Don’t Worry About People Stealing Your Ideas

A Great Idea Is Never Enough

Chester Carlson’s situation wasn’t all that unusual. Consider the case of Ignaz Semmelweis. By instituting hand washing at Vienna General hospital, he nearly eradicated the incidence of childbed fever and saved countless lives. Yet he wasn’t lauded as a hero. He was dismissed as a crank and it took another decade for the germ theory of disease became widely accepted.

The Long Road From Idea To Impact

Another misconception is that innovation is a single event. It never is. In fact, it is a long process of discovery, engineering and transformation and usually takes decades and involves hundreds if not thousands of people.

Why Companies Give Ideas Away

Take a look around and you’ll find that some of the smartest companies are actually giving their ideas away. In 2014, Tesla announced it was open sourcing its patents. More recently, Google announced it was opening up Tensor Flow, its library of machine learning tools. IBM has been donating patents for decades.

Generosity Can Be A Competitive Advantage

In writing my book, Mapping Innovation, I talked to dozens of exceptional innovators, from world class scientists and engineers, to executives at major corporations to entrepreneurs who created something from nothing. I was, to be honest, a bit intimidated, but found that almost all of them were happy to be helpful, generous with their time and interested in my project.



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Greg Satell

Greg Satell

Bestselling Author of Cascades and Mapping Innovation, @HBR Contributor, - Learn more at — note: I use Amazon Affiliate links for books.