Management Insult 1 – Intellectual Property

For a while now, I’ve been building a series of definitions of ‘management-speak’ terms that insult human intelligence. One day I might even find a publisher and release them as a dictionary, but for now, I thought I’d share a few of them from time to time. I make no apologies for these being slightly tongue in cheek. My argument is that for a leader to be effective they need to be grounded in the real world and not delude themselves through their use of obfuscating language.

Intellectual Property (especially when abbreviated to IP)

Used to refer to an idea that someone had, that they think is very clever, and would like everyone to know they had. Generally fall into three types;

  • An idea that was so blindingly obvious that lots of people will have already had it.
  • An idea that is simply a regurgitation of age-old wisdom.
  • ‘Ideas’ that are just ways of simplifying something.
  • Generally used by ‘knowledge workers’ to justify ludicrous fees or to bolster their own poor self-esteem.

    Best wishes

    Graham Wilson

    UPDATE ADDED: August 8th, 2014

    Today, we have learned that the pharmaceutical giant, Roche, has invented a new drug, Kadcyla, that provides relief to TERMINALLY ill breast cancer victims for as much as six months ( In other words, they live for about six months longer. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS), negotiates drug prices through a body called NICE, who then make recommendations to doctors. Sadly, such recommendations have to take into account the costs of the drugs compared with the benefits. Roche have asked the NHS to pay £90k per patient for this drug. There are estimated to be 1500 women each year who will benefit, which means that Roche is expecting to generate £135M every year. Patent protection provides the opportunity for inventors to recover their investment and make a reasonable return. I don’t know what the genuine development costs were but I hope that the £2.7Bn that they would expect to get from the NHS alone would go a good way to recovering them. I don’t object to firms making a genuine profit, nor to them using patents to protect them from competition, but I do question the morality of these kinds of figures.


    1. I agree to a point… when it is used loosely by idiots who don’t understand what REAL IP is.

      When your average business exec, not trained in creative development, comes up with an idea, they tend to become fixated on it and imagine it’s the most valuable thing in the world. In fact ideas are two-a-penny and are pretty much worthless until they’re developed, proven, protected and backed.

      Imagining intellectual property as like real bricks and mortar property, gives you a better sense of it’s real value. Something which you’ve just knocked together in 30 seconds in your head contrasts sharply with something a drug company has spent 7 years and 2 billion quid developing, testing, refining, proving and protecting.

      For example as product designers we’re trained to create and deal with ideas all the time. I’ve just been looking through an old project folder for a new product that an inventor is launching now. This folder contains a 3″ thick stack of sketching on A3 paper. This must include at least 1,000 different ideas and solutions in there that we have come up with, assessed, rejected or incorporated, built up through five stages of design and testing to make up the eventual design. There were many times during that project when I was lying awake at night trying to work through ideas to get things to work. And the final design – looks as simple as you could imagine – and no one outside the design team would ever understand the mental anguish we went through to make it that simple.

      That is intellectual property.

    2. Thanks Andrew.

      I’m with you all the way. There seems to me to be a bit of a challenge for people who are knowledge workers, to understand what IP represents in their area. For people who ultimately produce concrete objects it is much easier.

      For those people who are in between – especially designers – I can see huge potential for frustration because many ‘inventors’ don’t appreciate the value of design to the translation of their ideas into practice.

      Thanks for commenting – much appreciated.
      Best wishes

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