Archive for the 'Creativity' Category

Intermediation - A Tool for Collaboration

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Formal professional intermediation is an interesting emerging way to increase the potential for connections between different organizations. Informal intermediaries are all around us - they are us. We play the go-between in everything from budding romantic relationships to endorsing someone’’s prospective new-hire candidate. (On, we even do this in a semi-formal way.)

To distinguish between this kind of intermediation and professional intermediation, here is a definition: A Professional Intermediary is a person who maintains fiduciary responsibility to more than one legally separate entity at a time. In this capacity, a team of intermediaries can work together from inside many companies as though they all worked for the same company.

With a definition like this, things get interesting. Now we are talking about dual-agency, about people who are trusted - that’’s what maintaining fiduciary responsibility is all about - by different parties to act in their collective best interest. It takes a lot of judgment, and it isn'’t the right tool for every job. In fact, professional intermediaries occupy a very specialized role. The community site, (Industry Study of Professional Intermediation) is devoted to understanding where, when and how to use intermediaries and establishing open standards of practice for this budding profession.

This begs the question, why do we need a profession of intermediaries? Here are some reasons:

1) Today, we are starting to realize that the key to innovation is not inventions that we can patent but intentions to do something new and different - maybe to do something new and different with an invention. This information can not be protected. Once people know your intentions, they have you. Countries do not grant monopolies on intentions, so you can'’t protect your “rights” to them. And yet, we are also learning that most innovations today require collaboration with outside parties. Few companies, even the largest, most diversified ones, can go it alone anymore. So the trick is finding out in advance whether another party a) has the insights, capabilities and resources you need to fill the gaps in your intentions; and b) is not likely to take the knowledge of your intentions and use it against you. Intermediaries working inside both your organization and others'’ can spot win-win connections and investigate whether there is a good fit in everyones'’ intentions before exposing them to each other.

2) What does a European firm do to explore opportunities to collaborate with firms in China or India? The first advice of any consultant is to tread carefully. When seeking and forging relationships with firms in countries whose IP laws are not the same as yours, it is crucial to establish trust and shared intent before revealing information that could be appropriated. Like the first case above, this presents a conundrum. You need to know in advance information you can only learn after disclosure. A global profession of intermediaries would be useful here. To be clear, no such world-wide professional standard yet exists to solve this problem, but that is what the community around ISOPI is working on .

3) When you submit a new invention to an IP attorney, the attorney searches to determine whether your filing is original, whether there is any prior art that would predate or circumvent your claims. What the attorney is not typically doing is looking for business connections for your project. In fact, sharing the information about your pre-filed invention openly at this early stage (which is exactly the time you need those connections most - for validation as well as financial and technical assistance) would invalidate your filing, and you would lose the chance to claim IP rights. And yet, you still need to find those business connections. Today, that is done very often in conversations “off the record” where someone has to risk invalidating the patent. These conversations start very often with the phrase, “Don'’t tell anyone I'’m telling you this, but…” Intermediaries, on the other hand, are able to share with each other this information, because they maintain perpetual non-disclosure agreements with every firm they work for. So the knowledge is kept within the appropriate chain of custody, and you stand a chance of finding those business connections early without losing filing rights.

4) Finally, big and small companies that want to explore ways of working together have a serious problem. The small company wants assurances that the big company won’t “steal their lunch” and hide behind their comparatively large legal teams. On the other hand, big companies are concerned about being sued by small firms claiming just that - that they stole their lunch. Stalemate. No wonder there is so much overhead negotiation just to get a frank and open conversation between a big firm that could commercialize a small firm’’s invention and the small firm that could use the big company’’s muscle. Again, intermediaries can help. In this case, there are a variety of schemes popping up around the world to supply intermediary services to small firms that can'’t afford a dedicated human resource that performs this role. It remains to be seen which methods prove most effective.

The Living Labs Europe team has been a leading advocate of all forms of collaboration methods, and intermediation appears to be on their list of interesting new organizational tools. At ISOPI, we are interested to watch and learn how Living Labs puts this tool to use.

If you are interested in this topic, feel free to join the ISOPI community and make your own contribution to our global understanding of professional intermediation.

Where is European Creativity Heading?

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

When comparing European growth with the US and Asia one can wonder where European creativity and innovation is heading.
 The combined EU economy is by far the world’s largest and the European economic zone is generally populated with well-educated
and creative citizens. Furthermore, the shift in the production base from the Western economies to Asia, the emphasis on the
knowledge society has even greater significance in terms of both innovation and transpiration. So why isn’t European innovation
translate into economic growth?

The idea of European diversity as a driver for creativity is becoming ever more popular with the
celebration of the successful integration of European economies vis-à-vis the preservation of national heritage and cultural
diversity of the European nations. However, when the talk falls upon the integration of European innovation the picture is that
Europe to a wide extend still is a collection of nation states where collaboration stops at the national border.

However, if one
looks really careful at the locus of innovation one will quickly see that networks of innovation are typically very strongly
interlaced at the regional level and that the linkages are very weak when it comes to interlacing networks of innovation within
national borders. Seemingly, innovation tends to occur in local clusters, which changes the level of competition and technology
exchange from the national to the regional level.

Still, the national borders symbolise real challenges to the transpiration of
technological innovations and exchange of technology through partnerships and alliances on a cross-regional level. As such, the
European market is not yet a reality in true terms when it comes to partnering and transgression beyond the regional economic zones.
Language, legislation, culture and the natural deviation towards historical economic linkages and networks shows, once the
interlacing of clusters across the national border in Europe is mapped. Consequently, innovation in Europe is still local,
which accounts for a vast waste of resources on parallel innovation processes, and in areas such as the missing out on economies
of scale. But most significantly, the diversity of innovation in Europe, which should be the advantage of the European economic
zone, does not transcend beyond the regional and national borders to create synergies across the European economy. This is perhaps
the major challenge for the future of European creativity.