Disruptive Intellectual Assets: New Article Published in JPIMBy
The latest Journal of Product Innovation Management (JPIM), an excellent journal from PDMA for those interested in innovation and new product development, has an article that describes an approach to disruptive innovation that we developed at Kimberly-Clark Corporation when I was there as Corporate Patent Strategist. “Disruptive Innovation and the Need for Disruptive Intellectual Asset Strategy” by Jeff Lindsay and Mike Hopkins (JPIM, Vol. 27, No. 2, March 2010, pp. 283-290), addresses one of the large gaps in the literature around disruptive innovation, namely, what role intellectual assets should play. Search through the popular books and articles by leading authorities in disruptive innovation and you will find scant reference, if any, to intellectual assets, yet they may be key to overcoming the dilemma faced by corporations. A small, aggressive team in a corporation can employ a variety of low-cost intellectual asset (IA) tools to mitigate potential competitive threats from disruptive innovation, while also subtly laying a foundation for future offensive disruptive innovation from the company. By the time the corporation as a whole recognizes the value of an emerging disruptive innovation, it need bot be too late, as is often case, for the initially defensive actions that were taken at an early stage can now provide a serendipitous foundation for taking the offense. It’s not easy, but the odds of success or survival can be significantly increased.
Here is our abstract:
Disruption has become a popular business term, yet it is often used so loosely as to convey almost nothing of substance. Here a largely neglected factor is addressed: the role of intellectual assets in securing opportunities for or averting threats from disruptive innovations. While the literature explains why the decision-making systems in large established companies cause difficulty in responding effectively to disruptive innovation the generation of intellectual assets (e.g., patents, publications, trademarks) typically is not subject to the same cultural and structural barriers. Though it may be difficult to convince a business to invest millions in pursuit of a speculative disruptive innovation, it is much easier for a small team to gain support in pursuing low-cost intellectual assets in the name of mitigating potential threats. A two-pronged approach is proposed that builds on the authors’ experience at Kimberly-Clark Corporation in dealing with disruptive threats and opportunities. The approach calls for generation of intellectual assets, often using small proactive teams, to (1) protect an existing business by reducing competitive risks from disruptive innovation, including the risk of new products with disruptive potential and the risk of associated competitive patents that might limit one’s response; and (2) prepare for future new and disruptive business opportunities that could be protected or strengthened by the intellectual assets generated. Kimberly-Clark’s growing experience with this approach suggests that it may be a valuable component of one’s strategy for innovation and protection of the business.