The Value of Insights

Intellectual Property.  The legal jargon definition of this term has come to effectively mean “something I’ve patented, copyrighted, or hold as a trade secret.”  A more general interpretation is “an idea.”  For product managers, the most valuable ideas are insights.

The Value of Insight as Intellectual Property

Last week, the folks at Ryma Technologies Solutions invited me back to present another webinar as part of their GrandView Product Management View webinar series.  [My previous PMV webinar was on Kano Analysis] Thanks to Val and Bradley and Johnny for the invitation, and for making it a great experience!

You can watch the video version, listen to the audio, or get the slides in pdf format from the GrandView site.  If you want to get a 5-minute sample to try before you buy (with your attention, that is – this is 100% free), check out the sampler on youtube.com.

Or – if you want to flip through the slides (also on slideshare) now, and then decide – go right ahead:

Or go directly to the page on slideshare.net.

The main idea in the presentation is that your understanding of your market is the information that is most valuable.  There are several examples of this type of information in the presentation – you can see the visuals in the slides, but listening is probably required to explain most of them.

The Contentious Idea

I got some feedback that my central theorem – that insights are more valuable than patents – would be controversial.  I addressed this a little bit in the webinar.  Expanding on those thoughts here might serve to get a debate and conversation going.

I’m a former engineer (electro-mechanical controls design), and I hold 4 patents.  Each of those patents represents a body of “protected information” describing a solution to a problem.  A very specific solution.  Those patents have value.  But those patented solutions are not the only solutions to those problems.

When I was taking economics classes in college, I learned about the notions of substitute and complementary goods.  Once I became a design engineer, and learned how patents work, I also learned how to get around patents.  By designing perfect substitutes.  The process is pretty simple:

  1. Pick a patented device.
  2. Understand what it does – what function does it perform (and precisely how – this is the patented part)?
  3. Understand what problem it was designed to solve – note: this part is not protected information.
  4. Determine the important performance characteristics for solving the problem in (3).
  5. Invent another way to solve the problem from (3), that meets the criteria from (4), without copying (2).

That’s it.

Every problem can be solved in many ways.  And when those alternatives all solve the problem equivalently, those solutions become perfect substitutes.  That makes any single solution effectively a commodity.  You can’t intentionally create a valuable solution to the problem without understanding the problem.

The value is in the understanding of the problem, and your market’s willingness to pay to solve it.  Not in having protection of one of the infinite number of possible solutions.  That’s the point I make in the webinar, before quickly moving to examples that show ways of developing insights about your customers [note: the examples are influenced by my approach using a customer-centric market model].

Disagree?

Chime in below or on the GrandView site, and let’s have a great discussion.  And as always, thanks for listening/watching/reading!

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