The first three things to do in a new in-house IP Strategy role

Here are three that should be near the top of your priorities.

 1 – Listen & learn

Before you commit to anything, make sure you have spent a lot of time understanding the context, the people and the real goals of the organization.  These are not always the same as the stated goals…

Armed with this, you are going to be much more effective.

2 – Build relationships

An IP Strategy role can not function (or even survive) alone.  You need plenty of interaction with and support from a whole host of people.  Start building relationships from the first minute that you’re there, by helping others and listening to them.

3 – Use your ‘honeymoon period’ to check your instincts

Everyone gets a small ‘honeymoon period’ at the start of a new role in which people will give you a little more leeway to make mistakes and ask those seemingly simplistic questions.  Use this period wisely.  Figure out the tough questions, and formulate your ideas and test them on those people that you trust and whom are in a position to give you great guidance.

The first three things depend a lot on you and your context, of course.

What would you add?

8 Comments on “The first three things to do in a new in-house IP Strategy role

  1. “Prove your added value early” – your appointment will not be universally welcomed, and there will be skeptics who question if you can add any value. There may be others who deliberately try to derail you because they perceive that you’re encroaching on their responsibilities. Sound familiar?  Although you can seek to manage the negative reactions to your appointment through relationship building, the absolute best way to gain a foothold in the role is to have an early win. Seek out the key initiatives for the organization, talk with all manner of folks, build concensus and then look to develop a targeted strategic plan which will support a key initiative. Then implement, and with any luck you will have a tangible result which clearly demonstrates your value-add.

    Lee Caffin 
    ThinkIPStrategy (and former global head of IP Strategy for Abbott Pharma)    

  2. Not only the tough questions, but identify as many of the problems as you can. Where are the difficulties? Why did the last guy leave/ fail (if there was one) ? I would go as far as saying, if you can trace them, speak to them about their role at the company (even if it means an off the records discussion – and make sure you honour this). If it helpful, try and source some of this information from “outsiders” who can provide an independent opinion. The information you gather will provide some insights on what you are likely to encounter, or at least what you should watch out against.

    • Thanks Sang – you obviously have to be careful with unintended consequences of such a discussion – it may incorrectly taint your view on things, the person who left is reasonably likely to be biased…  Also you may be setting yourself up for a political nightmare before you even start.

      • True, and yes, you may have to watch against certain things, especially things like not taking sides, if for example there are opposing / irreconcillable views / approaches within higher managment to certain things. But wouldn’t you agree that if you are aware of some of the difficult problems the last guy encountered (some of which may not be immedately obvious), it could provide some hindsight which could be of benefit in your decision making – and which you can act upon almost pre-emptively…

      •  Thanks Sang – the mere fact that you saw it necessary to go out of the organisation for information undermines trust in your new colleagues.  I’m not saying that our approach should never be taken and it makes sense for an external attorney joining a firm – but not so much for an in house IP Strategy role.

      •  Duncan, I take note of your points, but maybe let me explain a bit further the  context of my comments. About a year and a half ago,  an acquiantance[lets call him IPExerpt]  was in this exact position at his old job. He arrived at this inhouse IP role [lets call this firm BigGreatFirm] , and began “working” to build the IP practice at BigGreatFirm. This is private practice we are talking about , not an inhouse technical role in Industry. The previous IP guy at BigGreatFirm [lets call him SavvySleek, who I was lucky/ even fortunate enough to be friends with]   had left the firm, amidst a number of “difficulties”.  About 6 months into this new role,  IPExpert rang me [we had been in touch several months b4 he met the honchos at BigGreatFirm] and said he wanted to have a chat, it was urgent. We met in a coffee shop, and he laid out the story to me, all the problems he had encountered, etc and that he had no choice but to leave. Having  heard similar “issues” from SavvySleek, I suggested – humbly, very politely – that maybe he would be well advised, if he met SavvySleek. He agreed and I arranged a meeting. Needless to say IPExpert soon left BigGreatFirm, but the words that come to mind are his deep regret of not meeting SavvySleek much earlier, because he had made some huge personal sacrifices to secure the role at BigGreat Firm.

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