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IP strategy for R&D: people first

This is an article on IP strategy for R&D. In long hand that's intellectual property (IP) strategy for research and development (R&D).

People differ in their interests, personality and skills. This leads them to selecting different educational and career paths. These facts should prompt all managers to customise the way they manage individuals in the workplace.

Aligning business systems in the modern workplace is a challenge. Few frameworks for companies or organisations  today are credible if they don't place culture and people near the centre. The graphic below is just one of many such frameworks.

All effective frameworks permit managers to customise for the individual careers of their colleagues. Only in this way can organisations get the best results from the cycle of work relating to people management.

factex

The annual people management cycle:

  • begins with strategic plans (shorthand for all types of planning work that is needed);
  • moves to human resource management involving job designs, recruitment, training, performance management and so forth; and
  • leads back to revised strategic plans for the way ahead.

chesbrough_bookThe need to customise in an R&D context is put convincingly in the paragraphs quoted below. They are from Open Innovation *, a book by Prof. Henry Chesbrough.

I'll also quote his book in the next post in this series, so get to know him. His career began with the management consultancy, Bain & Company, then he spent a decade in the computer disk-drive industry in the United States, and is now an academic at Harvard Business School in both the technology and entrepreneurship departments.

Chesbrough's paragraphs succinctly distinguish R&D operations. They signal people management needs and incentives for people in three functional areas: (1) research, (2) product and services development, and (3) marketing and sales. The headings and emphasis beloware mine.

[On Research]

Most corporate researchers are highly trained scientists and engineers, often with Ph.D.'s in their fields. Companies recruit these individuals by offering them attractive salaries, significant discretion over the choice of projects they work on, and considerable freedom to publish their results. These researchers' skills are highly specialized to narrow domains of scientific inquiry, which makes them hard to retrain if and when business conditions changed.

These highly trained professionals are able to monitor significant research developments in their professional communities and then apply them to the company's business. They typically work on projects that have a long way to go before the results are ready to go to market. Indeed, most research organizations do not actually take their ideas all the way to market. Instead, companies restrict their research function to the discovery and early exploration of ideas, and then hand over the task of developing these into products to the development organization.

The research function is almost always structured as a cost center. Its financial goal each year is to stay within budget. Over time, the manager of the research function wants to kick out the mature, established research projects, in which most of the conceptual learning has already taken place. The manager also wants to move out the older researchers gracefully, to make room for young research talent. This turnover allows the manager to start new projects and infuses new ideas and energy into the research organization. This process of renewal makes the labs more attractive as a place to work for aspiring researchers.

[On Development]

Development, by contrast, takes the output of research as an input into its own process. This function is led by engineers, who are trained to solve problems within certain constraints, such as time and budget. It produces products and services that embody the research ideas so that they may be sold into the market. Such development involves a more predictable time horizon than that of the research process. Development managers seek to identify, characterize, and then minimize risks in creating new products and services. In contrast to the "blue sky" environment of research, development is fundamentally about making and hitting schedule targets and budgets, to convert discoveries into new products and services.

The development function is usually part of a business unit, which is structured as a profit center, with its own profit-and-loss (P&L) statement. Managers of development want to incorporate new inputs from research when they are as well characterized and understood as possible.

There are many lessons in these paragraphs. They apply to a three person small business, not just a multi-function or multi-department major company.

The implication of the paragraphs for people management is that companies must discover the incentives which will work to motivate people to achieve results at the personal, workgroup and organisational levels.

We've taken the hint in our firm for our human resources suite of contracts and HR documents.

In today's highly competitive job market, managers who fail to customise are on a fast tracked to failure in human resources management. The next post in this series will be on keeping records as well as Thomas Edison (pictured above holding a lightbulb).


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