Anyone who has spent much time with me knows that I have a lot of ideas. I imagine I have always been this way. I remember in 2nd grade, sitting in the corner of the playground during recess with a couple of other smart-but-not-cool kids, and we would just talk about our inventions. We came up with a teddy bear that played comforting sounds to help a baby fall asleep (I had a newborn sister at the time). We talked about one of my proudest inventions—a cloth at the end of a stick with a bottle of furniture cleaner attached to the end. Pulling on a string would spray the cleaner to areas you couldn’t reach with your arm, and then you could clean those areas with the cloth attached to the end of the stick. I called it the “Dusterizer”, and I made a prototype with my toy hockey stick. A few years later somebody else called it a “Swiffer”.
One of my favorite parts of my playground discussions is that none of us cared who got credit for the ideas (at least I didn’t). As 7-year-olds, we didn’t really have any intention of turning our ideas into reality. The discussion was a reward in itself, and it has certainly been fun to see some of those ideas become real, commercially viable products.
I think ideas are a lot of fun. I think that discussing ideas is a rewarding experience, enough so that I preferred it to games of tag and football as a 2nd grader (not every day, by the way; I still had fun as a kid). I love how an idea takes shape as it is discussed. New aspects of the idea are discovered. Weaknesses are exposed. Good ideas get better and weak ideas flounder.
One of the big reasons we hesitate to openly share and discuss our ideas is the fear that someone will steal them. P&G clearly had spies on my elementary school playground, listening in on my recess chats. No, the truth is it takes a lot of work to turn an idea into reality. I can tell you all my secret ideas, and if you are not interested in them enough to devote a significant amount of time to making them real, you won’t do anything with them. If you don’t have the resources to make them real, you won’t do anything with them. And if you don’t understand them well enough to make them real, you won’t do anything with them. If, however, you are more passionate about them than I am, it will be a good thing that you stole them. Better that than letting them die in my head.
In the spirit of sharing ideas, the next few articles will be about ideas that I have had. Some of them I have completely abandoned, some of them I have recognized as not being very good ideas, and some of them I still really like.