You hear new ideas all day long. And most of them stink. But every so often you hear one that is so rich that you just cannot get it out of your head. Not only do you wish you had thought of it yourself, you are inclined to run with the idea as your own — just to make sure it does not get lost in the shuffle. And maybe you want to look good too.
Why not borrow that great idea, you think.
One thing is tempering your excitement however. You worry about the ethics of taking someone else’s idea as your own. After all, stealing is wrong, isn’t it?
When you are part of a functional organization, you will overhear things — it is unavoidable. You might hear some small snippet that solves a hole in your own thinking. It creates an idea that becomes something bigger and just like that, you snatch it as your own. Good thinking. You are a thief and I appreciate you more for it.
Building on an idea does not make you a criminal. That is innovation.
Most great inventions have been built upon ideas that came before. I recently was thinking about this when I was reading a biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright. They may have been the first to fly, but they would not have gotten off the ground without first hearing about the work of Bernoulli and Newton and others.
There is simply no room in a fast-moving organization for everyone to cling tightly to their own ideas. It is best to foster a creative environment in which everyone is concentrating on the same goals and sharing ideas without concerns about ownership.
Ideas are not property to be hoarded. They are powerful concepts to be shared openly and built upon. So go ahead — steal those great ideas when they come along. I definitely encourage our team at Aha! to do exactly that.
Here is how to pillage those ideas the right way, and be loved for it.
You cannot steal ideas if you are not even aware of what is going on. Make a point of spending time with others, keeping your ears tuned in to what people are sharing. Great ideas can spring up from anyone and anywhere. When you hear an interesting idea, write it down so you can think about how it might fit into your work.
An idea may pique your interest, but not every idea will have merit. That is why you must have high standards, and limit your larceny to only ideas that have real value. If you are constantly running with everything, you will soon become exhausted with idea fatigue. And people might wonder if you actually have an original thought yourself.
Great ideas are powerful yet simple concepts. They are usually not so complex you need a Ph.D. to understand them. Sometimes you may recognize a glimmer of a good idea, but it still needs some refinement. Curate the best ideas and nurture them carefully so you can execute and create value from the idea.
As ideas take shape, you run the risk of forgetting to acknowledge where the idea came from in the first place. Go out of your way to praise the person who thought of the idea. This gives credit where credit is due and signals to others that they can share their ideas without fear.
A person may have a great idea, but they may not necessarily be the best one to execute it or bring it across the finish line. This is a long lesson in humility that everyone encounters in life.
Even Sir Isaac Newton understood this when he said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is from standing on the shoulders of giants.”
The innovations of tomorrow will depend on those small ideas taking shape today. That is why you must do everything you can to help those great ideas take flight and grab them when they pass your way.
How do you steal great ideas?