Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Horse Has a Million Dollar Question

My faith in mankind is tottering big time. Quick, I need some strong support (Isn't it ironical that I am asking for support, uh?). This is a clear case of blasphemy. Shameful right down to the skeleton. My ex-colleague's profile - something he apparently shared when invited for a talk on KM by another organization - says he was 'instrumental' in my receiving the patent that was awarded to me (which has my name as the Inventor but is commercially owned by my ex-organization). Sigh. And what's the truth that the horse is duty-bound to reveal? A card on my desk says "Stand up for what is right". And so I will. Neigh! (That's the horse not just standing up but stomping around) Every single piece of my patent-related work was executed when I was reporting to another colleague - who deserves the credit for every bit of encouragement I got. See the amusing difference - when I thanked my actual mentor for the encouragement after I was awarded the patent, he stoutly refused to take the credit and said it was my "passion and hard work". Somebody said it once. And I've repeated it on many occasions. I'll have to say it again. It takes all sorts of people to make this world.

I normally shy away from washing dirty linen in public and talking about such issues but this incident really rattles me and wants me to cry out loud and demand that the world drop everything and tell me what is happening to it. This man who craves for credit that he doesn't deserve, fortunately, cannot say he created the framework, methodology and toolkit because the patent document will indicate otherwise but he can still say he was 'instrumental', because that may never be questioned. Instrumental, my foot. ROFL. :-) He had absolutely no clue what the whole thing was about until he asked me to make a presentation on it to his team. (What's more, inside sources tell me that he also- apparently - walked away with the prize money that my ex-organization allocates for patent holders) 

Interestingly enough, it was just a few hours ago that I was wondering whether I should introspect and blog about a piece of advice that I find coming my way occasionally. "Accept the world for what it is and adapt yourself to its nature". It may mean two things a) I live in my own idealistic world and prefer to imagine that the injustice, imperfections and not-so-nice anomalies of the world will rectify themselves b) I constantly give people the feeling that I want to change the world. I suspect it may be an unequal combination of the two. The first attitude, admittedly, contributes generously to happiness at times when thinking otherwise will surely, only, lead to depression. The second attitude is what might ultimately propel me to do my bit to restore some sanity and perhaps some playful insanity in the world. (I'm saying that with as much modesty as is available to me. I am sure each one of us can make the world a better place if we really want to. I don't claim that to be a trait or motive restricted to some people alone)

Meanwhile, in other related news, Paulo Coelho just sent out a tweet that seems to have come at the right time for me. "We shall choose our adversaries, not the other way around." A whole ton of food for thought. Should I waste my time and energy and take this thing head on and prove a point or two or just laugh it off, let this conscientious MBA from one of the top few B-Schools in India be the way he is while I focus on more worthy things in life? What do you think?

Note: This post is more or less a spontaneous outpour of thoughts and emotions exactly as they are. I may want to elaborate upon this later on. For now, this is how the story reads. 

OK, here's more of the context and background. I started working on a KM toolkit long before I even knew that the person mentioned above existed. It was when I was a part of the central KM team and was an internal Knowledge Manager handling one of the largest business units. The head of the KM team was a different person at that time. I did not discuss the toolkit with anyone because at that time I considered it something more playful than something that would help me in consulting assignments and the like. I kept working at it whenever I was inspired enough and I think it finally evolved into something substantial and reached a logical end. But it remained just a simple PPT in my PC. This was in the year 2004 or so. 

I then moved to a new business unit as a consultant wherein my job was to come up with KM point solutions for a particular domain. I began to report to Mr.SK (a Utilities domain consultant) and he is the one who deserves full credit for supporting me and encouraging me to conceive a KM framework and methodology that could be used as a solution for customers setting out to formulate a KM strategy. It was during this period that it suddenly dawned upon me that I could get back to the toolkit and develop it further and use it along with the framework. Also, I was inspired by the upcoming APQC conference and decided to present it at the conference in the year 2006. That was in the middle of an assignment that I was carrying out for a Utilities major in UK and I was still reporting to Mr.SK. Once I came back, I decided to join an independent KM consulting team (not restricted to a particular domain) which was when I first started interacting with the person mentioned above. By then, I had already obtained Mr.SK's permission and approval to file a patent on the framework, methodology (already used during my consulting assignment) and toolkit. So, when I first met our 'friend', I had already completed my work and filed a patent as well. Now, for the life of me, I don't know how he could be instrumental in my receiving a patent on something he was introduced to only after I had filed the patent! The only potential confusion here is that the patent was finally granted by the US patent office earlier this year and I had quit the organization 2 years before the patent was declared as mine. Unfortunately, this person was/is in charge and thinks it means he deserves the credit.


Raj said...

Send him a note marking the CEO and HR head and ask him/her to desist from claiming something that he/she has not done. That should do.

Nimmy said...

Thanks so much, Raj. Sounds like a logical thing to do. I am going to sleep over this and attack it with a fresh mind tomorrow.

Marigo Raftopoulos said...

This person does not have any legal or moral claim over your work. Do not give him any more attention than he deserves.

I had a similar situation a few years ago with another consultant on a joint project. I chose not to challenge him in public, but after while it became apparent to all that I spoke more passionately, convincingly and authoritatively about what I created that it was obvious who the real innovator was.

Nimmy said...

Thanks so much, Marigo. I am able to relate to what you're saying. And I know if it comes down to a situation wherein we both have to speak about the patent, I will obviously be able to speak about something I worked on for 4 years in a phenomenally more convincing manner than this man who has only read my document and listened to one of my presentations on the topic. Unfortunately, he is a senior person and gets to globe-trot and present his wares at many forums which I may not even be aware of. Where does that leave me? As long as people are not aware that I exist and don't happen to see the patent document, he will be considered to be the person behind the patent, which is totally absurd. One part of my mind wants to fight against such people and fight for my values even though I may get nothing out of it. Another part of my mind (which has won many battles prior to this) wants to brush this off as a waste of time and just go about enjoying my work. Life, sometimes, poses some really difficult questions.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest to go by the following quote "My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition." -Indira Gandhi. I know it hurts to be in the first group. But you must have immensely enjoyed the creation of the framework and that surely is its own reward. Secondly since you have it in you, you can go ahead and create many more such works, this is something the other person probably cannot. You will have found something to keep you happy and satisfied. Don't let anyone else's action take away your creativeity and happiness. Go ahead and do what you do best. Good Luck. -SN

Nimmy said...

SN - Your comment is really moving! Thanks a million for choosing to express your support and thoughts! Much appreciated! :-)

Vinod said...

I go with SN "True work of anybody will always be Rewarded". U keep doing the work like Dravid did for team India - one day all will come to know who walks the talk from the person who just talks.
BTW - Big Big Congrats for Your PATENT !! Love to read about ur work and framework if you could share with me.

Nimmy said...

Thanks so much Vinod! :-) I guess it was the "unethical"ness of the whole thing that got to me. Not so worried about this affecting my identity - because I've thought through it and it doesn't seem like people can take away someone else's work so easily! And as someone who believes in God, I know I'll be fine. :-)

Will send you the patent details via mail...