When someone is working on a new idea they’ve shared with my in confidence, I often find myself suggesting that they also get input from their peers, executive team, or customer.
Sometimes that generates a comment like this:
If I start socializing this idea, somebody else will take credit for it.
Often, but not always, a response like this comes from someone who has learned from past attempts that it’s best not to share ideas publicly, simply to watch another person take credit later.
Yes, I hear this more often from women — but not only from women. Those of us who are quieter in groups often struggle with this, too. I know it’s heartbreaking and demoralizing to watch someone else get credit for your idea.
But we can take steps to prevent it.
May Busch, author of the book Accelerate: 9 Capabilities to Achieve Success at Any Career Stage, appeared on Coaching for Leaders awhile back. Her advice for us when we have a great idea?
Tell as many people as you can.
But why? Two reasons:
First, the more people you talk about your idea with, the better your idea gets. You get people thinking about your idea, finding holes in it, improving upon it, telling you who in the organization will oppose it or support it.
In short, the more you socialize an idea, the better it gets.
Second, the more you socialize your idea, the more people associate it with you. It’s a lot harder for someone to claim credit for your idea in an executive roundtable when you’ve just spent the prior two weeks collaborating on it with 7 other people in the room.
But here’s the real hack. And perhaps, way more valuable than making sure that you get credit for the idea.
Collaborating with others on your idea, especially if you do it with more than just a few people, means that you have to do something about it. It means you need to take ownership for it. It means you need to show up.
Because your real problem isn’t keeping your idea from being stolen. In the digital age, new ideas aren’t that hard to generate.
No, your real problem is never moving on at least some of your ideas.
The more you start talking about your ideas, the more you start creating movement for them. Become the kind of leader who becomes a catalyst for crafting ideas, makes them better by collaborating with others, and then moves forward to create change. If you start doing that well, ain’t nobody going to be able to steal that.