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Inventor Incentives to Imitate

They say, “money talks”, but does it really? How effective are financial incentives in motivating behavior among inventors with respect to submitting invention disclosures and supporting the patent application process? I haven’t done any official research on this, but my ad hoc experience suggests that many inventors are considerably more motivated by the non-financial incentives than the financial ones.

Naturally every incentive has a cost associated with identifying recipients, creating, distributing, organizing and otherwise managing events, plaques, cubes, walls, and other “non-financial” rewards. But, the overall cost of these is usually lower than the couple thousand dollars per invention or inventor that is often seen associated with invention submissions and the positive motivation and energy derived from the “non-financials” may be greater.

Think about it for yourself. When was the last time someone in your work context called you out and gave you an award in front of your peers. Heck, even a well-placed, “thank you” can go a long way toward motivating me to do more. So let’s get creative. Here are some of the many rewards I’ve seen for invention disclosure submissions, patent applications and/or patent grants.

  • Cubes, bricks, blocks, puzzle pieces (these are, of course, stacked prominently on the desks of prolific inventors)
  • Plaques both for the inventor and also placed in a Wall of Fame at HQ
  • Various trophies, sculptures, or other adornments for bookcases
  • Awards banquets
  • Public announcements by the CEO or other prominent leaders at corporate events
  • Badges, icons or other identifiers in corporate listings

I’d love to see some kind of public representation of the relationship between patents and the products they support.  Maybe a list or exploded view or other representation. Another idea is to tie patents to the value they create: people connected, water purified, accidents avoided, maybe even lives saved.

In the end, inventors really are the where it all begins, so motivating them with meaningful incentives is key to any successful patent program.

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