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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Paul Germeraad Discusses Using Innovation Games for R&D

Paul Germeraad Discusses Using Innovation Games for R&D


1. Hello my name is Todd Charron, Agile editor here at InfoQ and today I’m joined by Paul Germaraad at the Innovation Games Summit and Paul is an attendee here, but you also have a very and wide and divers background in R&D, so maybe if you tell us a little bit about yourself?

So my background in R&D started with a company here in Silicon Valley, but it was a material science startup akin to perhaps a 3M Corporation that had very unique materials and I participated in their growth, they were growing 25-30 percents per year compounded growth for the years that I was there, went on to another corporation that was the exact opposite, it was a paper company, James River. That company grew not from R&D but by buying other organizations at 10 cents on the dollar and then incorporating them into the company. The third large company was Avery Dennison, as technology officer there and in that organization we grew by a mix of internal and external technologies.

After doing that I did a startup here in Silicon Valley, it was involved with Intellectual Property Management specifically being able to visualize patents, we use that to determine whether or not companies that are already invested in a particular technology or application and we can tell the number of inventors, size of the R&D teams, the amount of money that was getting thrown in a particular area and decide whether to enter or not ourselves, and then most recently we’ve built a professional services offering that inside other organizations. In addition I'd say that by way of give back I work on professional societies two of the ones that are of most interest to me are a US Organization Industrial Research Institute, that is the evolve of some 2-300 chief technology officers in the US, working on how to do R&D better What are the processes involved in Innovation and Commercialization. And another one, the Licensing Executive Society, and that organization is involved with transferring technology by way of licenses, back and forth getting technology from one organization to another.


2. It's safe to say you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it takes to get something from research and development and kind of out there, And you came highly recommended by Luke he said: “Paul is the guy you got to talk to him”. So it’s interesting, such wide technology and background in that industry and you are here at the Innovation Game Summit, so what kind of draws you to that?

I’m really interested in how you can speed R&D, or speed Innovation from an idea through to a market, how you can create ideas that really have a meet a set of true customer needs, and I'm always looking for tools and methodologies that do that better, and Innovation Tools or Innovation Games is a technology that has really come along, in some part because of the way that the information technology resources of developing teams, being able to web deploy things. And before that we are all constrained with paper systems which is really how Innovation Games started, but then it’s really taken off because of how technology and the implementation can take place, and it solves a number of problems in how you can both formulate an idea, how you can shape an idea and how you can prioritize ideas, and those are critical problems that R&D Business Development Organizations have. Decision making is really what holds an organization back and so to be able to make faster, higher quality, sticky decisions is really the name of running a good R&D or a company.


3. I assume you are using a lot of these yourself these days?

We do not so much directly usually when the consulting services we have, we identify the need for very a specific tool used as part of our background where he search, we normally are shaping strategies for people and recommending tactics and so what we will do is we will recommend Innovation Games and a number of other tools and individuals and people might use to bring forth an idea that they’ve started to….


4. Where is kind of an area where you would recommend Innovation Games being used?

There is a number of different usages as you know the Innovation Games, some of them are about creating ideas, brain storming, other ones are shaping it getting a sense of what is it really involved or not involved, this is particularly to true of systems that have a number of components that may or may not been unique enough themselves and then the last game have to do with condensing or deciding which project or within a project, which features of a particular system are the ones that are going to basically be brought forward and commercialized. So the games really do have, in my mind at least, have a specific set of purposes so there is ones like the hot tube that really help you decide what are some really interesting features that you ought to put into a system and be it a cell phone, be it an automobile, be it a new form of eating utensil what should that be in a very expansive sense.

Once you have that idea set, how can you kind of shape that and hone it a little bit, and then for all the crazy ideas that you have, how can you develop a set of priorities and decide this particular feature is the one that is going to really attract customers and serve needs better than another, so there is a resource deployment go ahead and do that. From my own stand point and the thing that I couple with this, is when you look at extracting value from your work over an extended period of time, Intellectual Property that is rights are given by government to individuals by copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets. Trademarks, how do you make sure that what you’ve created, these key features that you’ve come up, how do you make sure that they’ve protected them in a manner robust enough to really capture a revenue and a profit stream for not long enough time to pay off the R&D. That is an out growth of the Innovation Game work as well.


5. Maybe give us a bit of a background kind of your history with the Luke Hohmann as well?

Well Luke has always been a person who is really interested in developing software that really helps people make good decisions, and he became interested in the work that we did together with this dot com startup relating to looking at patent information and being able to making decisions from it. And Luke’s training is really in efficient software programming that allows the program to respond quickly. Now you have to remember that we are going back a decade or two when things weren't quite as fast and one of the key-element associated with the fast high quality decision, is if you have a support system, it has to think as fast as you do and what was a real disadvantage at the time with a lot of information systems, as you put in a query and then you get the answer back a day or two or three or four or five days later and you would forget your train of thought by the time you got the information back, so one of the reasons why Luke and I started working together, he was attractive to me as a partner, because he understood the fact that I had to have my answers back within seconds not within minutes or hours, and so he started using his capability and software programming to provide very rapid feedback for queries and he really made sure that that was happening. We work together well because I had a good feel from my background what models people use to think about Innovation and understanding patents from the stand point of being markers as to who had invented what in the past was very important. Example I would uses is like going down to the beach, if you are going to the beach today you can look at the beach, and we can look at that beach and we can see nobody has been here, this is a beach that is not being used or this is a beach that is very heavily used and we can tell putting it in a business analogy. Are the people of the beach old companies or they young startups, are they running or are they walking, are they meandering around, do they have a sense of purpose, are they working in teams or they are individuals, are there just flyers and there are dogs and cats around here.

Looking at patents what you do is each patent like one foot step on that beach, the advantage of a patent is that it has to describe the technology and the intended use, so I get market and technical information. The other thing is that it costs about a million dollars to leave a foot print, so these are real markers, they are not marketing hype, I mean those people paid money, so for example if you see a company that has 10 or 15 patents on a particular direction, in most organizations in the world if you are spending 10 to 15 million dollars because it’s a footprints are ... then it’s been to the board, if it’s been to the board somebody had to put together a strategic plan they had to put together a business model, this is not something that the company is doing willy nilly, it has a sense of purpose, so what we worked on then is developing software and systems between Luke and I, that would rapidly show you what those footprints look like and they would show you that in a visual format, it was not text, it would draw a 3D landscape for you and you could see who is walking through it, where they were spending their time, were they running or were they are walking, and you could generate your own strategy and tactics to take advantage of partners or to stay away from threats based on what you saw.


6. How do you guys go from working with teams like that to Innovation Games, which seems a little bit different?

Yes, they are different but they are all involved in setting strategy and tactics, so you can use the landscape to give you a picture for what reality is, then you can sit there and look at well: “I asked the question about this landscape in a particular way, can I use Innovation Games to completely change the question that I would have asked”, the classic thing that you usually get from business school is that the railroads viewed themselves as something that ran along the track as opposed to a transportation company and people who ran railroads never went into airplanes. It’s the same thing today when you look at yourself as a cell phone company, what are you? And so you use Innovation Games to get yourself off of this landscape and on to a tangential one that might have more business value for you. The other thing is when you see a landscape you realize that people are exploiting a particular technology, your question is: “Which of those features sets or which of those technologies is likely to have the highest performance at the lowest cost”. This is often times something that you get by just drawing a number, because in a bit you are looking at the futures, so you’d like to crowd source that information back, you’d like to get a diversity of opinions that gave you a sense for what their relative performance versus relative cost is, Innovation Games are an ideal way to rapidly gather that information and where that you can sit there and focus your energy on ones that are going to have the highest performance and lowest cost position.


7. And you also mentioned patents, Innovation Games, and a lot of the Innovation Games involve people outside of just the R&D department of the organization, how was that kind of how interact is in your patents and people outside the organization, does that complicate things at all?

No, the answer is, in some organizations it does and in some organization the use of Intellectual Property is forbidden in R&D, the old AT&T Bell labs, used to operate that way before that switch to Lucent and Alcatel, and the reason for that is because of the legal framework, there is some lawyers that were afraid of damages and did not want to take on that liability. And so you do have some organizations where we don’t do that. Most organizations today have switched the models, it’s just better to be fast, Lean, Agile and that will out perform anybody that is worried about being overly cautious, so today most people look at intellectual property in an R&D and business development sense, in a way that I explained about going to the beach, it’s a marker, it tells you what the landscape is, it’s to be embraced employed, you are looking for opportunities for partnership, you talk about Open Innovation outsourcing .these maps tell you who by way of the inventor name or by way of company or university who you might want to talk to go talk to, so today use that way Intellectual Property is, if you will not a threat but an embrace, and then of course on the other side of the coin, what you hear in the popular press big lawsuits today, Apple, Samsung things like that, patent trolls in the neighborhood, it’s a bit of a threat but that’s used in a very different business contexts than in the one that we are talking about right now with Innovation Games.


8. Do you see any points where there may be intersections between those two groups or where they make cause problems, or do you think they are completely separated. You mentioned kind of patent trolling and the lawsuits that are going every which way in the cell phone market, with Apple and everyone versus Innovation Games to do Innovations and patents, is one ever going to impact the other in a positive or a negative way?

I think a lot of the conflicts that you see in intellectual property relates the fact that is a relatively new field. You get caught up in a moment and you think that the world has always been like you’ve experienced today, in fact that is not the case, I mean there have always been a few patent lawsuits that have made the news, but if you look at it today there are a lot more of them around and because of that, people are educating themselves on how can you avoid those types of conflicts, and is there a business rather than a litigation solution to the problem. The answer is yes, there is, people are learning how to do that both in business schools and on the job training, sometimes quite painful at companies, but people are learning those skills and as a result of that people are developing business solutions to cut that off, so they will think that you’ll here about their patent pools, and people are buying patents defensively, people are working together in a more collaborative environment and ways, so that the disputes that they have are much more contained from a business risk stand point, so you are always going to have people who inappropriately use other people’s property and you are going to always see patent suits here and there but the public play that you see I predict will actually go through a peak and an ebb as more and more people anticipate the problems actually in some cases using Innovation Games, to legitimately design around other people’s work and find other solutions and people are going to respect one anothers property because the tools exist now to see what is there.

Just to close on the point what I would say is that one of the things that you have to realize is that without the tools that I described Luke and I were creating in the company where we were with around being able to see Intellectual Property, that capability really didn’t exist before the mid 1990s and really wasn’t widely deployed before 2005 or so, and because of that companies because they couldn’t see that landscape were unaware that they were running over other people’s property, I mean it wasn’t known at any practical cost. So the technology has changed today, people could see that, they can see in realtime, they can see it fast and now that you know, you are going to overrun my property, you probably going to avoid it, so there is a lot of things that are changing today that are going to change the way you see litigation going on in the world.


9. Kind of changing tracks a bit, one of the other reasons that has drawing you to this event is the Budget Games going on in San Jose tomorrow, so why does that interest you?

The thing that interests me about the Budget Games is that allows a different way to gather community input into a really important priority setting process and I strongly believe that the form of the government that we have right now representitive form of government evolved out of a former form of government, a monarchy or that type of a system, because it was more efficient and more effective and provided greater value to the society as a whole. I believe that the representative form of government especially as we see in US and Western Countries in the world today, is statemating it is not generating the value that it once did and I firmly believe that another form of government will evolve and that it’s going to use a different set of methodologies to the one today, just like a representative form of government was different than a monarchy fundamentally in the models that it used to create the decision making. I think Innovation Games is possibly one of a new wave of tools that will allow a society and a collection of individuals to make wiser choices as to what’s good for them.


10. Can you describe for us a bit about what happens at the Budget Games and then as well how that kind of works to correct the system that you see today and how it kind of works to bring a greater benefit?

What I would say today in a representative form of government, we have professional representatives, there are people who have good intentions, they were elected, elected to serve, and they are trying collect inputs, but they collect inputs and then as part of their own strategy to remain a professional representative are in a position where they, as we need funding, they have interests that they need to listen to in order to sustain their own position and life style. In a Budget Game is one where you allow the community to directly input and set the priorities, it cuts out the representatives if you will, it’s like you saw with the internet came along, it took out, it was called disinter-mediation, it took out the intermediaries, you can sell straight from a supplier or producer of the thing, instead of going through a whole seller and a distributor and a retailer and a buyer and a consumer, you could start pulling out the middle parts of that chain, and I think that is what we see in a Budget Game. You have citizens, people who are representing maybe 5 families or maybe representing a community group of a 100 homes, but it’s at that level of scale, very small scale. You have a tool where you can put hundreds of them in the room of one’s, the games are intended where they go online, but ten of thousands of people online and allow each of those voices to be heard and heard in a way that you could actually understand what is the underline values that people are using to make the decision, what are the pros and cons and what are ways in which you can interact that you can collaboratively decide how do you spend the resources of dollars that you have to get the most impact, the highest values for the services, and it cuts out the special interest in the professional representatives so to speak and has a better chance of coming up with a higher value for society solution in this case, city budget.

Todd: I’m looking forward to see it tomorrow, thank you very much for joining me, Paul!

Ok, my pleasure!

May 01, 2013