If you want to foster teamwork and develop an innovation culture that produces a steady stream of innovative ideas, you have to try a new approach used by the most successful technology companies today…

Make Innovation Fun

Here’s a strategy I’ve used successfully with multiple technology companies to gamify the innovation process.  Create an innovation contest along with other creative activities that make idea generation fun.  Team members love these events and the ideas start flowing!

Best of all, the fun activities stimulate creative thinking that continues long after the actual event is finished.

Here’s how you can create your own innovation events that foster teamwork and develop a company-wide innovation culture.

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin

Innovation Teams

Instead of trying to create ideas from one large group of people, create multiple innovation teams.  Be sure to call them “innovation teams” – using the name “brainstorming team” will scare people away!

Each team has 6-8 people from different parts of the company – a cross-section of the company’s departments.  For example, each team includes people from sales, marketing, customer service, engineering/development, manufacturing, and so forth.  This diversity of company roles generates a broader range of ideas and provides perspectives from different parts of the company.

The first task for each innovation team is to create a clever name for the team.  This is the first step in the innovation contest (explained below) because points are awarded to the team with the best name.

Create A Contest

To gamify the innovation event, create an innovation contest in which the teams compete with one another.  Explain the purpose of the contest, the contest rules, and how points are earned during the contest.  And, explain the prizes for the top innovation teams.  Make the prizes something significant – something that is highly valued within your organization.  One company I worked with gave the winning team members custom jackets embroidered with “Innovation Champion” and an attractive logo – lots of bragging rights for the owners of those jackets!

Some companies do a one-day innovation event and the contest ends after that single event.  Others companies spread the contest across several weeks with two or more shorter innovation events during that period.

Contest points can be awarded in many ways.  Some companies give points for each problem identified and for each possible solution.  Additionally, judges can evaluate the identified problems and/or solutions and award additional points based on the creativity of the idea or the potential value to the company.

Contest Activities

Each team starts by identifying problems that need to be solved, such as problems with the company’s existing products or “gaps” in the marketplace, where a new product could fill the gap.

This is where the diverse innovation team creates significant value.  Often, people from the customer service and sales department can identify problems with existing products because of their direct interaction with customers.

After identifying problems, the team decides to focus on one or two of the problems and identifies multiple possible solutions to the problems.  Initially, the solutions should be general in nature – specific implementation details can be discussed at a later time.

The goal is to identify many possible solutions without criticism, judgment or editing.  Every idea gets recorded, regardless of its commercial feasibility.  This is critical because one idea, even if it’s not commercially viable, can lead to another idea, which leads to another idea, and so on until a valuable and commercially viable idea is developed.

After generating a large group of possible solutions, the innovation team ranks the solutions and discusses the top 3-5 solutions in more detail.  These discussions may spawn additional ideas regarding how the solution might be implemented.

You must provide a tool to display all of the ideas.  Typically a white board or flip chart works best.  If you use a flip chart, get the kind that has adhesive on the back of each sheet so they can be easily stuck to the wall.  It is important that all ideas are visible to all team members.

Don’t forget to record all of the identified problems and solutions.  This is valuable information for the company and can help generate “seed” ideas for future innovation contests.

Scoring

As mentioned above, contest points can be awarded in many ways.  In addition to points for identified problems and possible solutions, consider additional points based on fun categories.  For example, “most creative solution,” “craziest problem” or “most unusual problem.”  These award winners can be selected by a panel of judges or voted on by all of the contest participants (but team members cannot vote for their own team’s ideas).

“Fun is good.”  – Dr. Seuss

Prizes and Celebration

Select contest prizes that are valuable to people in your organization.  You will receive significant value from the innovation event, so make the prizes something of value that will encourage strong participation in the current event as well as future events.  I mentioned the custom jackets that are highly sought after in one company.

If you need ideas for contest prizes, ask your team.  Find out what your team members consider most valuable and provide those items as prizes (within reason).

Ongoing Results

The goal for these innovation contests is to get teams of people from different parts of the organization working together to solve problems in a fun environment.  This can improve morale and create a strong team environment.  And, it gives people a fun break from their usual work routine.  These types of events generate many new ideas for the company to develop new products and improve existing products.

In my experience, the creation of innovative ideas doesn’t end when the contest is over.  The innovation contest creates a creative spark in the contest participants and they continue thinking of new ideas over the coming days and weeks.  I frequently hear stories about team members who “kept thinking about one of the problems from the contest and just came up with a fantastic solution that ….”

Make innovation contests a regular activity in your company and enjoy a steady flow of valuable new ideas throughout your organization.

Need Help?

An innovation contest is just one important piece of an Innovation Strategy.  If you’re ready to generate a steady stream of innovative ideas, I can help both with this strategy and many others.

Apply for a complimentary Innovation Strategy Session today.  During this session, we will review your current Innovation Strategy, explore your innovation goals and challenges, and create a plan for where to go next.  You will walk away from the call with at least 2 or 3 new ideas to grow your business…

Click Here to apply for your Free Innovation Strategy Session (if you qualify).

3 Secrets to Creating a Profitable Innovation Strategy in Any Tech Company

It was John’s first day on the job as VP of Product Development for a mid-sized technology company in San Jose, California.  During an introductory meeting with his team members, John asked “Tell me about the company’s idea pipeline.”   The room went silent.  There was no idea pipeline.

John had recently left another technology company with a system for generating a steady flow of new ideas that enabled his team to keep the company’s products fresh and competitive.  By the end of the meeting at the new company, John discovered that the company lacked any significant systems for identifying, developing, or protecting innovative ideas.

John knew from previous experience that, without a constant flow of new ideas, the company would lose customers as well as its most talented team members.  John himself had left a previous employer because he wanted to work in an environment that encouraged and rewarded innovation.  The lack of an idea pipeline was a serious concern.

John understood that losing his team’s brightest minds would stall the idea pipeline and allow the company’s competitors to create better products and steal the company’s customers.  He saw the threat that was looming if the company didn’t implement an innovation strategy to keep the best team members who create innovative ideas and industry-leading products.  John knew he had to act fast.

John reached out to me for help implementing systems that would create an idea pipeline like he had at his previous company.  Keep reading to find out how we solved this problem.

A well-defined Innovation Strategy has three critical components (the 3 Ps of Innovation):  Products, People, and Protection.

Think of your Innovation Strategy as a 3-legged stool.  Products, People, and Protection represent the three legs.  If any component is missing, the stool will fail.  But, a properly configured Innovation Strategy provides a sturdy foundation for growing your company and generates a steady flow of creative ideas.

Haphazard Innovation Doesn’t Work

If your company has a haphazard approach to innovation, one of your competitors may develop the next “must have” product in your market and steal your customers.  By “haphazard”, I mean you don’t have a system or Innovation Strategy to identify, develop, and protect innovative ideas that support your company’s growth.  Instead, your approach to innovation is random – new ideas appear occasionally when they “pop” into someone’s head.  This is not a good strategy.

Don’t build the foundation of your business on haphazard and accidental innovation.

A Well-Defined Innovation Strategy Does Work

During the past 25 years, I have worked with many technology companies that flourish when they implement a well-defined Innovation Strategy.  These companies use a systematic approach to innovation that creates a culture of innovative thinking throughout the organization.

Each of the three critical components of a successful Innovation Strategy (Products, People, and Protection) are discussed below.  I’ve also included a case study that demonstrates the initial development of an Innovation Strategy.

“According to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), almost 80% of the world’s most innovative companies have a well-defined and thought-through innovation strategy.”  ~ Fortune Magazine

1. Products

An Innovation Strategy must focus on the development of new products and the enhancement of existing products.  You can accomplish this by implementing systems that address gaps in the marketplace, customer feedback, and problems with your current products.  Executing the proper systems can ignite a creative fire within your organization that produces a constant stream of new ideas.  This gives you the luxury of selecting among many profitable ideas and hand-picking the very best ideas that will give you a competitive advantage in your industry.

2. People

Your Innovation Strategy should include people throughout your organization.  Many technology companies rely solely on a few “rocket scientists” to develop innovations.  Although these brilliant people are important to your innovation plan, you can have much greater success by involving a larger part of your team.

Everyone has unique experiences and specialized knowledge when it comes to creating new ideas.  And, people in different departments of your organization have different interactions with customers and competitors.

For example, your customer service representatives have direct contact with customers every day and can help identify areas for product improvement.  When you involve a cross-section of the people throughout your organization, your Innovation Strategy develops a broader range of ideas that have a larger impact on your company growth.

If you are just starting to create your Innovation Strategy, attempting to launch a company-wide innovation program may disrupt the day-to-day operation of the business.  Your employees are already overloaded, so a large innovation program can be met with resistance.

In this situation, you can gradually expand your Innovation Strategy using small innovation groups that don’t upset the daily operations of your business.  I discuss an example small innovation group in the case study below.

3. Protection

It’s frustrating when I see companies spend valuable resources to create innovative ideas, but donate those ideas to their competitors because they didn’t protect the ideas.  So, instead of having a competitive advantage, these companies failed to protect critical innovations and opened the door for competitors to copy the ideas.

Every technology company develops intellectual property that must be protected.  This goes beyond just filing patent applications.  Proper protection of your innovations includes using appropriate agreements, understanding critical points where intellectual property protection should be considered, and using the appropriate forms of protection.

Case Study

For more than 25 years, I have worked as an Intellectual Property Attorney and Innovation Strategist.  During that time, I have helped companies of all sizes identify, develop, and protect innovative ideas.

When working with John’s company in San Jose, California, I helped implement an Innovation Strategy that included the creation of small innovation group.  This group had six members from different parts of the company – sales, product development, customer service, marketing, production, and the executive group.  The group started by identifying several problems with the company’s existing products as well as a gap in the marketplace.

Over the course of several weeks, the innovation group developed solutions to several of the identified problems.  Two of the group’s solutions were successfully implemented by the company.  One solution created a new product feature that many customers had been asking for.  The second solution resulted in a new product that filled a gap in the market.

The two innovations initiated by the group increased the company’s revenue and generated some positive media coverage of the new product.  This successful result started with a diverse group of People who developed innovations that improved the company’s Products.  The novel features of the products were Protected to provide a strong competitive edge.

Since the first group was successful, we slowly added more groups and built an Innovation Strategy that created an ever-increasing number of valuable ideas.  John was excited to see the idea pipeline start producing results.

Need Help with Your Innovation Strategy?

If you don’t have an Innovation Strategy, or you want to expand your existing strategy, I encourage you to apply for a complimentary Innovation Strategy Session.  During this session, we will review your current Innovation Strategy, explore your innovation goals and challenges, and discuss how I can help you create a steady stream of innovative ideas.  And, you will walk away from the call with at least 2 or 3 new ideas to grow your business.

Click Here to apply for your Free Innovation Strategy Session (if you qualify)…

 

Top 3 Innovation Tips for 2017

If you want your company to stay ahead of the innovation curve, you must develop innovative ideas on a continuous basis.  For technology companies, innovations are a critical part of creating successful new products that maintain a competitive edge.

If you don’t maintain a steady flow of innovative ideas, one of your competitors will develop the next “must have” product in your industry and steal your customers.  Don’t let this happen to your company in 2017.  Start taking action right now to develop an Innovation Strategy that produces a constant stream of new ideas that generate competitive new products and position your company as a market leader.

Here are 3 tips you can start using today to foster more innovative ideas in your organization.

1. Create An Innovation Group – Attempting to launch a company-wide innovation program often triggers a strong protest because it might cause disruptions to the operation of the business.  Employees are already overloaded, so a new innovation program is typically met with resistance.  But, I have successfully used Innovation Groups to launch (and expand) innovation programs in a variety of companies.  A small Innovation Group (6-8 employees) can generate a multitude of valuable ideas without upsetting the day-to-day operations of the business.

If you want more details on creating an Innovation Group in your company, download my free Innovation Strategy Checklist and QuickStart Guide, which discusses how to create your own innovation group as well as many other innovation tips.  Enter your email address in the form below to get your free copy of the Innovation Strategy Checklist.

2. Schedule “Innovation Breaks” – Encourage everyone in your organization to take regular innovation breaks.  Something as simple as a 10 minute break twice a week can generate some fantastic ideas that solve existing problems or provide seed ideas for competitive new products.  During these innovation breaks, people need to change their environment – they must get out of their usual workplace and find a different setting.

A change of scenery can eliminate or reduce many of the distractions to give your mind some “creative space.”  During my innovation breaks, I go for a walk outside – it’s a complete change of environment from my office.

Some people do their best creative thinking in quiet areas, while others find inspiration in noisy environments, like a coffee shop.  Encourage people to find their best environment for innovative thinking and visit that environment at least a couple times a week.

And, be sure you have a system in place to record and evaluate all of those great ideas being generated during the innovation breaks.

3. Develop A Well-Defined Innovation Strategy – “According to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), almost 80% of the world’s most innovative companies have a well-defined and thought-through innovation strategy.” (Fortune Magazine)

A well-designed Innovation Strategy ignites a creative fire within your organization that produces a constant stream of innovative ideas.  These ideas can generate new products that position your company as a market leader.  And, that market leadership position can attract top quality employees and help retain your existing employees.

If you don’t have an Innovation Strategy, or you want to expand your existing strategy, start today!  You can begin by implementing the first two tips mentioned above.  Then, continue to broaden your Innovation Strategy to include more activities and more people within your organization.  As you build your Innovation Strategy, you will develop an innovation culture that generates new ideas throughout the company.

If you want more tips for creating or expanding your Innovation Strategy, download my free Innovation Strategy Checklist and QuickStart Guide by entering your email address in the form on the right side of this page.

2017 can be a great year for your company.  Get started today by implementing just one or two innovation activities.  Select one of the tips above or one of the activities described in the Innovation Strategy Checklist.

Top 4 Innovation Challenges Facing Companies In 2017

Business innovation in 2017I work with many companies in the technology industry and recently conducted an informal survey. The survey asked people working for these companies to identify the biggest challenge regarding innovation in their organization.

Understanding the top challenges facing my clients helps me provide better services to those companies and help them stay ahead of the innovation curve. I’m sharing a summary of the survey results with the readers of this blog so you can understand the common challenges faced by many companies.

Since we are approaching the end of the year, it’s a perfect time for you to look ahead and make plans for 2017. Consider these survey results when planning your 2017 business activities.

Based on my survey, the top four Innovation Challenges facing companies today are:

  1. Fostering new innovations
  2. Protecting innovative ideas
  3. Launching competitive new products
  4. Attracting top quality employees

I see companies struggling with these challenges every day – companies of all sizes and in varying industries (not just technology companies). Fostering and protecting innovations are important activities for every business. And, a thorough innovation strategy can produce valuable new products and attract people who want to work for an innovative organization.

I will be discussing the survey results with my own clients as I help them develop custom Innovation Plans for 2017 and beyond.

It seems that technology is moving at an ever-increasing pace, which makes it difficult for companies to keep up. Fast-growing trends such as “sharing economy” business models, the Internet of Things (IoT), and wearable technology have an impact on every business. If you want to stay at the forefront of your marketplace, and profit from these trends, you must have a plan. Innovation cycles are happening faster, which favors organizations with a well-designed and well-executed innovation plan. Start creating your company’s own innovation plan today.

If you would like to discuss ways that I can help you develop your own unique innovation plan, please contact me to schedule an Innovation Strategy Session.

A Unique Innovation Plan is Critical to your Company’s Success

Edited Innovation Plan imageYour innovation plan is the first step to igniting a creative fire within your organization that produces innovative ideas which are vital to your success.  In a recent blog post (A Proven System for Successful Innovation), I summarized the eight steps in my Innovation Success Blueprint system.  The first step is to create a unique innovation plan for your company.

A recent Fortune Magazine article states, “According to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), almost 80% of the world’s most innovative companies have a well-defined and thought-through innovation strategy.”

You can start developing your unique innovation plan by starting with a specific goal for innovation in your business.  Example goals include:

  1. Identify new products or product features to maintain business growth and stay on the leading edge of your industry.
  2. Develop new products or services that allow your company to enter a new market segment.
  3. In preparation for an upcoming round of financing, create innovative ideas and protect those ideas to exhibit a strong intellectual property portfolio to potential investors.

Once you have set an innovation goal and begin developing an innovation plan to achieve the goal, it is important to get the company leaders “on board.”  I have worked with many companies that struggled to develop a strong innovation culture when the company leadership did not support the innovation plan.  Even if just one or two company leaders are disparaging the innovation activities, that’s enough to sabotage the entire plan.  So, be certain that innovation is a priority to the leaders of the organization.

As you develop the innovation plan, be sure it aligns with the company vision and company goals.  This is the real magic in creating an Innovation Plan – when it supports the vision and goals of the organization, it fits naturally into the daily activities of the business.

After the innovation plan is prepared and it has the support of company leaders, then it’s time to launch the innovation plan.  As an Innovation Strategist, I generally recommend starting with one or two small innovation teams.  These teams work on solving specific problems or addressing gaps in the market.  Additionally, the initial teams help “test” the innovation plan and refine it to match the company’s business culture.  These small innovation teams can generate many valuable innovations without disrupting the day-to-day business activities that you might experience with a company-wide launch of the innovation plan.

I recommend creating innovation teams with six or seven people from different parts of company.  By selecting team members from multiple departments or groups, you create a diverse group of people with different perspectives on the business and different job functions.  This typically results in the identification of a broader range of innovative ideas.  As the initial innovation teams begin creating valuable ideas, you can expand the company’s innovation activities by adding more teams and developing company-wide innovation events.

By starting with a strong innovation plan that aligns with your company vision and goals, you have the foundation for creating a steady flow of innovative ideas that can increase revenue and create a competitive edge.

If you need assistance creating your own unique innovation plan, please contact me to see how I can help.

 

A Proven System for Successful Innovation

Image for blog post - jpegFor the past 25 years, I have been fortunate to work with more than 1000 innovators and business leaders at a variety of technology companies.

A common question I ask innovators is “How did you come up with this idea?”  The answers to those questions have provided a deep insight into the way in which innovative ideas are developed.

I have recently assembled the many pieces of “innovation knowledge” I have collected over the past 25 years into a system that allows companies to identify, develop and protect innovative ideas.  I call the system “Innovation Success Blueprint” and provide a brief summary of the system below.  Organizations that use this system can increase revenue, create a competitive edge in their market and develop an innovation culture that produces a steady flow of new ideas.

I’ve worked with many companies that execute a few of the eight parts of the system.  But, to get valuable results from your unique innovation plan, you must execute all eight activities to generate an “end-to-end” innovation system.  Companies that focus on all eight activities see powerful results and develop an innovation culture that produces a flood of innovative ideas.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting eight additional articles with details about implementing each of the eight parts of the system.

Here’s a brief summary of the Innovation Success Blueprint:

  1. Create a Unique Innovation Plan for Your Company – Ignite a creative fire within your organization to produce innovative ideas that are vital to your success.  This activity includes determining goals for your innovation plan, getting company leaders “on board” with the innovation plan and start developing innovation teams.
  2. Discover Innovation Opportunities – Learn to identify “innovation seeds” that grow into valuable business assets.  These innovation seeds are the starting point for brainstorming and ideation sessions.  You can find these seeds in customer feedback, market commentator articles and industry trends.  As you develop an innovation culture within your company, employees will begin to automatically identify innovation seeds on a regular basis.
  3. Consistently Generate a Flood of Innovative Solutions – When you begin discovering innovation seeds, your team begins developing innovative solutions that may include new products or enhancements to existing products.  These innovative solutions distinguish your company’s products in the marketplace giving you a competitive edge.
  4. Capture and Track Every Innovative Idea – Capture every idea so nothing slips through the cracks.  You need a simple system for employees to submit ideas – something they can do quickly when they have a “flash of brilliance.”  If people cannot easily submit ideas, they may wait until a later time and possibly lose the idea.
  5. Evaluate and Implement Key Innovations – Prioritize and implement the best innovative ideas to increase revenue.  Some ideas are not commercially feasible, or should be deferred to a later time.  It is important to consider multiple factors when evaluating innovative ideas.  And, your innovation review group needs to have a diverse membership to fully evaluate the innovative ideas.
  6. Protect Innovative Ideas – Secure intellectual property protection for key innovations to prevent others from copying your unique product features.  You should evaluate key innovations to determine which forms of intellectual property are appropriate for the ideas.  And, be sure your company agreements have the proper intellectual property clauses.
  7. Systematize the Innovation Process – Make innovative thinking a daily habit throughout your organization.  Consider adding innovation-related tasks to checklists and process lists so the topic of innovation becomes an integral part of all business activities.  Make innovation part of the company goals and individual goals to emphasize the importance of innovative thinking.
  8. Create an Innovation Culture – Build team engagement while developing profitable ideas.  An effective innovation plan creates an innovation culture throughout the organization.  Innovative ideas come from all parts of the company, not just the research and development group.  When you celebrate and reward innovative thinking, employees are encouraged to make innovation a daily habit.

By following the Innovation Success Blueprint system, your company can develop market-leading innovations that provide a strong competitive advantage.  If you want to talk with me about developing a Unique Innovation Plan for your business, click here to contact me and we can schedule a conference call.

5 Critical Events that Require Innovation Analysis

A successful Innovation Action Plan must include a system for identifying key innovation-related events and evaluating innovations prior to those events.  In some situations, you can lose the opportunity to protect your innovative ideas by making a public disclosure of the idea.  Here are five types of events that should trigger an innovation analysis in your organization.  Prior to each of these events, check to see if you are going to disclose key ideas that are not yet protected.

  1. Trade Show Participation – Will you be demonstrating or discussing innovations (including Intellectual Property) that is not protected?  If so, consider taking steps to protect those innovations prior to the trade show.
  2. Article (or White Paper) Publication – Check for any innovative ideas that are announced publicly in any articles or documents.
  3. New Product or Service Announcements – Any type of public announcement, such as press releases and broadcast interviews, should be evaluated for innovative ideas that have not yet been protected.
  4. Advertising Campaigns – Do any of your advertisements disclose company innovations?
  5. Sales Presentations – Will the sales presentation discuss innovative ideas contained in your products or services?
In my work as an Intellectual Property attorney I have seen many companies accidentally “give away” innovative ideas because they publicly disclosed the ideas before they were properly protected.  You can avoid this problem by identifying innovative ideas that will be disclosed during any of these five events.  Then, decide whether any steps are needed to protect those ideas prior to public disclosure.
If you have any questions about protecting innovative ideas in your own business, please click here to contact me.

Launching Your Innovation Action Plan

In this video I discuss three important steps you must take when launching an innovation action plan.  These steps will start a strong innovation program in your business that can increase revenue and provide a competitive edge in your market.

Watch this 5 minute video to start igniting a creative fire within your company.

Innovate by Streamlining Business Procedures

Line design. Project processMany businesses focus their innovative activities on product innovation, which can produce valuable company assets.  In addition to developing new products and new product features, businesses should look for ways to streamline business operations by innovating business processes.

Here is an approach to business process innovation:

1. Big Question:  Is the process necessary? The first question to ask when evaluating a business process is whether the process is necessary.  What is the purpose or end result of the process?  Is it still needed – does it provide value to the business?  You would be surprised how often I see clients with internal procedures that are followed because “that’s the way we’ve always done things” or “that’s what the ‘policies and procedures manual’ says”.  Before you attempt to improve an existing process, make sure it needs to be performed.  If not, don’t spend time “optimizing” the process, just eliminate it.

2. Identify the desired result of the process. Ask questions to determine the goal of the process.  Why was the procedure originally developed and