#44 Translating IP into business language
I was pleased to attend Helsinki IP Summit last week and have many interesting discussions with other IP professionals around the globe. There was one theme that popped out many times during the event, which I think is worth exploring a little bit further. The topic is how to translate IP into business language.
In-house IP counsels seem to face issues on how to communicate the value of IP to the management of their corporations. The CEOs of large companies do not seem to understand the value of IP, at least according to the discussions. How to get these busy people to listen to what you have to say and how to get your message through in a way that it also initiates action?
I think that this is primarily a communication problem. It all comes down to the same thing, how to sell your position to a party which is not necessarily proficient in what you are selling.
The most important thing to do is trying to understand where the other party is coming from and what are their goals. The thing company executives are always asking themselves when faced with a decision is “How does this decision make me look in the eyes of the shareholders?”. Understanding the objectives of the other party is essential when you are trying to influence their decision making. Your job is to formulate your message in a way that the answer is “Positively!” to the previous question.
The first thing to change in communication is to get rid of the jargon. IP professionals love details, precision and professional language. However, the business-first people do not necessarily understand what you are saying if you are trying to impress them with technicalities and nuances. If they cannot understand you, they most likely are not comfortable in making the decision. That is why making your message simple and easy-to-understand is important.
Second thing to change in the communication is to use more engaging elements when presenting your case. This means less text and more visual elements on your presentations. Submitting a 20-page proposal to a client or C-level executive is going to be read with the same probability as the terms and conditions on any website. But when your presentation is engaging, visual and has a pinch of humor, it will grab the attention of your listener. Provide more technical information when asked.
Third thing I think is important is to expand your network also to include people from other departments. We, lawyers, tend to have a habit of hanging out only with other lawyers. Getting to know business-people is extremely useful because you learn how they think and see the company. When you get to know them, it is easier to present your case to them. Just like with your clients, the more they trust you, the easier it is for you to influence them.
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