Social Collaboration Software Forces
a Re-think of Intellectual Property

Social Collaboration Tools force a re-think of what is IP and how we create it

intellectual property social collaborationEveryone agrees that Intellectual Property is critical to business success and for some it is the product they take to market. Organisations go to great lengths to protect that IP by enshrining it in contractual obligation and sometimes very expensive litigation. Equally, creation of that Intellectual Property can often represent large entries in the General Ledger, particularly for the Engineering, Logistics, Technology, Pharmaceutical and publishing industries.  

Indeed, in this survey by AlixPartners of litigation costs to large US-based companies in 2013, IP and patent disputes were second only to contractual disputes at 59 per cent.

However, many overlook the fact that much of the most important IP within an organisation resides within the brains of its employees, not in patents. While thousands and even millions of dollars are spent on Knowledge Management solutions of one kind or another, few are successful at harnessing or capturing the very best of employee value.

How do we create IP, capture it and use it

Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) and other Social Collaboration Tools demand a total review of what is Intellectual Property, how to create it and how to effectively capture and use it. These themes are entirely deconstructed by the advent of social collaboration software:

“There are people who know how to do things and people who need to know how to do things. Whether the activity is on-boarding an employee, submitting a patent, or creating a proposal to win business, we all benefit when we capture what we learned and expose as much as possible in repeatable patterns.”

So says Dan Woods, author of the Evolved Technologist in an interesting Forbes interview back in 2010.  Indeed while many are focussed on capturing and creating IP, it is the process of turning it into repeatable patterns that is where the real value lies.

For example

One area where new IP value can be created is in employee training and onboarding. The development of training materials and modules within employee development programs is a massive business and measured at anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000+ per employee per year depending on an organisation’s size. However, existing employee experiences are seldom incorporated into materials on an ongoing basis. Employee knowledge is often regarded as the most informative and instructive training material on hand yet many HR learning and development departments neglect to effectively capture and incorporate it into their programs.  

As a good starting point, Internal Corporate Blogs are one of the best vehicles for employees to share their experiences. So much so that we’ve rebranded and designed our Mumba Cloud blogging tool as a ‘Thought Leadership’ application whereby employees have a powerful vehicle for sharing best practice case studies and examples with their teams and co-workers. With the correct processes in place, managers are able to collaborate across teams to develop and fine tune their onboarding and instructive templates, methodology or frameworks. ESNs provide the tools to capture and reward contributions as well as deliver this invaluable IP precisely where it is needed based on advanced content discovery methodologies.

IP value is derived by the sum of its parts...

Throughout the IP creation and development process, social collaboration software is an invaluable tool as it assists an organisation into the most effective pathway for gaining a rapid and ever evolving competitive edge. At the inception phase, for instance social collaboration tools inherently leverage the notion that the best ideas are not the creation of one person but the fusion of many ideas from several people. “Brainstorms” are the traditional avenue for seizing these opportunities but take time and are ineffective across geographic or remote boundaries. However, our clients have seen tremendous results from migrating this process into our social platform. The unique collaborative abilities of Mumba Cloud take the brainstorming and ideation process to an exciting new level. 

...and continuous improvement

But it isn’t even just in the creation aspect of IP where social collaboration software delivers value, but in continuous improvement. Eric Ries’ “Lean Start-up” proposition advocates a model of continuous improvement, rapid cycles of try-review-try-again that involves small incremental modification. He contrasts the way that a car is driven versus the way a rocket is sent into space. The latter is fired off into space according to exact calculations, any of which go wrong leads to catastrophe; while the former is the process of slight and infinitesimal adjustments on the fly. Businesses need to follow the car model versus the rocket to gain and secure a competitive edge and the better a business can communicate and collaborate internally, the better it will be at that very process of continual improvement. Social Collaboration Software facilitates this very rapid and real-time employee collaboration.

Cost vs Benefit

When considering the investment costs, impacts on internal resources and change management requirements, organisations should weigh these factors against the unique Intellectual Property opportunities that only social collaboration software can provide. While intangibles are sometimes difficult to measure, these benefits are worth serious consideration and undoubtedly lead to significant cost savings, additional revenue and valuable market share gains.

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