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Intellectual Property Amassing and retaining intellectual equity

Sooner or later you and everyone else will leave your organization , either through attrition, retirement or death.

How much information about your product and business, how much knowledge about best processes, strategic visionary and business savvy, how much design talent and team synergy will they take with them?

How much of this intellectual equity will remain in your business should be of serious concern to all CEOs, executives, board members, research and development managers, and human resource directors.

Intellectual equity is the total aggregate of an organization’s intellectual and process capabilities. It is made up of industry and technical knowledge, problem-solving skills, creative abilities, marketing insights, organizational processes, vision and plain old savvy.

Intellectual equity is the product of team and individual talent multiplied by the intelligence of internal systems and procedures. In short, intellectual equity is combined corporate cleverness.

In any organization where experience counts, intellectual equity is a significant resource. In knowledge-based and creative industries, like high-tech and biotech, architecture and design, intellectual equity is the very stuff from which profit is made.

In this context, losing key managers, scientists, architects, engineers, programmers, attorneys or designers can have devastating effects if they take with them information and capabilities not easily or quickly replaced or when their departure disrupts critical team operations.

Human resource researchers tell us that a conservative estimate of the cost to replace each unwanted attrition is equivalent to 2 & #733; times that person’s yearly salary. That figure does not include costs associated with disruption of team process, loss of key information or savvy, start-up inefficiencies of new-hires, or project delays.

To sustain productivity and profits, human resource systems must be redesigned with a keen eye for attracting, retaining and developing talent. In addition, organizational structures must be revised to ensure maximum utilization of the capabilities of both individuals and teams to grow the company’s key resource, intellectual equity.


– Six Pathways To Intellectual Equity

A model of Six Pathways to Intellectual Equity is presented as well as concrete techniques for developing and retaining intellectual equity.

Figure 1 depicts six circles with arrows pointing inward showing methods for amassing and retaining intellectual equity. The seven boxes around the outside of the diagram with arrows pointing out show that faults in any of the six pathways lead to loss of intellectual equity and corporate value.

A deep understanding of the diagram and the concepts behind it will enable decision-makers to make high-value strategic human resource decisions.

1. The first pathway , high-level deployment , includes successfully selecting, placing and orienting staff to ensure reciprocal “goodness of fit” between candidate and organization. While position descriptions provide information about deliverables and job focus, much more is needed upfront to ensure proper selection and “fit” between candidate, job and organizational culture.

With the rapid rate of organizational development, expansion or revision and increasing work complexity, job descriptions can become outdated quickly. Even intact, they do not include a personal operating model of the processes, thinking abilities, management strategies, leadership qualities, and people skills needed for that job in that industry.


– A Model For Competency

Competency modeling is a foundation for deployment at both management and individual contributor levels. Competency models go beyond job descriptions to define the skillsets and capabilities, even character, necessary for success in a given job. While job descriptions define the job destination, competency models provide the means for getting there.

Creating a competency model begins with job descriptions, then involves data-gathering interviews with some of the most successful incumbents , bosses who know what they want and what it takes , as well as key interfaces with the position. Used correctly in the selection process, a competency model increases the “hit rate” of finding and fitting the right person to the right job.

As an added bonus it also becomes the basis of ongoing evaluation and feedback. Competency modeling is an investment that yields a big payoff in selection, ongoing evaluation and development of contributors and managers.

2. Once a contributor is hired, significant attention should be paid to developing and applying their skills and capabilities. Preferably, this begins at the time of hiring, when every individual contributor, manager and executive creates and implements a yearly plan for their development based on an accurate assessment of their capabilities and weaknesses. The pathway to developing shown in Figure 2 involves a stepwise system to “program people for development success.” This includes the following sequence: customized 360 -degree feedback, yearly development plans, coaching, and evaluations based on both job deliverables and successful application of skills defined in the competency models.

A “360 -degree” is a tool for evaluating the competencies of a manager by collecting the perceptions of those that work “all around” that manager, including direct reports, peers, internal partners as well as boss and self.

Using confidential questionnaires, this “multiple perception” data is summarized in an interpretive feedback report for the manager. Reviewing the report provides the manager (or executive) with a great check on reality. “How good am I really?” Since perceptions are reality, looking at data collected in a 360 is an excellent way to determine a manager’s real-time success.

Studying the discrepancies or “disconnects” between self-evaluation and the evaluations of others is an exercise destined to provoke significant insights and career growth.


– Data Used To Launch Changes

With the assistance of a coach, 360 data is used to create a focused one-year plan for development that is then presented to upper management for approval and support.

When coupled with individual coaching, a manager or executive can move directly into focused learning and skill development, ensuring the best and quickest results and highest return on investment for that manager’s development efforts.

A good 360 feedback system that includes development planning, coaching and accountability for results is an excellent package for development purposes.

These development strategies have dual benefits: first, they ensure maximum organizational benefit for investments in staff and executive development, and secondly, they nurture retention of key personnel by actively investing in their career progression.

As consumers, executives should note that not all 360s are created equally. Tremendous variability exists in the quality of items, suitability of the competency model, breadth and depth of data pool, scoring approaches and reporting formats as well as industry and individual customization options. Attention should be paid to all of these factors when selecting a 360 instrument.

A second caveat is that 360s should never be used for evaluative purposes, particularly for making decisions about pay and promotion. Under evaluative conditions, 360s may become corrupted by bargaining and trading favors that would not otherwise contaminate the data gathered in a strictly developmental application.

3. Creating a culture, structure and systems for continuous improvement and learning adds significantly to any company’s amassed intellectual equity value.

Strategies for making the popular concept of “learning organization” a reality occur in pathway three: learning.

These methods include implementing regular project debriefings and learning logs to capture potential product upgrades from each project and cue them for upcoming similar projects.


– Challenges Of Measuring Equity

4. Assessing intellectual equity, a fourth pathway, is a considerable challenge as thoughtful development of measurement particular to your company is required and multiple measurements are typical. To identify methods that best suit your business, it is important to consider strategic business goals and the impact of team vs. individual output.

For example, when success is built on a number of new products and people work independently to produce those products, your company’s most relevant measures of intellectual equity may include quantity of new products as well as an index of growing and retaining the skills of individual scientists, engineers, architects, etc.

In other organizations, success may be more affected by the collaborative output of multiple teams, for instance R & D;, marketing, production and distribution teams. Under these circumstances, a better look at intellectual equity would result from measuring the extent to which multiple teams successfully interface.

In either case, group 360 -degree feedback data derived from pathway two should be considered as a measure of management effectiveness and may well be used as the criteria for selection of a training course that leverages the corporate training dollar. Creating methods to assess your company’s intellectual equity establishes a baseline value so that increases in intellectual equity from applying the six pathways model can be measured.

5. Embedding key information and process is a final pathway to intellectual equity. However effective retention programs are, individuals will have a defined worklife and everyone leaves ultimately. Methods to implant process and content knowledge so that it stays even after its inventors depart is key to increasing and stabilizing the success of your business.

An example of such a method is the use of regular process debriefings. Project debriefings (see pathway three) focus on what features of the project or product were good and which were disappointments, and the lessons learned for creating a better product.

Process debriefings, on the other hand, attend to how the teams or individuals did what they did. Process debriefings analyze methods like subteam composition such as which individuals worked best in what capacity; communication strategies such as meeting format, schedule, feedback mechanisms; design strategies; systems for tracking progress or costs.

Documenting process debriefings allow organizations to capture important information so that processes are kept intact when star contributors depart, helping to preserve the intellectual equity that has been “home grown” in the organization.


– Four Principles Guide The Way

6. While each and every pathway is a means to reducing unwanted attrition, strategic decisions about investing resources in reward systems has an important impact on retention. Rather than guessing at the construction of benefit menus, or projecting our own preferences for benefits onto employees, four benefit optimization principles can guide the way.

The application of these principles to specific populations produces a 2-by-2-by-2 table of benefit options. This display allows employers to consider benefits that are highly preferred against benefit cost, and strategic value to the organization to select high-yield retention factors.

In summary, intellectual equity is a model and system for attracting, retaining, leveraging and saving organizational intelligence. When business success depends on people, rather than machines, intellectual equity may be today’s most important “new invention” for business success.

Jasin and Philips are senior partners in QM2, a San Diego-based strategic consulting firm.

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