It happens more than I would like to think about. And I always try to keep a straight face. But it's hard for me to pull it off because I'm not a great actor. When someone asks me to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that protects the conversation we're about to have, I just want to yell or laugh. If I were to yell, it would be to declare to the heavens that ideas are free, are worth sharing, are almost never perfect, and frankly require adjustments (from free collaboration). If I were to laugh, it would be to suggest that no protection would guarantee against competitors who learned to execute faster and better than the people I'm speaking with. Instead I often just say “sure.”
Where do Great Ideas come from?
I think my problem with people who walk around with NDAs is simply that they're missing the point of the ideation phase in the lifecycle of any kind of development. Whether you're coming up with a new company or a new product, it's the time during ideation when you want the most feedback and adjusting. After all, tweaking an idea at that point is cheap and easy. Adjusting things later is harder and often more costly.
Steven Johnson writes about it quite effectively in his book, “Where Good Ideas Come From.” You can watch a quick synopsis in this video (below). His bottom line point is simply this – great ideas come from collaborations.
Collaborations are Work
Nothing about collaborating is easy or free. You need to have your voice. You need to make sure you're not silent. But you also need to change the way you hear, so that you're seriously listening, and not listening to prepare a rebuttal. No, instead you want to listen in a way that shapes your ideas. You want to be asking the question – how can this new information shape and change my concept to make it stronger?
I love collaborating with people who already know how to collaborate. Unfortunately, most of the people who want me to sign papers that promise never to talk about their idea to anyone ever again aren't practiced in collaboration.
It's why I Write
It's not an exaggeration to say that I'm always just finishing an article, just starting one, or somewhere deep in the middle of one. But I don't write to make a name for myself. I write to share the ideas and lessons I've learned so that they can shape the ideas that come from your own expertise. And if they come together just right, who knows? Maybe something spectacular comes of it.
My new book on High Performers came together that way. I'd delivered a presentation two or three times on high performers and their habits. I'd delivered a few presentations on my concept of “done done” and personal responsibility. But it wasn't until someone mentioned that the two sounded linked that I realized how true it was. And here I had been the one talking about both things for years. But I needed that bit of insight to drive the process to sit down and write it.
Did you notice how that worked? Someone else had the idea to link it, but I still had to do the hard work to sit down and write. Ideas are free. It's the execution that always costs.
Want a Free Copy?
Given that I've written about my new book in this post, I figure I should give you a chance to get a free copy. So watch this video about where ideas come from and look for the offer at the end.