Blog Post

How do you prevent people from stealing your ideas?

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 20 May 2010



How do you prevent people from stealing your ideas?
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 119
Posted DateThursday 20 May 2010 10:36 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
CategoriesIdeas; Innovation
PeopleHoward Aiken 

I recently received an email from someone who pointed to an article on my website Creating a Knowledge Sharing Culture where I said the following:

Some people object to sharing as they feel that others will steal their ideas and reap the rewards rightly theirs. This is a fallacy. Knowledge sharing isn't about blindly sharing everything; giving away your ideas; being politically naive; or being open about absolutely everything. You still need to exercise judgment. If you have a great idea - don't share it with a competitor - external or internal but on the other hand don't try to develop it on your own and don’t sit on it for fear of it being stolen from you. Figure out how you can bring it to fruition by collaborating with other people.

He asked: "Easy said. For years I have had ideas I would like to bring to fruition, but have no idea how to protect myself. Have you any practical solutions to sharing ideas without losing out on the benefits. e.g. I tell you of a good business idea and you do it without me."

And here is an expanded version of my response:

There are no magic bullets, I am sorry to say, but my key piece of advise would be to only share those ideas with people you really trust - that's where the judgement comes in.

Or, depending on the idea, it may be patentable, but most ideas are not patentable and can be taken and applied by other people - in which case don't worry about the idea being taken but make sure you are first to market with the best implementation of the idea. And if the application of your idea is internal to your company - ensure that everyone knows it is yours by publishing it broadly in some way such as on an internal blog.

It also seems to me that ideas are like knowledge. The important thing is not to have an idea but to have the ability to act on it. Without that ability: the knowledge, the skills, the contacts, the political nous, the passion, the energy and much more - the idea is probably worthless to you. In which case give it away!

Finally, Howard Aiken has an interesting perspective :-)
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

Credit: Howard Aiken

I rather like this :-)

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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