A new idea or a tuning of an old one

“I think of 6 impossible things before breakfast” – is that only because technology doesn’t make the idea possible or because the public isn’t ready to buy into the idea yet. Imaging if the iPod Touch as we know it today was introduced years ago in place of the original iPod, complete bust.

What happens if an impossible idea isn’t thought worth working on, but someone else does? If they are successful, do you have any rights to the finished product? Is there any way knowing what happened to have had two people think of a similar idea?

When the commercials and associated hype came out about The Social Network, I had no interest in seeing it. Since I have had a couple employees attempt to walk with my company intellectual property to release on their own, I didn’t need to see a movie about the same. All the news was talking about how the lead in the movie got away with developing someone else’s idea and is making billions.

By chance, the movie came on and I didn’t reach for the remote fast enough to not get drawn into it. By the end, I was thinking less about people having original ideas and more about people tuning other’s ideas. If a company passes on a idea, is it OK for someone that works for the company to run with the idea? Big Corp American says no, you where being paid at the time of the idea so they own it. But, how can one be certain that the idea came to you and the company at near the same time due to a global event? Two different people seeing the same need might have different thoughts on a solution, usually enough to make one profit and the other fail.

Outside of the cases where a company says ‘no’, is an employee running with an idea on their own the fault of poor management? If a superior encouraged the idea, would the employee felt they needed to see the project through on their own? In today’s society where ideas are creating Billionaires, more people are willing to risk a company coming after them and will try to see an idea through on their own.

In the case of Mark and his Facebook, he was obviously motivated by attention and not the money. He has or at least ‘had’ a pretty good grip on what people wanted. The direction the group he was working with had an idea but it was highly limited, pointed at a single market. Should Mark have given his idea to the team he was working with, one might argue that they would not have seen his vision. Would he have come up with the idea on his own? The school (at least as represented in the movie) thinks that many people at the school can come up with the same idea since they don’t know the ‘aha’ moment that many may have shared in a class or at a campus event.

Running with an idea that a employer may think they own is highly risky. Even if they don’t do anything initially as they don’t see a profit from their legal expenses, it will always be hanging over the creations ‘head’. Of course, everyone thinks their idea will be so big that they can just pay off anyone that comes along with a few hundred million ‘jump change’. It shouldn’t be missed that the project may end up with a partner that will be tired of the creator down the road and run with the idea they passed on before it was a hit.

There may be ‘no new ideas’ under the sun left to be thought of, but an impossible idea passed on yesterday can be a reality tomorrow… in the right hands.