Innovations need Promise: Can we learn from ‘Death will’ and ‘Promissory Note’

posted by Ravi Arora November 13, 2015

A ‘promissory note’ is a legal instrument (more particularly, a financial instrument), in which one party (the maker or issuer) promises in writing to pay a determinate sum of money to the other (the payee), either at a fixed or determinable future time or on demand of the payee, under specific terms.

A ‘death will’ is a legal declaration by which a person names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the distribution of his or her property at death.

One can revoke a previous ‘death will’ any time before death by making a new ‘death will’ that states that all prior wills are no longer valid. One way to make changes to a previous ‘death will’, without revoking it entirely, is to make a codicil, which is an amendment to a previous ‘death will’.

One doesn’t have to file his/her ‘death will’ with a court or other governmental authority after you sign it. After death, however, the will must be filed with the court after which it is made public.

An annual review of the ‘death will’ is a good idea because ownership of property may change over time, or the persons named as beneficiaries may die, or one might wish to relook at the will and rethink the distribution.

Attributes which could be used for encouraging innovations:

  1. Surprise: The ‘promissory note’ has no surprises at all. The payee, in fact will be shocked if the promised amount on the due date is not honored. The payee and the issuer are well known to one another and there is no element of surprise in the transaction. ‘Death will’, on the other hand has only surprises. The individual may not even know that he/she is one of the beneficiaries; leave alone the quantum of benefits.
  2. Changes: ‘Promissory note’ is an open document and no changes are done once they become a legal document. On the other hand, the creator of ‘death will’, can make multiple revisions until he or she is actually dead or the time of opening the Death will has arrived.
  3. Excitement: There is no excitement in the ‘Promissory note’ but the excitement to beneficiaries of the ‘Death will’ is very high. This excitement is on two counts: (1) Getting to know that he or she is a beneficiary (2) The quantum of benefits – This could be a positive or a negative emotion depending upon the expectations and/or comparison with other beneficiaries
  4. Term: ‘Promissory note’ and the ‘Death will’ are typically not short term.

How do you see innovations happening in established companies? More importantly, how do you see innovators in established companies? Are the attributes of the innovator more similar to the writer of ‘death will’ or to the issuer of ‘promissory note’? Or none? Do innovators make a promise to innovate a particular thing in a given time frame? If they make such promises, are they allowed to change their promise whenever they wish to?

Is there a way that we can make innovators and the ecosystem promise an innovations (to their companies) with a flexibility to make changes as long as it makes the beneficiaries (company) happy by meeting their expectations even when compared with other innovations in the industry?


References: (US)