Idea Stealing

What about people stealing my ideas and making a boatload of money off them?

That certainly can and has happened to people. But how often? Honestly I don’t know the numbers so I’m going to make an assumption. It sounds to me like one of those rare occurrences that happen that are so scary they make for larger legend than common occurrence.

For example, people are all afraid because of these mass shootings that happen. But in reality mass shootings don’t happen that often. On average, mass shootings actually account for a very small fraction of all shootings. But when they do happen they get a lot of press and they scare a lot of people. For that reason people believe they happen more often then they actually do.

I think the same is probably true about idea stealing and making millions of bucks. It’s probably happened a small fraction of times and gotten enough press to scare everyone away from sharing their ideas openly. Let’s face it, everyone has an ego and everyone thinks that their ideas are worth a million dollars. But are they really? Maybe they are in some people hands and not in others.

Personally I think the biggest boundary to idea stealing is laziness. Just because people have your idea doesn’t mean they are going to do anything with it. They may love the idea but never lift a finger to make it happen. I mean if it’s such a great idea why haven’t you? It was your idea afterall. What is your excuse? If it’s time, money, lack of skilset, lack of help, maybe you need to remember that most other people are probably going to face the same boundaries as you. Even if they have the time, money and resources to make it happen it’s possible they just don’t care enough to do anything about it. It could also be as simple and them just not wanting to steal the idea. I’ve had friends tell me stories that they were sure would make great films. They knew I made films. They ran the risk of me stealing those ideas and cutting them out completely. But even if I thought they were good ideas I wasn’t as passionate about those ideas as they were. Plus I was a good enough guy to not want to steal it from them.

Aside from laziness, resources and capabilities are probably the second biggest reason people aren’t going to steal your ideas.

From what I’ve learned, it’s usually not the idea that makes the big money. Ideas are a dime a dozen as they say. It’s a certain implementation of that idea that does. That implementation usually comes down to resources and capabilities. The Apple iPad is a perfect example of that. There were plenty of tablet computers before the iPad and none had the success it did. The success of the iPad came down to a number of factors, including available techology, timing and design. Who would want to use an tablet computer in the 1990’s that was two inches thick and not as responsive? Previous tablets used Microsoft Windows, an operating system designed for a desktop computing environment. Most tablets also used pen(stylus) input rather than finger tips. It took a perfect storm of technology, design, style and who knows what else to make the iPad a success. A certain implementation of the tablet to make it a success when all other implementations failed for all the reasons above.

So the moral is that even if you have a killer idea, maybe it’s not the right time for it. Maybe you yourself don’t have the resources and capabilites to make it happen and maybe others don’t either. How would the movie Jurassic Park have turned out if they made it five years prior when they didn’t have the computer animation technology to make such realistic looking dinosaurs? They had planned to use stop-motion animation. It would not have had the same affect.

Another capability is fame. Think about Stephen King as an example. Stephen King can keep writing best-selling books because Stephen King already has a name out there that’s well-known. So all Stephen King has to do is write a new book and chances are it’s going to be a bestseller or least make enough money that he can live off of it for a while. Even if it’s a terrible book he’s still going to sell X number of copies to loyal fans.

On the other hand Joe Blow may not be able to make any money off of his first book as he doesn’t have a well-recognized name. Even if the story is better than a book by Stephen King. Maybe Joe Blow doesn’t have a publisher or the right publisher or the right kind of cover art to get people’s attention.  

So lets pretend a different scenario in which Stephen King came along and took your idea and made a million dollars off of it. There was no guarantee that you were ever going to make a cent off of it, because you are Joe Blow and he is Stephen King. He has the capabilites and resources. He’s already a freight train in motion and you’re still looking for a way to get on the track. Would Stephen King steal your idea? Probably not. Even if he did it’s just an idea and remember what I said already about implementation. It’s still possible for you to show up later with a better implementation of that idea. Remember that Stephen King sells books, complete as they are. Not ideas by themselves.

Last but not least we have to face the inevitable possibility that your idea just sucks. Maybe that should be the first reason why you shouldn’t fear it being stolen instead of laziness. But be as it may I left it for last. Like I said before, everyone has an ego and thinks their idea is way cool. Why? Because it’s their idea and they like it, so why wouldn’t other people like it as well? Right? People tend to think they are more in tune with the masses they they are. At best they serve a niche audience which could be incredibly small and not profitable enough to be a million dollar bread winner. At worst, their idea has already been done to death and even that niche audience is sick of it, no matter its implementation.

The point is, people freak themselves out all the time with their own paranoia about their stories and ideas being stolen. I’ve even heard people say that ideas have energy and if you tell someone about it, then it loses some of that energy. Come on! What kind of crazy superstition is that? The truly creative people usually have a million ideas and they throw them out there left and right and see which ones stick. They aren’t afraid to practice their idea fostering by bouncing off other people or even throwing some out there to see what others would do differently with it.

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