Bruce Springsteen is the Boss. Elvis is the King. Prince is…well…Prince. Each performed within the same genre, and crafted a unique niche for their music. They took the same resources (notes, words, etc.) available to their peer artists, developed a following, and changed the state of the art. In the music world, we call people like this rock stars. In the technology transfer world, we call them thought-leaders. I target thought-leaders.
Seeking these leaders is paramount to my recruitment strategy because many of the positions that I place require leadership and new ideas. These individuals are expected to step into a situation where change is necessary—where they must create new units and initiatives. And they must accomplish this in a university environment where everyone is struggling for resources, attention, and momentum.
Thought-leaders in technology transfer embrace the fundamentals of their predecessors (IP protection, market assessment, administrative systems), but challenge the norm with new models, like open innovation, express licensing, and Tech Stage-gate. They test new business methods through social media, gap funding, and industrial collaboration agreements. A thought-leader understands the difference between utility and fad, and lead in implementation.
One of the best places to spot these people is at leading professional development conferences (AUTM, LES, UIDP, etc.). Sure, you will see some thought-leaders on the speaking side of the mic, but many of these speakers are just presenters. Presenters are often picked by the programming committee to validate the current state of the art—they are the tribute bands of the professional world (Zed Leppelin, anyone?). Presenters have listeners, thought-leaders have followers.
So, instead watch for the people being swarmed between panels and cornered at the evening cocktail reception. Listen closely to the names in conversation, often used as examples, referrals, or even a point for contention (That can’t be done!). Thought-leaders are curious to the masses— curious as in “inspiring”, not as in “side-show”.
If you are one of these people, I want to know you. Understand that your unique blend of vision, curiosity, and perseverance through criticism is just what technology transfer needs. People are interested in learning from you and following you.
You are the rock star of technology transfer.
Are you a rock star? Know one? What are some of the trends that you see playing a major impact to the future of the profession and the professionals it needs?
Quality #4: Networked