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There is a saying that goes along the lines of “we can never know what we know”, and this is very true of this little story.

There was a project team working in a global tyre manufacturer. The project they were working on had got stuck; there was a technology barrier they could not overcome. The team did all the normal, big corporate stuff to overcome this problem.

They brainstormed, reached out to their suppliers, spoke to technology companies and universities, but still, they could not find a viable solution to their problem. This endless search went on for about 6 months and in desperation, one of the team members decided to reach out to a company who they hoped would help them, by making a patent search, just to see if anyone, anywhere, had a potential solution to this technology.

This company sat down with the project team and they entered the information into the patent search system, and within a few moments, they had success, and three potential patents had been found, with the exact solution they were seeking. Eureka! Euphoria! All these emotions swept over the project team. Six months of frustration, budgets over-spent, delays experienced, and now they can see a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. Who owns this great, project breakthrough technology, they asked? Only on closer examination did they see.

The owner of this technology, patented and in the public domain, was the company who, each month was paying their salary, had set the project brief and had become frustrated with the delays – it was the company THEY ALREADY WORKED FOR! The moral of this little tale? Capturing what companies know is vital, whether it is needed now or in the future (see my Gorilla Glass story), but making sure that everyone knows where to look for the information is even more vital.

By Sean M Warren BSc

Sean has worked with global organisations to help them embed sustainable innovation systems in their businesses by building best-in-class process, drawn from global benchmarking activities.