When I was asked to deliver a presentation at this meeting, I was uncertain about the topic to be treated since IP is a very broad and diversified field and there is always the risk to choose a subject which is either too specialistic or too generic.
Then I thought that behind every IP right there is the man and more specifically behind every innovation there is an innovator, an inventor. Therefore every enterprise that wants to be innovative and to put new products on the market and to be competitive and esteemed, should rely upon faithful, reliable and engaged employees.
This is the reason why I decided to focus on the employees of an enterprise and their relation with the employer, and then give some examples of inventions and inventors.
– As to loyalty and fidelity, physical and material benefits such as excursions, parties, sport activities, cafeteria, monetary bonus are sufficient for achieving loyalty and fidelity
– Flag pride and engagement may be obtained only through mental education of the employee, such as information on targets and achievements (patents obtained, prizes at fairs and exhibitions), technical updating courses, videos and electronic newsletters, publication of a house organ.
The house organ has the object to keep employees updated on every matter related to the enterprise such as internal structure, products, targets, projects, but more particularly to promote and enhance the employee engagement, collaboration and team work, strengthening the enterprise image and improving the internal climate. With the house organ the enterprise wants to be clear to the employee’s eyes, that they receive the news from an internal office source rather than from outside rumors. The house organ may deal with enterprise life, achievements future expectation, technological innovations, as well as the structure of the company, worker safety, updating courses and useful information for the employee family such as excursions, scholarships, Q & A section. The house organ should use neither a too specialistic nor too ordinary language and a good variety of contents to draw the attention of all the employees of any level. Sometimes the house organ could also be used as a communication channel with present and potential customers in order to create a stable contact with them. However the house organ should not be an advertising medium, but only a means to introduce the enterprise, promote its positive image, its style with the target of gaining faithful readers. Generally a house organ is published either monthly or quarterly.
Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees.
An “engaged employee” is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about his work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interest.
An organization with “high” employee engagement might therefore be expected to outperform those with “low” employee engagement, all else being equal.
Many books on management cite the apocryphal story about an engaged janitor at NASA who when asked by Kennedy what he was doing, replied “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon”
With the wide range of definitions comes a variety of potential tools to achieve desirable levels of employee engagement. Some examples:
A team of sociologists (2000) studied 15 steel mills, 17 apparel manufacturers, and 10 electronic instrument and imaging equipment producers. Their purpose was to compare traditional production systems with flexible high-performance production systems involving teams, training, and incentive pay systems. In all three industries, the plants utilizing high-involvement practices showed superior performance. In addition, workers in the high-involvement plants showed more positive attitudes, including trust, organizational commitment and intrinsic enjoyment of the work. The concept has gained popularity as various studies have demonstrated links with productivity. It is often linked to the notion of employee voice and empowerment.
Two studies of employees in the life insurance industry examined the impact of employee perceptions that they had the power to make decisions, sufficient knowledge and information to do the job effectively, and rewards for high performance. Both studies included large samples of employees (3,570 employees in 49 organization and 4,828 employees in 92 organization). In both studies, high-involvement management practices were positively associated with employee morale, employee retention, and firm financial performance. Watson Wyatt found that high-commitment organization (one with loyal and dedicated employees) out-performed those with low commitment by 47% in the 2000 study and by 200% in the 2002 study.
In a study of professional service firms, the Hay Group found that offices with engaged employees were up to 43% more productive. Job satisfaction is also linked to productivity.
Drivers of engagement
Some additional tools or instruments to achieve engagement are the following:
Engagement theories aim to bring about a situation in which the employee by free choice has an intrinsic desire to work in the best interests of the organization. The main benefits of employee involvement are enhanced morale, more productivity, healthier coworker relationships and creative thinking. Employee empowerment is a corporate structure that allows non-managerial employees to make autonomous decisions. Empowerment is a distinct practice and is beyond the scope of this presentation as it would require another approach to this subject.
Employee involvement helps to cultivate innovation. Employees that have a stake in the company growth and sustainability will offer more ideas and problem-solving solutions when obstacles arise. Moreover, as the employee meets particular challenges or finds improvements in policies, procedures or products, it will foster growth and more critical and imaginative thinking. Employees may see a particular issue differently than a manager and be able to think of a creative solution, which may not be considered in a closed circle of managerial staff. I see that in the audience there is a good number of start-up representatives, I would say that a start-up is an exceptional place to grow up employees together with the enterprise and employers have a strong trump in their hand to recruit the best employees available on the market, emphasizing the unique opportunity they have in joining the start-up team.
The technical staff of an enterprise has more opportunities to travel abroad, for instance to install and/or maintain machinery at the customer plant or to assist customer’s staff to operate machinery or to use properly manufacturing processes and methods. I will tell you an example of exceptional opportunity for some technicians of a company assisted by my firm. This story goes back to the early 70’s when the European Patent System did not exist as yet and enterprises had to obtain patents in each individual country. Thanks to my experience as trainee in the patent departments of several corporations, my firm was assisting two important US corporations, namely NCR and Polaroid, to get patent protection in Italy. At that time NCR developed the carbonless copying paper, eliminating the need of carbon paper to obtain duplicates of forms. The invention was so important from the economic point of view, that the US government entered the patents concerning this product in the list of strategical inventions that could not be sold or licensed to countries behind the iron curtain. Please note that at that time the Soviet Union was ruled by Bretznev, a very harsh man. USSR badly needed to get the know-how to make this product and through an influential member of the Italian communist party contacted an Italian wholly owned subsidiary company of NCR and it was made a secret agreement that such Italian company had filed patent applications in USSR for the manufacturing method that should then be licensed to a Russian state enterprise. I flew to Dayton, Ohio headquarters of NCR together the two best technicians of my clients and in one week of hard work we drafted seven patent applications that when back in Italy were immediately sent to Moscow and filed. The applications were immediately examined with urgent procedure and a delegation of my client, including the two technicians chosen to train the Russian scientists to implement the manufacturing process and myself, went to Moscow to finalize the license agreement. The delegation had a superb treat, we were taken to the Bolshoi theater, the Moscow Circus and the Red Army Chorus and at the end of the week the license agreement was signed and as it was or it is still customary we had a superb final banquet. As you probably know, an official banquet provides for toasts to be proposed by each man of the table. These toasts consisted of a tiny glass of wodka that waiters promptly refilled after each toast. The first toasts are very formal (country, authorities, people) but then the more you go down in the order of importance of the person, the more informal the toast can be. Near the end of the sequence, when most people were very happy, it was my turn. I had already noted toasts to persons of the party, so having noted a splendid blonde Russian lady on the other side of the table I said “I raise my glass to the beautiful lady in front of me” and this sentence was followed by a general laugh and a standing ovation. The party ended with a short walk to the near Red Square with everybody singing and dancing without any reaction of the policemen and guards of the Lenin Mausoleum.
Thomas Edison (1847-1936) has the unbeaten world record of number (1097) of patents granted in his own name. He was indefatigable worker bursting with new inventions. Imagine that at his wedding banquet he left because he had to watch and terminate an experiment in his lab and he spent there the entire first wedding night. He liked also harsh yokes. When he had developed his phonograph, a sort of voice recorded on the surface of a cylinder, he hid the prototype in the bedroom where he was hosting a friend. This friend went to bed but at 11 PM he heard a deep voice saying “you have only one hour left” he was a little frightened and could not fall asleep. At 12 PM the same voice said “it is midnight. Are you ready to die?”. The poor man jumped out of the bed and the room crying “help me, I don’t want to die” and met Edison laughing loudly and apologizing for the successful experiment.
Edwin Herbert Land (May 7, 1909 – March 1, 1991), was an American scientist and inventor, best known as the co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation. He invented inexpensive filters for polarizing light, a practical system of in-camera instant photography, and the retinex theory of color vision, among other things. His Polaroid instant camera went on sale in late 1948 and made it possible for a picture to be taken and developed in 60 seconds or less.
In New York City, he invented the first inexpensive filters capable of polarizing light which he called Polaroid film. He was not associated with an educational institution and lacked the tools of a proper laboratory, making this a difficult endeavor, so he would sneak into a laboratory at Columbia University late at night to use their equipment. The final result was the production of the famous Polaroid eyeglasses and sunglasses with tremendous, formidable commercial success.
The first instant camera
His landmark invention came after WWII ended. While on vacation, Land’s three-year-old daughter asked him why she couldn’t see a photo he had taken of her right away. He tried to explain to her they still needed to be developed, but that didn’t comfort her.
So Land went into the lab and created a system of one-step photography using the principle of diffusion transfer to reproduce the image recorded by the camera’s lens directly onto a photosensitive surface – which now functioned as both film and photo.
Polaroid originally manufactured 60 units of The Land Camera. 57 were put up for sale at Boston’s Jordan Marsh department store before the 1948 Christmas holiday. Polaroid marketers incorrectly guessed that the camera and film would remain in stock long enough to manufacture more. They were wrong. All 57 cameras and all of the film were sold on the first day.
During his time at Polaroid, Land was notorious for his marathon research sessions. When Land conceived of an idea, he would experiment and brainstorm until the problem was solved with no breaks of any kind. He needed to have food brought to him and to be reminded to eat. He once wore the same clothes for eighteen consecutive days while solving problems with the commercial production of polarizing film. As the Polaroid company grew, Land had teams of assistants working in shifts at his side. As one team wore out, the next team was brought in to continue the work.
I had the honor of meeting Edwin Land. Also in the early 70’s I was visiting my associates at the internal patent department of Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts and one of the senior patent attorneys, Karl Hormann, a German scientist in optics who had succeeded to escape from East Germany, invited me to join him in a short trip to the USPTO in Washington where he had to discuss with the Examiners a patent application wherein the Inventor was Ed Land who was attending the interview together with us. The evening before the interview the preparation of the discussion was scheduled at the hotel where Ed Land was staying. So we went to his suite where there was a big room with a king bed and a table for our meeting. Before starting to work Karl whispered to me “now he will stun you”. Indeed Ed Land made a couple of quick steps, made a somersault over the bed landing on his feet at the other side of the bed. So I promptly uttered “Wow, fantastic, you could get an Olympic medal in the horse vault”. Then we sat at the table to work on the paper and Ed Land satisfied and pleased said “Karl, you have a smart assistant”, while we chuckled behind his back.
Steve Jobs (1955-2011) inventor of some of the most popular electronic devices (Mac, iPhone, iPod, iPad) was a controversial person what I will mention here only because he was a big admirer of Edwin Land. They met in the 80’s in Land’s laboratory and both felt that products existed all along – they just needed to discover them.
Dr Land was saying: “I could see what the Polaroid camera should be. It was just as real to me as if it was sitting in front of me before I had ever built one.”
And Steve said: “Yeah, that’s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.”
Both of them had this ability to not invent products, but discover products. Both of them said these products have always existed – it’s just that no one has ever seen them before. They were the ones who discovered them. In few words, they vied to understate their ingenuity.
“The world is like a fertile field that’s waiting to be harvested,” Land said. “The seeds have been planted, and what I do is go out and help plant more seeds and harvest them.”
Riding back to a nearby hotel in a taxi, Jobs turned to an Apple officer accompanying him and said, “Yeah, that’s just how I feel. It’s like when I walk in a room and I want to talk about a product that hasn’t been invented yet. I can see the product as if it’s sitting there right in the center of the table. What I’ve got to do is materialize it and bring it to life, harvest it, just as Dr. Land said”.
In conclusion, I have to point out that I am neither a psychologist nor a sociologist, I simply gave you an overview of this subject, if you have questions or problems with your employees, you should contact one of those professionals. However, if you want a copy of my presentation and/or the slides, please contact my Maltese kind counterpart Dr. Jeanine Rizzo and she will be happy to send you an electronic or hard copy of either or both of them. Thank you.