Don’t protect your intellectual property :)

Posted: August 25, 2009 in Company culture, Motivation
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I went to a speech yesterday by Morten Bay about Homo Conexus, the Network Man (go buy the book). Totally inspiring. One of his many points was, “don’t protect your content, spread it!”. Well, Morten, you took the words right out of my mouth (-:  For quite a while I have been helping knowledge-based companies (consulting, media, advisory, accounting, legal) understand how they maximize on social media.

All these companies are fully aware that what they sell is knowledge, brainware, information, experience, methodology, know-how… Call it whatever you want. It’s all immaterial and can’t be put in a warehouse. It can’t be stored and every hour you don’t bill, is a lost hour. These are the hard facts. Still, traditionally knowledge-based companies have treated their “products” (their knowledge, their intellectual property) as a secret. Their bills-of-material are called CVs or resumes and are usually kept in the company vault, written in Word (often anonymized) and stored on a hard-to-find network drive. Usually out-of-date, unless a client needs it, in which case the CV is pulled out and updated in a flash. Recognize the scenario?

This begs the question: Why? Well, if you ask most company executives they will tell you that they have to protect their valuable assets against predatory headhunters. If they didn’t, they’d lose their best employees in no time. True or false? The following story may help shed some light on the issue. I met with an innovative consulting firm, Init, now Gavdi, a couple of years ago. At that time they were up-and-coming, focusing exclusively on SAP Human Resources. Their MD at the time, Lars Kramer, showed me a full-page ad they’d just put into the leading Danish business newspaper, Børsen. It featured all their top consultants, with a picture and a brief resume. Wow! Lars said he was a bit nervous about this move, but he felt it was the best way to expose their skills. And boy was he right. In this bold move they accomplished many things in one strike: Customers knew exactly who they were, who’d they be buying (full transparency = maximum credibility), so it generated lots of new business. Their consultants were proud to be exposed in a national newspaper, which boosted their value, their self-esteem and their employer loyalty. And it attracted other consultants, who wanted to be part of this group of top-notch consultants. The headhunters? Well, they all thought this would be a perfect hunting ground, but because the consultants now had maximum employer loyalty, nobody was tempted to accept any other offers (at least during that time).

Back to my point: Don’t protect your intellectual property (when it comes to CVs/resumes). Flash them, publish them, social-network them. Get maximum return on your employee investment. My advice is this: Forget about Word CVs/resumes – go straight to LinkedIn and maximize your use of all its capabilities. Trust me – it’ll do wonders for your business (-:

  1. Eric Reiss says:

    I hope Morten Bay gave appropriate credit to Don Tapscott, who wrote “Wikinomics” a few years ago, since this is pretty much where his ideas seem to be coming from.

    I don’t see my staff as “intellectual property”. Assets, yes, but not IP. There’s an important distinction to be made here.

    To move beyond Tapscott, you might take a look at Eric Chester’s “Getting them to give a damn”, his seminal work on kidployees. This book explains exactly WHY the over 35s in our industry generally “don’t get it” when it comes to the effective use of social media.

    But the conclusion is, if people want to move on to another job, they will. And there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Your friend Lars is playing the “fame” card well and seems to understand the mentality of Generation X.

    Regarding WP CVs, these are still important, they’re just different tools. To say that we should forget about them and concentrate on Linkedin, is like saying, throw away your screwdriver, here’s a wrench. Both are good tools, but work best for different tasks.

  2. olekassow says:

    I came across an excellent post the other day by Simon Sinek titled “Don’t protect your property”

    It was an extremely well-written account of how Kodak could have dominated the digital camera and photography space today. They actually invented the digital camera back in 1975 (a fact I didn’t know, just as I didn’t know a few years ago that Xerox invented the personal computer with a graphical interface – also back in the 70s).

    Well, just as Xerox did, Kodak, fearing their new invention would eat away at film and chemical sales, they worked to suppress the new technology, which was the biggest mistake possible. Unfortunately, blunders at such mega-scale only become visible decades after it’s too late.

    Sinek concludes: “Companies obsessed with protecting their intellectual property forget that people are actually buying the application of their intellectual property, why the product exists.”

    Finally, an overdue response to your comments, Eric, sorry for my tardiness, but I believe we have already covered most of the discussion offline in the meantime.

    Like you said: “if people want to move on to another job, they will”. I totally agree, so the question is, how do you make people not want to move on?

    I would say, create a company culture they don’t want to leave and make sure employees’ jobs have ample measures of autonomy, mastery and purpose (cf. Dan Pink

    I think Lars’ “fame card” made a major contribution to that.

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