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Last Update: Friday April 19, 2019

Key Idea: Form Your Own Think Tank

Todd Dickinson,former US commissioner of patents and trademarks, explains that Americans benefit from an organized system that protects inventors.  He says that it is pure democracy and "...the essence of capitalism."   For more...   All the key ideas and video for this episode...

Key Question:


Challenge a small group of smart people and a great example of this is Ziba Design.  It is the type of company that is hired by huge corporations to create new products and even services. Sohrab's dream is to reinvent health care delivery systems which in his mind includes every customer interface between insurance companies, doctor's offices and hospitals! We certainly hope he gets a chance at this dream.

Q: Why is small better than big?

It's all about human motivation, risk/reward, turf and accountability. Big teams are fraught with the politics of sub-groups who vie for power which is a complete waste of effort. Also, big teams tolerate dead weight and it is very difficult to fairly identify and reward players on big teams. All of the effort seems to congeal so top performers are treated as equals to poor performers.

We've seen here, over and over, the power of small. There is intensity, focus and passion in small teams that will trump big lumbering groups every time. It is not an underdog mentality as much as it is pride, a deep inner knowing that on a small team each person is truly valuable and that since of worth translates into personal productivity.

We know that big organizations break big problems down and develop small teams to solve them but we just don't see a sense of urgency or personal buy-in on these teams that we see inside small companies.

Think about it

What teams should you form to work on problems you may now be struggling with alone?

Clip from: Innovation and Invention with Michael Novak

Washington, DC and around the world:  What drives people to challenge the status quo? go out into the unknown? try to create things that have never been seen before? Why do these people work so hard and stretch so far? Everybody talks about them, saying things like, "Crazy!" "They'll kill themselves."  "They're in a world of their own."  Yet, these daring people, driven by principles and dreams, are changing our world for the better.

We turned to scholar, Michael Novak, of the American Enterprise Institute for insights.  Novak would like to see this innovative spirit take root throughout the world. And, it is.

Ziba Design, Inc.

Sohrab Vossoughi, Founder, CEO

334 NW 11th Street
Portland, OR 97209

Visit our web site:

Office: 503.223.9606

Business Classification:
Design, Invention,

Year Founded: 1991

Form Your Own Think Tank

TODD DICKINSON: Every single piece of cutting edge technology is probably resident here in our office right now.

HATTIE: And if you told us you'd have to kill us. (Laughter)

TODD: Well it's not that bad. But we're talking about things all the way from gene sequences to new software that's being developed to improved mousetraps.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) This is Todd Dickinson, a former US commissioner of patents and trademarks.

TODD: The original system came to us from Great Britain, but we incorporated it in our Constitution which I think firmly fixed it in the American system. That has been one ...of the key parts of the Constitution in terms of the economic development of our country and the world.

HATTIE: Why is the patent and trademark concept so important to democratic capitalism?

TODD: Well what's interesting I think is that the invention system, which the patent system supports, is probably democracy at its purest. If somebody with one idea, which they come to on their own or in collaboration with just a couple of other folks, can take that idea that has never existed before. Because to be patentable, an invention has to be brand new. And to take that invention and basically run with it and to build something from it -- build a business from it, unfettered by anybody else, that I think is the essence of capitalism.


SOHRAB VOSSOUGHI: Design is a continuum. It never ends, you know, once you do something, you know it can be done better.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Sorhab Vossoughi is the founder of Ziba Design.

SOHRAB: This product, the Cleret Squeegee, is actually the product that really launched us. It got a lot of publicity. We found that the T-handle on the squeegee is actually created for reach -- to be able to extend your hand above your height to clean the windows. And also, for the inside enclosure of the shower it is very tight, and you can't use that -- it is very cumbersome.

HATTIE: So in one year you sold how many?

SOHRAB: He sold 16 million dollars worth of these, in one year -- in the second year. And he had two people, himself and one other salesman. So you can imagine -- 8 million dollars per employee. This is in a permanent collection in the Smithsonian Museum. So it has been a very famous product and really people connect us and relate us to 'Oh, these are the people who did the Squeegee.'

HATTIE: You are the Squeegee guy.

SOHRAB: Yeah, the Squeegee guys. (pause)

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