“I rarely take ideas from anyone,” a young woman emailed me this morning, in response to my suggestion that she meet someone I know who could give her valuable ideas for her job.
What a strange reply, I thought. Does she believe that no one could possibly have an idea better than her ideas? Is she afraid that it will make her less worthy if she takes someone else’s idea?
I’ve never been at a loss for ideas in my career and I’ve had competitors copy my ideas. I’ve also worried that someone would steal one of my ideas before I could act on it.
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” George Bernard Shaw
An up- and-coming male executive at Fortune magazine actually appropriated one of my ideas, after I brought the magazine in on it and we had a successful partnership. “We’re taking the project (a summit for c-level executive women) in-house,” he had a lower-level employee tell me.” That was 11 years ago. Since then, the idea thief was fired, but Fortune produces a woman’s conference to this day. I think I let them get away with such unethical behavior because I was intimidated. Fortune, big magazine (at least then it was). Geri Brin, lone entrepreneurial woman.
Sharing an idea sometimes helps makes it a better idea, especially if you share it with smart people who aren’t threatened by someone else’s ideas. I think the young woman who sent me the email may be a bit threatened. Hopefully, she’ll see differently some day.