David Okwii: Ideas are cheap, so stop keeping them to yourself

“Shh…that’s a million dollar idea!”. Have you had someone shut you up or shut someone up during an informal conversation about what they or you are doing? maybe, may not.

As a Tech blogger, I informally meet people, entrepreneurs like myself. I usually ask “what’s is happening”, “what is new”, “what’s going on” and the response usually goes something like “nothing” or “nothing much” which in some cases is deceitful.

There’s still a dangerous culture that plagues us here in Africa. We don’t like to share (ideas)! African innovators like to go into a deep stealth mode in the fear that their Ideas will get “stolen”.
I know some innovators have in the past had bad experiences of sharing their ideas with potential partners only to be stolen the next day. A particular nasty one is the case of Paul Bagyenda — one of Uganda’s ICT visionary — suing MTN Uganda in 2004 for infringing on the copyright in the software and functional specifications of the “Me2U” application. The application allowed easy sharing of Airtime between mobile subscribers.

However, that’s no excuse.There’s hardly a place online or offline you’ll find people meeting just to share a couple of ideas on anything which bothers me a lot.

This needs to change!


“There’s an Idea for that”

We live in a more increasingly connected and networked world thanks to the proliferation of data-connected devices and social networks. The world’s information — or ideas for that matter — can now be accessed in the palm of your Hands. If you want to know about 10 ideas for small businesses this year, you simply have to Google it. Most likely someone has written a blogpost about it. If you want to build an ecommerce site, there are more than 10 free resources online you can use. It it’s a certain piece of code you need to compliment your App, boom, head over to Github or if you’re stuck with some technical difficulties, stackoverflow is the hackers den. It wasn’t long before Apple popularized “there’s an App for that” frenzy which now makes it increasingly difficult to come up with unique or “new” ideas because, it’s already there.

The laws of economics dictate that when supply increases, demand reduces, and so the value of something goes down. Ideas are everywhere, which makes them cheap. In today’s connected world, the abundance of ideas is insurmountable as opposed to earlier centuries where knowledge was in custody of a few privileged individuals. Today it’s not about having a “new” idea as was the case in say the 19/20th century which marked the industrial revolution. It’s about taking existing ideas and making them work well. The company that has mastered this craft — Apple — has gone on to be the world’s most valuable company.

Unfortunately, in most of Africa, people still jealously guard their “ideas” with the false hope that they will make them rich!


You’re more likely to fail than succeed

Take it from me bro…that emotional feeling you’ve that your ideas will put you in the top charts tomorrow when you launch it is in most cases a feel-good-imagination. It paints a picture of a straight road to success while the reality (take it from me) is a long and twisted path. It’s good because it’s from that, that you derive that rocket-fuel or momentum to spring your idea into action.

I personally can’t recount how many ideas I’ve had, tried to implement them but failed. Maybe 5 or more don’t know. What inexperienced innovators don’t know is that just having an idea isn’t a prerequisite to success. In fact I wouldn’t even consider it a start! Great ideas need the right team, the right execution strategy, the right marketing, the right partnerships, the list is simply endless.


Sharing increases your chances of success

At TEDGlobal 2010, author Matt Ridley shows in this TED talk, how throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. Humans have always shared ideas with each other which is a clear distinction between us and other species.

The web is a standing testimony of what can be built by combining our distributed intelligence or collective IQ having been built on the principles of collaboration, openness, transparency and sharing.

Sharing gives you the opportunity to communicate your ideas with like-minded people who then could become part of your dream team. When I had the idea of changing the Ugandan Tech sphere by blogging about the cool innovations that were happening in our backyard, I had to clearly communicate this to 8 other bloggers who thankfully bought into the idea.

So start sharing now.

[Photo Credit: anieto2k via Compfight cc]

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