Too many creative people get obsessed with “protecting their ideas” and go off track. Instead of doing things that create real value, they take umbrage at the thought that someone else might be doing the same thing that they do.
Ideas have little value
A few months ago, I learned of some brouhaha among Medium writers who complained that people copied their ideas. These writers had written an article, and then someone else came along and wrote a piece similar to theirs.
Some of these writers were apoplectic. The word “thief” and “charlatan” came up a few times. The writers bristled at the thought of someone taking their precious idea and making it their own.
The whole controversy looked ridiculous for a simple reason.
By themselves, ideas have low value. I know that it feels weird, especially when we all know the rush of getting a great idea and writing it down. Still, ideas have little value (in most cases).
Ideas are like seeds that have yet to be watered or grown into a mature tree. They have potential but have yet to reach that potential.
That means that more than one person or company can use an idea and execute it in different ways. If one company or person did have the ability to lock up an idea, that would stifle competition (patents create an exception to that rule).
Execution and iteration are the game
While ideas hold little value, implementation, and iteration hold a great deal of value. These things arise from hard work and struggle, so they matter more than the ideas that may have given birth to them.
When clients come to me worried that someone will take their idea, I tell them, “do it better.” Competition and copycats always exist, but if you execute better, the competition doesn’t matter. All they do is keep you on your toes.
I have seen too many creative people get off track when they see someone “copied” their idea. Instead of growing their business, they become obsessed with someone else doing something similar to what they are doing.
Instead of protecting your ideas, develop your intellectual property
Instead of spending energy and effort trying to protect an idea, seek to improve your implementation of that idea. Once you have done that, you will have valuable intellectual property. Intellectual property fuels the growth of almost every contemporary business, so you need to pay attention to it.
Some takeaways that you can use right now:
- Learn how copyright registration works. If you do creative work, a copyright registration protects it. However, you need to know certain things to make the copyright registration bear fruit.
- Understand how to protect your brand. As your reputation grows, your brand grows. Since your brand becomes your most valuable asset, you should know how to protect it.
- Know how to protect truly secret ideas. Some ideas exist as “trade secrets.” This category includes things like customer lists, marketing strategies, and specific business methods. Business owners usually protect these things with a non-disclosure agreement.
Ideally, this article helps you to focus on what matters. It’s often not the idea that matters, but the execution of the concept. It’s a unique way that you interpret a plan that creates value.
And, if you need help understanding how to build a real, thriving creative business, join the Counsel for Creators mailing list.