My daughter has grown up hearing me complain over and over, “Somebody stole my idea!” That’s because I get great ideas all the time, but, before I get around to executing them, I’m walking through a department store in Somewhere, USA, and there it is, right there on the shelf, my great idea with someone else’s name on it. Great minds do think alike. Bummer.
We happened to be browsing the shelves of one of those department-type stores a few days ago when she spotted this notebook and couldn’t resist a bit of mischief – “Mom,” she said, “I’d like to buy this for you.” With a completely straight face, she passed it to me, knowing I wouldn’t be able to read it from the distance that separated us.
Congratulations on having the same great idea as someone who successfully executed it.
I cracked up – startling several of our fellow patrons who shot nervous glances in our direction as they attempted to move away without making any sudden moves. When I finally managed to regain my composure, I passed the notebook back to her and said, “I’ll let you.” I guess it’s true, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree – her sense of humor is almost as warped as mine. That can be scary at times.
I love my new notebook, and felt it apropos to break it in by writing the notes for this post in it.
Looking back over the years, I realized something – I have invented some pretty amazing products: stadium seats with a thick, cozy blanket built right in; an ink pen with its own light source so that you can write in the dark; a laptop desk – well, you get the picture. I mentioned these particular samples because I actually went so far as to draw sketches and make design notes for them. I even initiated the preliminary market research for the light pen, and nobody in my special survey had ever seen anything like it. I was frantically trying to put together a prototype when the spouse informed me there was something just like it already on the market. He had just returned from a business trip, and said he had noticed it in a magazine he found on the airplane. I didn’t want to believe him – he had to be mistaken. A few days later he presented me with the executive model – a sleek silver number, complete with its own executive gift box. I was deflated. Not long after that, I started to see the pens everywhere. The market seemed to suddenly be flooded with multiple design variations and price points. It felt like everybody was making money with my wonderful light pen idea except me.
I could go on and on with similar stories, and the tragedy of it all. My sister-in-law and I actually have a running joke – we refuse to discuss any of our ideas over the phone because we’re convinced somebody has to be listening to our conversations – waiting to steal our great ideas and execute them.
To be fair, things like multiple discovery, simultaneous discovery, and simultaneous invention are known phenomena. I’m aware of that now, I wasn’t back then. In fact, there are some pretty interesting theories floating around out there in ‘theory land’ as to why these events occur. My favorite is the one about a “collective conscious” – I am Seven of Nine gazillion. You can use your favorite search engine to find other fascinating theories, and examples of this “simultaneous” process in action – covering everything from the invention of typewriters, to the light bulb, to the telephone, and the list goes on. Who was it that said, “The only bad thing about a good idea is that somebody else is bound to get it”?
Here’s to great ideas…executed.