Most people think of their ideas as their children. They hold on to them dearly and hope that no one takes them away.
Why would they share an idea with anyone?
Well, the child idea is a bit of a harsh analogy. Ideas are not like children but simply a construct that was “easy” to create. Notice I said easy to create BUT not necessarily execute.
The reality is that most people fear sharing their ideas because they think that someone might steal them and execute them. In most people’s eyes, they are the only ones with a great idea. So if they share a great idea then someone else will execute it. BUT most of the time they will not execute their ideas. Stealing someone else’s idea does happen BUT I would place that at less than 1% of total ideas.
You are your worst enemy NOT someone else coming in to steal your idea and execute it. Hell, you won’t execute it!!!
So let us consider the other side of the coin…
Suppose you freely share your ideas. When exposed to other people your idea will get one of three responses: completely positive, completely negative, neutral with a small suggestion, or confused.
Completely positive support for your idea is probably worthless. It makes you feel good BUT it seldom leads to an improvement. Most people are too nice to tell you the truth. As American Idol proved, people can go for years believing that they can sing because people around them are not telling them the truth. After you hear their support for your idea, thank them, and move on.
The negative one is the one that has the most energy behind it. Be inquisitive and find out why that person does not want to steal your idea. What are they seeing that maybe you did not see. Assume you are wrong and help them convince you that you are. BUT be ready to dismiss their negativity if after you have heard it and still think that your idea is great. You should use the negative feedback as an opportunity to improve your idea NOT eliminate it.
The last response is the most interesting one. They might offer something but of limited value. They might give you a suggestion such as color should be blue but not be able to explain why. They are just trying not to be rude but have no skin or interest in the game. I find these types of responses of no value.
BUT sometimes you get a questioning response. I got one of those on a Saturday when teaching an MBA statistics class. The question completely challenged the method I had presented for determining risk. It was in the form of, “why do I have to pick my risk?” I assumed that people knew their risk level. Based on the look my student gave me, I was wrong and had to automate the process.
Lesson learned and method improved…
The key is to understand what the feedback is trying to do and assure that you understood it. AND thank the people giving it to you.
Now about the stealing of ideas. You have to remember that you are bigger than one great idea. You were the source of the stolen one. You can create another one. AND it can be even better.
Don’t be afraid of them being faster copying you.
People fear their ideas being stolen because they want credit for it BUT you are infinite and can create infinitely better ideas. They have to play catch up to your great ideas.
Take the risk of sharing your ideas, go execute the improved versions, and keep working on the next idea. If you do this, there will be a story to tell.
My four cents…