What value is there in keeping our ideas to ourselves? This is so common. Loads of people have “great” ideas. Some share them with others. Few execute them. So I’m certain that we are getting something out of safely hoarding (or hiding) our great ideas. In my podcast An Interview With Melissa Llarena, I’ve interviewed several innovators, freelancers, and artists who did the opposite. They had the courage and made the effort to execute their ideas and that’s why they are admired. Chances are we noticed their ideas and then did the work to find out who was behind them. Sure, some of us might excuse ourselves with the thinking that we couldn’t execute all of our great ideas. Yet, I’ve witnessed some heavy hitters consistently manage to test their great ideas or outsource them. I haven’t seen too many people with guts hoard their great ideas. A British celebrity photographer I interviewed on my podcast is a great example. In his case, his “idea” was sharing his hobby photos.
Nigel Parry a celebrity photographer had been taking photos since he was eleven. Technically, he could have continued to “hoard” his idea. If he had done so then his illustrious career would not have been realized. We would have never enjoyed his images of Robin Williams or Conan O’Brian. The world of images would not have been the same. Yet, in his twenties, he had the courage to showcase his idea. Imagine showing your newborn to a boss. You may not know if your boss likes or hates kids. Nigel took it upon himself to show a big boss who led a British publishing house his photos. Why did Nigel offer them up when he was not being asked to share them? What chutzpah, right? My guess is that Nigel felt his idea could be worth more outside of a darkroom. Curious, if you had been in the same situation would you have had the guts to showcase your photos? Personally, I don’t feel like I’ve done something like that yet (unless this piece counts). So this is what I’m thinking. I think we must be deriving some value from keeping our great ideas to ourselves. Follow me on this cerebral exploration.
Imagine you have a “great” idea for a new product. You’ve worked in the industry for decades and you know you have a “great” idea. Here’s what you get theoretically from keeping this “great” idea to yourself.
· You get to see yourself as a “great” idea generator.
· You feel like you have a secret vs. those around you.
· You get to enjoy playing with your idea as there are no limits.
· You are able to tell people at a cocktail party “I have a top-secret idea.”
· You can feel awesome about your idea because in your world it’s perfect.
You get to keep your idea safe and in turn, you are protecting your personal sense of self too. How can we quantify this? Will this mean that you’ll act differently with this elevated sense of creativity? So knowing that you have this thing, will this propel you to join the inventor’s club? Will you be poking around engineers’ conversations to pressure-test your ideas in your mind? All of this to say that there is likely some value we are placing on keeping our great ideas to ourselves. We may decide to be selfish with our ideas because we think if we let them loose someone will hoard or build them. Then our idea will no longer be our special thought. So what’s the value equation for someone when they execute their idea or expose it to some sunlight or artificial light if we are playing with the darkroom metaphor?
I believe there is always a tipping point. We each decide whether to considered courageous or creative is more important to us. When we pick courage we let the idea out. When we pick creative we protect the idea and our sense of self too.
For example, if I share my idea then both the idea and I will take a hit. We both may feel stupid. Another thought could be: I may not feel like a great ideas person anymore yet I feel pretty courageous for having taken that leap. The courage I am feeling was worth any loss of self-confidence and shift in identity as a person who has great ideas. Courage won the day.
So often we hide our hobbies or wait to be asked for a meeting. Or we reject ourselves by quieting the little voice in our heads that yearns to be courageous.
Nigel could have continued for a lifetime to take photos and never share them with power players. This was an option. In this scenario, Nigel would not have had to confront his own sense of confidence as to whether he was really good or not. You see if the photos were brilliant in his head and no one got to see them then Nigel’s sense of self would have been retained. The inner struggle here is real. Keep the wonderful idea in your head and you get to keep your highest impression of your talent. Zero arrows are flung at your ideas or you. Your idea will be safeguarded. To me being courageous is getting to a place where you must share your ideas. You must share your ideas immediately because without them being shared they are without value. Let’s review what is value.
The thought that comes to my mind is a company acquiring another. What makes the acquisition of a new sense of self as courageous or creative worthwhile? It all depends on your calculations and a sprinkle of faith in what’s possible.
Here is more on my thought experiment:
When someone perceives the value of the idea to be in the context of how it makes them feel it sounds like this: “I am SO creative, what a wild idea.” I am smart. I have to hold onto my idea because this is making ME feel creative or like a genius. I derive “100” in value to my self-esteem by safeguarding my idea. This is a guaranteed “100.”
Now, here is what I may consider if I share or execute my idea: “my idea may flop” my idea could be killed by someone I respect. My idea may turn out to be boring or dull. So what happens in this scenario? Your idea’s value inside of your head is higher than outside of your head (as it relates to self-preservation of your sense of self as a creative). It’s in having the idea that you get high and derive value. Outside of your head, your idea will feel like a “0” in derived and so will you.
Now, what if you knew that your idea if executed or shared could be valued at 1,000,000? Think in terms of your self-esteem. That’s the risk. You can’t know for sure if the idea in your head or in the world will have the highest value. You can go to a networking event. Talk about your idea and tease people with its secret amazingness. You can make up a grand sense of self with an unproven idea. Yet when you put the idea out to the world a lot is outside of your control.
So, now it’s your turn. What should YOU do with your “great” idea? You read what Nigel did. He bravely exposed his idea and himself to the world. Nigel reaped the rewards. He chose to feel courageous over preserving his sense of self as perfectly creative. The truth is that he has had to make that decision often to grow professionally and try new things. In your case, just run the calculations. How much value are you getting from an unrealized idea? If considering yourself creative is more important to you right now than feeling courageous then keep hoarding. Yet, if you want to become admired for your courage then you’ll have to value acting courageously more than retaining your sense of self as perfectly creative.
P.S. I am Melissa Llarena a courage coach. I am writing a book to help us all reawaken our human spirit. If you’d like to follow my personal journey or subscribe to my weekly newsletters then sign-up right here. You’ll gain access to my 75 podcast episodes meant to inspire your creativity, courage, and sense of curiosity PLUS I’ll add fries with that by sending you my 9 tips to feel hopeful, empowered, and limitless on your career + life journey. All of this and more located on the same page. Keep exploring! Life can be fun and filled with wonder even if you alphabetize your spice cabinet or would never tell colleagues you’re addicted to TikTok. I see the inner kid in everyone. You are still magical to me and your dreams should continue to light you up.