When the IP Is Your Own
I have been listening to the book The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Areily, and he spends a considerable amount of time on an issue that comes up with small enterprises seeking to sell their creations to large enterprises that also have their own creativity groups. Through a number of experiments he illustrates the natural tendency of creators to overvalue their work and the natural tendency of other creators to devalue outside creations that could compete with their own. This can culminate in the small enterprise failing to see that its creation has limited market value and in NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome for the large enterprise that can cause it to forgo game changing ideas in favor of poorer in-house creations. Is it any wonder that so many attempts to reach common ground between the two fail?
As I seek to sell my own documentary Dangerous Voyage: The Oceanic Whitetip Shark, these biases are prominent in my mind, although not as an objective third party observer. For background, the oceanic whitetip shark is probably the most dangerous shark in the ocean, stated prominently as so by the likes of Jacques Cousteau. The documentary we filmed captures our journey to be the first team to deliberately dive with oceanic whitetip sharks at night outside shark cages – which we did. We naturally thought the major networks would be calling us when word got around. It only kind of worked like that. Word got around pretty fast, and now maybe we sit right in the middle of this question “Why didn’t we do this?” or not. We have to check our biases at the door. Most people do not know what an oceanic whitetip shark is. We think that can be a selling point as a new story to tell. Others might think differently in a venue dominated by whites and tigers. I have to say that Great White Shark and Tiger Shark are both branded better for evoking fear than Oceanic Whitetip Shark, at least to the general public.
This is an IP blog, so how to leverage these bias tendencies. First seek outside evidence that the IP is good from film professionals, general audiences (equivalent to end users), and dive professionals. Both biases can be tamed by examining unbiased evidence. Second leverage different sales approaches – in one key case we lead with an agent who can succeed if both parties give that agent the authority to reconcile the two biases. In the next we go direct since others cannot have the passion that we do, and then try to be as objective as we can. Objective third party or owner passion, neither trumps the other? We certainly forget any notion that “if we build it they will come.” And as in all organizational sales, remember that each sale must fill two needs to fill, that of the organization and that of the individual buyers.