CIPOs and Chief Aardvark Officers it's the role not the title, stupid…

Joff Wild over at IAM Magazine has recently put up a note with some results from the inaugural meeting of the CIPO Working Group.  As always, Joff makes some great points:
1 – we shouldn’t get too hung up about the CIPO title. It does not actually matter what the job function is called, what is important is the job that is being done.
2 – the CIPO is symbolic of a certain way of viewing IP. A business does not need to have a CIPO to aspire to do what a CIPO can enable. What it does need, however, is an IP-related vision and strategy – by looking at the work that CIPOs do these things can be developed.
3 – that’s why it is important for us now to go beyond the "what" to the much more important question of the "how".  By answering such questions, we are going to be much better placed to develop ways in which to bridge the still all too common divide between those inside the IP bubble and those in the boardroom who remain steadfastly outside it.

Look out for the indepth article in the next edition of IAM Magazine.


Comments from Marshall Phelps and Bill Elkington

In a strikingly similar vein (and before Joff’s post), Marshall Phelps (Microsoft) and Bill Elkington (Rockwell Collins) were kind enough to provide me with their thoughts on our recent post: Doers and communicators first  CIPOs after that

As Marshall has said a few times now, you might as well call a CIPO a Chief Aardvark Officer for all that the title matters.  Marshall’s specific comments on the piece were:

"I think this is fine—you might want to clarify the “role” vs the “title”. One can have the role w/o the title. Indeed about 2 years ago the WSJ ran a lengthy article on the watering down of C suite titles—watered down by expansion and bloating. You may want to find that as a reference." 

Here’s a link to the article Marshall mentioned:  ‘What’s in a title? Ego Stroking, Chiefly‘.

Here are Bill’s detailed comments:

"First, the discussion about CIPO title is a bit misframed.  It isn’t so much a discussion about a title as a role.  The implied question is whether the function of corporate IP strategy and management should report to a 21st century company’s CEO or one of his direct reports, such as the Chief Legal Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Financial Officer, or the Chief Strategy Officer.  The two questions driving this implied question are these:  (1) Aren’t the skills, knowledge, behaviors, and actions concerning IP strategy and management different enough from the other skills, knowledge, behaviors, and actions required of the other C-level executives that a separate C-level position should be created? and (2) Isn’t enough value associated with IP in the 21st century corporation that someone expert in its strategy and management should be given responsibility for optimizing that value?

Second, of course performance is important.  Corporate growth and profit and ROI and ROC are all of paramount importance.  And to keep your job in a 21st century for profit corporation you must perform well.  This isn’t what is being discussed when the role of CIPO is being recommended for our consideration.  What is being discussed is the lack of visibility of the beneficial effects and potential beneficial effects of excellent IP strategy and management on the financial metrics of the corporation.

Third, in order for us to formulate a coherant concept of the CIPO, we need to ask a couple of additional questions:  (1) What does excellent IP strategy and management look like in various kinds of industries, in various kinds of companies, and in various positions in the value chain? and (2) What are the most useful and effective ways of measuring IP strategy and management in these many different kinds of companies?

Fourth, and finally, to attempt an answer to the above questions, I suggest we move the CIPO discussion on to the real world.  Thusfar, in the articles in IAM Magazine and in the discussions in the 2009 IP Business Congress, we have been treated to a number of quite useful but also abstract and honorific notions about the CIPO.  I think the best way to provoke the development of a real understanding of the CIPO role is to look at case studies in which real people (with all their flaws) are acting like CIPOs (in real, messy, corporate circumstances), even though they may not be C-level executives.  And I suggest we use those case studies to first understand the activities, behaviors, and reasonable expectations of real human beings in the role.  And then, as we explore the role through the case study method, we may also try our hand at some principles and measures that will hold water."

Go on, tell us what you think.

(Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

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