Invention Office Hours


Hey! Purpose of this post is to announce invention office hours for Saturday, September, 14, 2013 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm America/Los_Angeles time.

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What are invention office hours?

A time where I meet face-to-face (or in this case computer-to-computer via with inventors to do my best to answer any questions they have. 

How does it work?

First, make a double batch of inventor-chip-cookies …

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Second, schedule a conference room from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Friday (*Note* management is off to its cabins during this time and while the cat’s away, invention can play!). 

Third, put up “Invention Office Hour” signs around the site (or in the case of, this would be an Invention “Live Session”) and let inventors know they can come and do … anything. 

That is it, do these three steps and you’ve got invention office hours. What happened at HP was that “mentors” spontaneously appeared and then led a string of more junior technical people to the office hours. Mentors made up norms like “No invention disclosure this week, no cookie.” Which, once in play, had a structuring effect on inventor behavior. Inventors would come in to invention office hours and drop off a completed invention disclosure. Take their cooke, sit down with other inventors and invent some more. Cookies are the cheapest invention disclosure incentive ever devised, but they are not the least effective invention disclosure incentive ever devised. 

Clipart Speed Bump Sign

What is the strategy?

To remove the small “speed bump” excuses people have to avoid filling out an invention disclosure. 

It takes about six disclosures for the average inventor to learn an invention disclosure form. Feedback after each disclosure, is not necessary. I watched an inventor in India do six disclosures in a row and the quality of the disclosures doubled with each disclosure. By the third disclosure the inventor was writing ideas that were definitely going to be patented. Inventors learn how to write great disclosures the way babies learn to walk: by trying.


So I’ve learned that to get access to an inventor’s disclosing, you have to get access to the inventor’s mind and get them to trust me that I’ll respect their ideas. How to get people to trust? Proof by reiteration. I have to tell the inventors over and over “I have your back!” until one of the inventors will take the leap. Then, once the leap is taken, the other inventors fall back to the gym wall, and watch.  … Until the assessment of the first invention disclosure comes back. Once the first inventor gets an assessment, whether they succeed or fail, the rest of the inventors have the “map” they need to successfully disclose.  The sooner you get that first inventor to trust, the sooner you can turn on your inventor population. 

What are the objections?

Speed bumps typically. 

  • “I can’t fill out this disclosure because I don’t know what management wants!”
    The cure for this speed bump is to capture what management wants and put it on the invention disclosure form as a cover sheet. 
  • “If I fill this out, my boss will ride me about inventing instead of doing my job!”
    Cure for this is to advise the inventor to put the boss down as a co-inventor. Sooner this is done, sooner ideas will be collected that can actually be used.
  • “I can’t fill out this disclosure because it would take time away from my family.”
    Cure for this at HP was simple. I built an automated inventor incentive payment system that allowed inventors to choose when the invention incentives hit their paychecks. Once inventors could show spouses that they were accumulating holiday money, spouse objections evaporated. 

 So what!

Oops, my enthusiasm has run away with me a bit. So … the “so what” of this Saturday’s office hours is that I can’t wait to see how the magic of discovering invention will manifest itself in my colleagues. Invention is transformational. The sooner you participate in a community of kindred minds inventing, the sooner you will see the world in a new and better way.

Please come join me/us this saturday!

bill meade