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How to execute IP projects

Develop and execute a patent strategy

I recently came across an interesting framework while reading the book "Deep Work" by Cal Newport1. While reading, I realized that I have been using a very similar framework all along for the IP strategy projects I work on. Although I have never put it into a practical concept like the authors of the book "The 4 Disciplines of Execution"2 do, I think the 4DX concept is very thoughtful and will be a great help in executing IP projects. Therefore, I will summarize the framework and add IP-specific comments.

The difference between what and how

When it comes to implementing a strategy, it is important to understand the difference between what and how. It is often relatively easy to develop a patent strategy. However, it is much more difficult to execute the patent strategy. To solve the "how", the 4DX framework can be applied. Cal Newport writes:

“[…] the underlying concepts seem to apply anywhere that something important needs to get done against the backdrop of many competing obligations and distractions.”

This sums up IP work perfectly. IP projects are often very complex and can take a long time. As a result, distractions and other obligations tend to get in the way of execution.

1 – Focus on the wildly important

This does not require much explanation and may seem very obvious. But in my experience, IP projects often go wrong from the start. I suggest the following steps:

  • Identify the innovations that are important to your business
  • Rank them by business need and feasibility
  • Choose an appropriate number for the size of your organization
  • Save the rest for later and put them on a watch list

2 – Act on lead measures

I think it is very important to define the right measures. In this sense, lag measures describe the ultimate goal. In the case of an IP strategy project, this could be to achieve a dominant and leading IP position in a certain field or technology. While lead measures drive the success of the lag measures. For IP, a lead measure could be filing a certain number of patent applications for a certain business goal. Acting on lead measures allows you to remain agile and adapt during the process to achieve the overall goal.

3 – Keep a compelling score board

A way to keep score is essential to ensure commitment to achieving the overall goal. I suggest the following implementation:

  • Create a spreadsheet with specific goals
  • Define incremental steps (milestones) for short periods of time to keep track
  • Each goal should be linked to a business objective
  • Each goal should ideally be achievable within one fiscal year

4 – Create a cadence of accountability

I've found that regular meetings with relevant stakeholders to review the status of each IP project is a key driver. This is where execution happens. People are willing to commit to specific activities and to-dos. In addition, IP projects can be adjusted or re-prioritized if things are not working or if the business changes. Meetings can be very short, but are important for commitment and motivation.

What is your experience in implementing IP projects? How do you succeed in bringing the strategy to life?

1 Newport, Cal. 2016. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. New York, Grand Central Publishing.
2 McChesney, Chris, Sean. Covey and Jim. Huling. 2012. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals. New York, NY, Free Press.