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Invention Harvest “Wrongs” – How to Avoid a Drought

Posted by Justin Schwechter | May 21, 2024 | 0 Comments

If you recall from our last article on the subject, we discussed best practices for how to have a successful invention harvest. A comprehensive list of things not to do in an invention harvest may be as simple as “anything in direct opposition to that article.” However, we will discuss a few specific wrong practices in further detail in this article.

1. Tying Harvests to Milestones

While looking ahead at things to come and aiming for those goals is not a bad practice in and of itself, focusing all of a team's attention on a milestone while trying to allow ideas to flow is not a best practice. Milestones may have the unintended side effect of giving team members tunnel vision, preventing them from thinking “outside the box” and looking for solutions to problems similar, but not identical, to the one presented.

Additionally, if a team member invents and discloses an idea outside of a harvest, but fails to bring it up in the harvest because the idea is not relevant to the milestone, or because they do not believe the idea to be fully formulated, a potential issue involving the one-year public disclosure bar on patenting might arise. For a refresher on what constitutes public disclosure, see our previous article covering the subject.

2. Setting Strict Boundaries from the Start

Boundaries are good—they help hone ideas in on a target. However, setting these boundaries too early may stifle thought processes, and ideas may not flow. For example, maybe a team member has a great idea but does not want to bring it up because it would cost more to implement than the budget would allow. Who would ever know if the idea was good enough to increase the budget? Other example boundaries that could cause early stoppage of idea generation include deadlines or the scope of the problem being solved.


3. Insulting Ideas

This may seem obvious, but facilitators or management should never deride ideas that they do not consider to be “quality.” Insults can come easily and unintentionally—something as simple as saying, “I don't think that's a good idea,” may cause negative feelings to form in that team member and prevent them from contributing to harvests in the future.

These feelings may also spread to other members of the team, as they see concepts being shot down and do not want that to happen to their own ideas. Overall negativity can instill a “why bother” attitude throughout the team.

4. Harvesting for the Sole Purpose of Revolutionizing the Industry

Revolutionizing an industry is a lofty goal—one that may be unreachable by the team in an invention harvest. Problems should be parsed down into bite-sized pieces that can be solved, and over time, these solutions may come together to solve larger, overarching problems.

As the team continues to build the skills needed to successfully solve these smaller problems, they may be able to tackle larger and larger ones in a single harvest. Consistent harvests may eventually lead to revolution, but coming out swinging for the fences from the beginning is not the way to achieve this.

5. Overestimating the Team's Harvesting Skills

Facilitators need to understand the limitations of their team members. A pyramid cannot be built from the top, and throwing high-level conceptual strategies at team members from the beginning is a good way to let the pyramid of innovation fall. The skills needed to be successful in invention harvests must be built—both through the development of fundamental problem-solving skills and the communication of ideas.


6. Stopping Communication with the Team

At no point should there be a lapse in communication within the team, including all members, facilitators, and management. Of course, this makes sure ideas do not remain unspoken, but it goes further than this.

Most people want feedback in some manner when they provide their ideas. This may be as simple as validation for their participation and any achievements or advancements made because of their ideas. Providing feedback may also ensure that they are moving in the right direction, and if not, direct them back on track.

How Gallium Law Can Help

The practitioners of Gallium Law are experts in the field of intellectual property and have conducted many invention harvests. If you or your team would like to have an invention harvest and would like our team to help, please fill out this online form or call us at 651-256-9480 to schedule a consultation.

*The information in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied on. The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is meant as a starting point in your search for answers to your legal questions.

About the Author

Justin Schwechter

Justin Schwechter is a patent agent at Gallium Law. He is a registered U.S. patent agent. Before joining the Gallium Law team, Justin interned with Dorsey & Whitney LLP...

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