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Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen Spoil the Broth

By Stephen Paul Gnass

Many people are familiar with the quote "Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen". Another quote that means the same thing is "Too Many Chiefs and No Indians". This is in relation to a variety of people wanting to control a particular situation. A variation of this theme is where nobody wants to take full responsibility for making any decisions and passes the buck.

But I've discovered that this can be a big problem with some inventions. Sometimes there are more than one inventor (co-inventors), or the invention is a family affair involving the wife, son, daughter, mother, father, nephews, uncles, neighbors, even aliens (from another planet), etc. Other times there's a partner, or an attorney, a financial advisor, etc.

When there's interest on the part of an "outsider" in becoming involved with the invention, this creates a maze of people to talk to just to get to point "A". In these cases, after spending time meeting and discussing a potential deal with "Joe Smith", he will say, "it sounds good, why don't you talk to 'Frank Smith' about this". Then the individual has to begin the process all over again with Frank Smith, who may disagree with Joe.

Either everybody has their own ideas of how things should go, or nobody seems to have full responsibility for making a decision. As a result, there is either arguing among the group, or discussions go in circles from person to person. Because it is extremely difficult to get agreement on any course of action, potential deals fall apart.

In these situations, I see that the invention is "encumbered". No matter how good the invention is, it will be impossible for any progress to take place as long as the group structure remains this way. Astute businessmen or professionals will assess the situation and will quickly walk away from an "encumbered" project. If the group cannot make any decisions regarding the invention, the invention is doomed to waste away as the life and value of the patent continues to diminish each year.

Most of the time, this happens because the group is not structured as a business, but rather as an informal group without policies or an organizational structure. Therefore the responsibilities of each member are vague. The group also lacks clear cut goals for the future of the invention, and has no sense of direction.

To correct this, the group needs to decide on one person who will be able to discuss things with the group as necessary, who will also be the focal contact to represent the group when speaking with interested parties. To be effective, this person should also have a final veto power on behalf of the group, similar to a company's president.

If the groups also models its functioning after a business, it will increase the invention's chances of succeeding. The group members should first sit down and set a goal for the invention's future. Once the group is united with a mission, then the group should assess the skills, talents and abilities of each of the members and assign duties and responsibilities based on the individual's qualifications and the time availability of the members. In this way, no one person will feel unfairly overloaded, while the jobs will be distributed according to a person's capabilities. Then the group should set ongoing meetings to review the progress of the invention and make sure that the group is on track.

While there are no guarantees of an invention's success, having a group that is united in purpose, able to take harmonious action towards its goals, and able to decide on a course of action as opportunities come its way, will greatly increase the odds of the invention's success.

-end-

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