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Managing your Intellectual Property Pipeline

Sometimes called an idea portfolio, the list of ideas generated by an organization's team can be turned into valuable intellectual property that can be sold, licensed or used for promotion. Just as you would inventory raw materials or assembled products, it is beneficial to inventory ideas.

Nature organizations hold in their grasp a wealth of information that supports their mission. Even access to natural locations is a valuable asset. As are photographs and slides. Illustrations. Journals. Exhibits. Tours. And history. All these assets can be managed for the ongoing support of the organization's mission -- preservation, education and recreation.

Most members of nature organizations are dedicated to their duties and only occasionally have time to take a longer term look at how the organization can fully monetize its assets. When these brainstorming events occur, it is a good idea to build a journal of good ideas and a list of assets that could be utilized for products, services and programs. Here are some ideas to get you started.

The Power of an Idea Inventory

Just in time manufacturing taught us that excessive inventory is a liability and the right level of inventory is a necessity of doing business. Determining that level is the art of success.

The Process of Inventory Planning:

  • First comes the goal.
  • Second, the strategy,
  • Third, the tool to implement the strategy.
Intellectual capital can be knowledge such as these items…that are turned into intellectual property.
  • Consulting or program strategies
  • Customer lists
  • Software, exhibit processes or systems
  • Workbooks, checklists, or interactive exercises
  • Books, videos, audios, reports, survey results, etc.
  • Recipes for product formulas
This intellectual knowledge is turned into legal “intellectual property” and treated as owned property through the following methods:
  • Creation of Copyrights
  • Trademark registrations
  • Development of Patented products, designs or systems
  • Trade Secrets that give you a competitive edge

An organization’s goal regarding intellectual property is as individual as the organization, however these are some of the business goals involved:

Add to the valuation of the organization.
Create a competitive advantage.
Develop strategic alliances with other organizations or businesses.

Continual innovation is necessary in today’s business world. Not only product ideas, but marketing strategies, system refinements, niche market relationships and services that can be embedded in profit centers, customer service or marketing procedures.

Innovation can become a valuable everyday process that includes:

  1. Listing all ideas

  2. Sorting ideas into projects, divisions, or general application areas

  3. Evaluating the quality of ideas based on strategic criteria

  4. Moving high priority ideas into a “due diligence’ or “vetting” phase

  5. Moving the best of those vetted ideas into prototype design and development

  6. Evaluating prototypes through testing procedures

  7. Refining prototypes based on test results until they meet criteria for market appeal, safety, engineering elegance, and production efficiency

  8. Producing marketing materials and intellectual property protection at the final prototype or production model stage

  9. Move the model into production, packaging and inventory

  10. Launch the product into the distribution chain

  11. Follow the product into the market to monitor for refinements, related products and services, and innovation nuggets

This continual pipeline of innovation development requires management of the ideas much the same as plants are part of a gardening system from the time of selecting the seed, through planting it, nurturing it, protecting it, harvesting it and thinking ahead to the next season of productivity.

A pipeline system can be set up with an inventor’s logbook, a spreadsheet, a relational database, a word processing document, a tabbed binder, or a set of index cards.

By recording ideas, you not only gather a valuable record of your company’s knowledgebase and capabilities, but you are providing protection for your intellectual property, and you are creating a hotbed of inspiration for future development.

It is important that team members are given credit for their creative and innovative contributions to an organization. By formalizing your idea pipeline, it becomes possible to record contributor credit that can easily fade in the heat of passionate brainstorming sessions, deadlines and unending rounds of prototypes and tests.

Visionary leadership is both vital and important to the natural resources community. Our best ideas grow out of seeing what is possible -- from ideas. Often ideas need to be merged into clumps of ideas to make a viable new product or program, and by recording your ideas in a usable format, you are managing an intangible, but very valuable asset of your organization.

Ideas rock!