By Håvard Almås and Magnus Hakvåg

For the uninitiated looking into the topic of IP and IPR, it may come off as vast and impenetrable – a huge, jargon-filled field that is just about impossible to get into. However, in most cases, the reality is much simpler than it may seem. Oftentimes, the language and terms used are needlessly complex, especially so for anyone not looking to become an IP expert, but rather improving the capability to apply sound IP practices in a day-to-day setting. This all boils down to learning only what matters, applying acquired knowledge in concrete use cases, and understanding when to do what in IP related matters. To do that, it is necessary to be very precise and practice-minded regarding what and how to learn.

Determining a need to know

One reason why IP and IPR may seem daunting at first is that it can be difficult to know exactly what is relevant in any given situation. In most cases, there is no reason to attempt to learn everything at once, just for the sake of it. Instead, one fruitful way to get started is to think about what it is that needs to be achieved. Do you or your organization have innovations, designs, brands, or creative works that should be protected? Is there a want or need to get into licensing? Or is the foray into the world of IP rather about recognizing threats and managing potential risks that may occur? What, concretely, is the aim of the training – what should you or the organization be able to do after completing the training? Whatever it is that should be achieved, defining what insight is needed, and for what purpose, should be the first step. This lays the groundwork for how to subsequently go about exploring the topic.

How to go about determining the need to know becomes a bit more complicated when the decision is to be taken at a team or organization level. Clearly, not everyone needs to know everything, albeit a certain level of basic, shared knowledge may be useful. What is even more useful, though, is to know who knows what. A well-functioning team will distribute the knowledge across the team, but also make sure that everyone knows who they can reach out to when they need to get ahold of information. As such, getting an overview of where relevant knowledge can be sourced can also be an important outcome of partaking in instructional activities.

Contextualize and operationalize

When getting into the learning endeavors themselves, there are some key aspects of how instruction is carried out that are fundamental to making sure the learning sticks. For one, instruction should be modelled after how it is intended to be used, it should be grounded in the specific day-to-day reality of participants. If, for instance, participants are part of a small startup business, the insight gained from seeing how tech giants deal with IP is often interesting yet has limited real-world application value. In other words, instruction should be tailored to specific circumstances, not only to make the training content more relevant, but also, on a motivational level, to make it more relatable and consequently more engaging. Moments of thinking “wow, if this happened to us, it would destroy us”, or “there might be some great new opportunities here”, are powerful motivators and a great way to make sure learning feels relevant and sticks.

A second point to keep in mind is that people come into any learning experience with a pre-existing set of experiences and prior knowledge which will impact how and what they learn. This should be harnessed as well as possible to make the most of the learning experience for the individual. Connecting existing understanding to new content helps make learning be perceived as relevant and, ultimately, be remembered. Moreover, when working collaboratively, participants can learn from the diverging experiences and knowledge represented in their team, provided that they are afforded ways to share that experience and knowledge within the instructional activity. By sharing experiences and knowledge within the team, the positive effects of connecting existing understanding to new content can be better distributed between team members.

Serious games as an instructional tool

One way to go about providing learning content is to use serious games, games with a primary purpose beyond entertainment or enjoyment. Serious games can be both digital and analog instructional tools and have clear benefits when used to promote engagement and learning, especially so when used in a collaborative team setting. Moreover, serious games tick a lot of the boxes of fruitful instruction mentioned above. Play can create a believable, relatable experience that is perceived as close to reality, untangles complexities, promotes the sharing of knowledge across team members, and can be tailor-made to meet diverging needs for knowledge. Moreover, the serious game approach creates a riskless environment where players can actively and freely explore the practical application of relevant problem-solving and decision-making without fearing failure. This makes it easier to establish psychological safety and sound collaborative practices in the group, whilst diminishing the effects of pre-existing hierarchies.

Another benefit of using serious games is that play is inherently open to the exploration of different understandings and diverging solutions. Commonly when making strategic decisions based on IP, there is no one, correct answer – diverging paths can lead to the desired outcome. This is important to keep in mind when discussing these issues across different departments or people with different backgrounds. People have different perspectives, experiences, and knowledge that shape how they work, their ideas, and the solutions they propose. Being sensitive to differences and understanding that this is a strength of collaborative work, not a challenge to be overcome, is key for finding the right way to act. That is no easy task, however, and developing the capability to collaborate can itself be a worthwhile goal of using serious game simulations.

Final remarks

To sum up, the success of IP training hinges on figuring out the specific need to know, contextualizing the content to fit the learners, and setting relevant leaning objectives. Achieving these steps will make the training feel relevant to the learner and greatly improve the insights gained.

About the authors:

Magnus Hakvåg is CEO of House of Knowledge, a consultancy that offers strategic advice on how best to protect a company’s innovations and competitive advantages. An expert of over 20 years in innovation, IP/IPR and standards, Magnus served as Convenor of the ISO working group on innovation management terminology (leading to the publication of ISO 56000:2020) and was involved in the revision of the OECD Oslo Manual (4th edition, 2018). He was also part of the European Commission’s “Joint Initiative for Standardisation (Action 3) and is part of DG Grow AASTART (academics active in standardisation-related reseach and training) which highlights the need for standardization as an element of formal education, academic and vocational training, and has been a consultative body for the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Commerce on IPR and standards. Magnus earned an MSc in Biophysics and Medical Technology from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Håvard Almås is a researcher at House of Knowledge and an industrial Ph.D. candidate of organizational psychology jointly at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and House of Knowledge. His research interests include collaborative learning, teamwork, engagement in play, serious games, and organizational development more broadly. Previously he has been engaged in research on the digital transformation of non-digital board games, the formation of learning experiences in serious games, and the emergence of collaboration in small player groups.