Abundance and ideas

A colleague got an angry note. It concluded with, “you should know better.”

The transgression? The sender was offended that my friend had written a post about a concept she’s been developing for nearly a decade. Of course, no idea is unique, and the posted idea sort of rhymed with one that the professor had been working on for a while as well.

The note demanded she take down the post.


In general, when you think someone is poaching your idea, it’s worth remembering that they probably aren’t, that you probably weren’t first, that the ideas probably don’t overlap as much as you think, and… even if it is precisely what you thought of in the first place, the spreading of an idea is a good thing.

I’ve managed to coin dozens of fairly original phrases over the years, and some are based on new concepts I brought forward. I only have time to do this because I don’t spend my days bothering people who write posts that I imagine overlap with my work. There are books by others based on these ideas, and even entire industries. I’m not waiting for royalty checks or even credit lines any time soon.

In fact, when people write posts that overlap, that’s a good thing.

Ideas that spread, win.

No, don’t take credit for an idea that’s not yours. You look smarter and more confident when you give credit where credit is due. Giving credit is generative and raises your status.

But there’s no reason to need to persistently expand the taking of credit. It brings a scarcity mindset to the work, when what we need to do is generate connection and possibility instead.

If everyone in town comes to your factory and takes a sample, you’re in trouble. But if everyone takes your idea (or an idea that you think is sort of like your idea), you’re onto something.

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