At Innovationedge, one of our favorite activities is working with a team in what we call an “Edge Session” to create new intellectual assets. It’s not not brainstorming, where a flood of bad ideas are welcome, but an iterative process in which the goal is enabled, good concepts that are fleshed out enough to support drafting of a meaningful invention disclosures. A key part of the Edge Session is refining problem statements, moving from broad, vague questions to more specific problem statements that guide inventors on what is needed. We introduce stimulus elements that are coupled with the problem statements to stimulate thinking. The stimulus elements can be used in addressing a problem directly or as associative thinking tools to change the way people look at the problem–all part of the steps along the way to creating records of an enabled invention that, in turn, can readily support IP generation such as drafting a patent application, documenting a trade secret, or preparing a defensive publication.
Preparation has been the key for success. A big part of the preparation is ours as we dig into the literature, patents, and competitive intelligence. Sometimes we conduct pre-workshop interviews to get a landscape of what the client already knows so that we can better begin with that starting point as we help them create and document more.
The preparation by the client is also critical. One key part of their preparation is the selection of team members. Groups of about 5 to 25 people work well, with maybe 7 to 15 being the preferred range. The group works well if there is sufficient diversity in experience and background. For example, even in dealing with highly technical problems, I like to have at least one marketer in the team, someone with great hands-on experience dealing with consumer insights or other sources of marketing information. The perspective a good marketing person can bring is often vital for the success of an IP-generation project.
Teams also can be more effective when the prepare by reading the materials we provide on the prior art, competitive efforts, etc. We recognize, though, that many times team members won’t have had adequate time or motivation to prepare other than showing up. We can still squeeze good information from the unprepared, for much of what they have to contribute creatively is already in their heads. It just may take a little more effort to get it out and documented,