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Who Owns a New Idea?

I’ve had an experience lately that I expect a lot of us Strategic Account Managers have: a promising new idea has emerged from discussions with a customer about business needs and future plans. There is a high likelihood that we’ll work together to develop this idea, but the idea has some legs and could have some potential uses for other companies. Do we have the right to take the idea to other customers and when? Of course, all of this can and will be sorted out as discussions continue (with the help of legal teams, no doubt). 

A possible solution is to make the implementation of the new idea for each customer somehow unique, therefore there’s no (or less) infringement on initial intellectual property. This possibility reminded me of a session I attended recently at the Strategic Account Management Association’s University event where they offer extensive workshops and training for more effectively managing strategic accounts. The title of the session was How to Co-Create with Your Customers, and it was led by Francis Gouillart. Mr. Gouillart is a university professor and founder of Experience Co-Creation Partnership ( 

The session was fascinating, and the ultimate message (at least from my perspective) was that you can significantly advance your value to your customer by co-creating a new way of working with them which addresses a business issue or challenge they have. Co-creation is unique for each customer, so there may not be any idea ownership issues. Something to think about…what’s been your answer to who owns a new idea?

Sonya McAllister

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