I got a note from a former colleague of mine the other day. They were kind of ticked off because they felt as if someone had ripped off an idea of theirs and the thief got the proverbial pat on the head from the powers that be. I guess I’m not painting myself in a very flattering light here because I know they wanted a lot more sympathy from me than I gave them. I mean, I wasn’t a total d&*k about it – I did let them know I knew how they felt – but having had my fair share of ideas ripped off over the years I learned a few things which I’d like to share with you as I did with them.
I’ll start by saying I may, in fact, be ripping this off. If I am, it’s not intentional. I’m sure others have written on the topic before but I’ve purposely not checked it out so I won’t steal anything! And that was one of the things I said to my friend – sometimes what we think is an original idea is, in fact, a riff on something we heard or read someplace. Ecclesiastes tells us there’s nothing new under the sun. The best innovations are often built upon the foundations of lesser ideas that preceded them, right?
Then there’s the question of so what? Why do you care? Is it credit you feel should be yours? If so, why did you sit on the idea? In my mind, unless it’s for a contest prize or something for a patent, it’s generally not a big financial deal. Or maybe it’s that you want to look smart? I’ve had a lot of smart people work for me and I ended up having to fire some because they kept wanting to let everyone know how smart they were as opposed to working together to achieve the group’s goals. Very often it was their way or the highway. We didn’t let the door hit them on the way out.
Here’s the deal. People are going to jump on a great idea’s bandwagon and do everything they can both to make it their own and to take credit for the idea in the first place. Get over it. If you’re any good you get ripped off.
If you have great ideas, don’t keep them quiet. Make them public, talk to others, post them on your blog or someplace else. It’s then easy to show you were there first if and when your idea gets stolen. But as you do, ask yourself what you’re losing in the process. If someone else can make your idea reality while you’re struggling to figure out how to do so, what’s being stolen? It hurts to have your ideas taken but it hurts just as much to feel as if great things go undone. I’ve always been happy to see my ideas come to life even if I wasn’t always given my due credit. Maybe that’s just me. Then again, I can’t think of anything that I did totally on my own either.
We’ve all heard about ideas being a dime a dozen. I believe that. Do you?