This happened way back last year (suddenly "way back" takes you about 5-15 years and "last year" zips you back!! ;-). 2 friends of mine and I were having a conversation. I had had a dream 9no, usually my dreams are nicer and saucier, but once in a while...) about a company started and run me one of them and me. This company basically had a different structure and went ahead to surpass all other companies in their revenue and stock value. But all that was basically to make my dream happy (I believe I was half awake and hence, manipulated part of my dream to make it happy). I was discussing this dream with my friends and telling them how I loved the structure, and they went ahead to tell me that it was a hopeless case and such a company would never thrive. I took their word for it and decided to shelve my company (no, I never throw any of them away). I was so disappointed for the next few days!! :-(
A few weeks later, I read this article
and was jumping all over the place. It doesn't totally parallel my idea but it definitely was a sort-of proof of concept. And, when MIT says something I dreamt of is hot, boy, I am all over the place hugging and kissing people I hardly know!!!
So, here is my dream.
My company basically had 3 tiers.
Tier 1: Implementors
Tier 2: Analysts and Management
Tier 3: Inventors
Cool, we can call it the IA-MI (ayaamee) structure (no, this wasn't part of my dream then).
So back to my dream structure. I like to invent, but am not always driven to carry it to completion. I am usually happy with the thought that I was able to solve a problem wonderfully cleanly and with different possibilities. I would go ahead and implement it too but not always (like the charge-cum-signal idea below). Anyway, so Tier 3 was for people like me. We simply keep solving problems and coming up with new gadget ideas and the like. We do not restrict ourselves to a domain although we take no measures to hide our area of interest.
With the entire range of ideas (with clear specifications in place) on the table, the erudite members of Tier 2 start thinking. They look at the spread on the table and say, "Hmmm, nice stuff. So, this is the kind of stuff we can do, huh? Neat. Now, let us look at where the market is going," and they take out their laptops and reports and pens and stuff and soon talk to each other in hushed tones and well practised seriousness. Then they finally tell us (and themselves), "We can go ahead and implement exhibit A, G, K, R, X and Z. We need to investigate F, L, S and Y. The remaining stuff we'll go ahead and patent." Next, they go ahead and create plans and schedules and estimates for A, G...Z and conduct discussions and brainstorming sessions with members of Tier 1 and 3. A separate team will look into the lucre one can associate with F, L..Y. The remaining stuff are sent to the legal department for patenting.
Tier 1 members are specialist. They know how to get the job done. They discuss details (technical as well as project management related) with memebers of Tier 3 and 2 and finally go ahead and implement some of the ideas. Mind you, Tier 1 is a heterogenous mix of people and skills. There are software engineers, mechanical engineers, electronic engineers, chemical engineers, et al. There would also be craftsmen like carpenters, painters, etc. (but let's not lose our focus right now). Once they are implemented, the products are marketed (by people in Tier 2 and their teams) to the customer base like any product is.
Tier 2 might convert some of the investigated ideas (F, L, S or Y) into implementable ideas and the remaining go to the patenting department.
The patenting dept. aggressvely goes ahead and files patents for all the ideas that are not implementable (not implementable because we do not find sufficient resources within the company and the ROI might not be worth it). Once the patents are ready, we sell/lease the patents to other companies. The details of the lease/sale contract are details that I shant get into. E.g. a Tier 3 member might have come up with a wonderful idea for a refrigerator compressor design. The company doesn't find it lucrative enough to enter the home appliance segment and hence, files a patent for this (patents are filed even for the implementable stuff). Once the patent is ready, we might lease this technology to the big players in the refrigerator market.
So the company revenue is derived from product sales and licensing as well as patent sale/lease and renewals.
But, honestly, this what not what I was trying to solve (unconsciously) in my dream. I found many people not satisfied with their jobs. Some love to implement things and see it out in the market. Some love to invent. Some love to study markets and make sharp and shrewd decisions. I wanted to construct a company which lets people do what they love the most. If a Tier 3 hits a dry patch (inventor's block?) then s/he can move to Tier 2 or 1 based on her/his capabilities. Similarly a Tier 1 can also move around. I was targetting creating a structure for complete job satisfaction (at least as far as possible).
Hope you liked my dream. In case you didn't, please know that at the end of the dream we had bought enough top name companies (don't want to name them ;-) and were minting truck loads of money!!! ;-)
For those interested in a relatively new concept of Idea Management, please visit (requires a free registration) this site.