Suzanne Harrison and Bowman Heiden
Welcome to Inclusivity Insights – a new monthly feature in which companies will share stories, learnings, and experiences of their D&I journey related to IP and innovation with the IAM audience. To introduce the series, Suzanne Harrison and Bowman Heiden provide background on the Increasing Diversity in Innovation programme and share some preliminary findings.
In July 2021, the USIPA and the UC Berkeley Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership held a four-day conference focused on Increasing Diversity in Innovation (IDII) within a corporate organisation. At the conference, we announced the 30 founding companies that signed onto the Diversity Pledge, who have agreed to work together to increase the participation of underrepresented inventors (URIs) in their own firms as well as create and refine a set of best practices for the benefit of all organisations.
Currently, we have over 50 technology companies committed to the Diversity Pledge from both the US and Europe across a variety of different industries as well as over 25 law firms and consulting firms as pledge supporters. The decision to create a pledge at the core of our initiative is quite simple – the achievement of meaningful results requires a commitment to putting in the work (i.e. nothing important is ever easy).
Increasing diversity in innovation is not only an equal-opportunity social imperative, it is a common-sense means to improve R&D efficiency and corporate ROI. It is also a necessity for maintaining and increasing national competitiveness. Because we can’t afford to leave our most talented people on the sidelines, the goal must be actionable, not performative.
To help companies on this journey, we have created an IDII framework and a number of different working groups to break down this large overwhelming challenge into manageable steps. This allows companies to connect and support one another across the different stages of the IDII development cycle from establishing a baseline, to understanding where to take action and why, and back again to measuring the results. This iterative cycle is essential to the entrepreneurial process required to make a real impact through persistent learning. In addition to sharing information, learnings, and practices, the working groups also help create peer groups to facilitate networking, benchmarking, and the development of new focus areas. Below is a list and description of the working groups:
- Data (getting and analysing it) – This group focuses on all aspects of data such as its collection, creation of a baseline, analysis, and production of actionable insights as well as how to move beyond gender data to other underrepresented inventor (URI) groups.
- Metrics & reporting – This group focuses both on the creation and standardisation of metrics as well as how companies can and should report this data. A particular focus is on the standardisation of information. Additionally, this group will also focus on how to collect the data to meet the pledge requirements.
- Working with URI groups – This group focuses on all aspects of interfacing with URI groups. Creating and disseminating URI surveys and questionnaires, automated allowance/rejection notices to inventors, tips and tricks on improving internal language and messaging, and more. Additionally, it will focus on finding effective practices that work for specific URI groups.
- URI innovation sprint – This group focuses on best practices for running innovation sprints for URI groups, including delineating the various types of innovation sprints and training on how to run a 635-method sprint, which has been proven to be universally successful in improving engagement from URI groups.
Although we have only been working on this problem for six months, we would like to share some preliminary key findings:
- Unconscious bias is real and everywhere. Some companies have found that blinding the inventorship process improves gender patenting. This was not an expected result, as the companies believed there was no bias in their inventorship process to begin with, hence the term, “unconscious”. As a bonus, it can also drive down costs. Additionally, patent data can be used to visualise unconscious bias in R&D collaborations, leading to new and improved collaboration processes, which can increase inventor efficiency as well as inclusivity.
- Reporting is ramping up. The SEC is pushing companies to report Human Capital metrics. This means that accounting firms, D&I organisations, and financial actors are all looking for viable measures to report inclusivity. Several of the pledgee companies are looking to take the lead by externally reporting their D&I numbers later this year.
- Running the basic numbers can be automated. The USPTO and WIPO have both shown that naming algorithms combined with public patent data can produce rather accurate measures of inventorship diversity and inclusion for both countries and companies, especially in the case of gender.
So stay tuned for the next monthly installment, and if are looking for some help and encouragement on how best to Increase Diversity in Innovation, then please come join the movement at www.increasingdii.org.