How Valuable Are Your Secrets?

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Scenario: "Dude, if our secrets leaked, our business is done. Kaboom. Let's keep them tightly-confined. High-five!" This conversation might seem familiar:

  1. Johnny: "I have the world's greatest idea. I can't tell you until I become a billionaire."
  2. Sally: "No, I have the greatest idea. I'll be the billionaire."
  3. Matty: "No! I do, you sons-of-!@^^%!"

And in the meantime, what do they all -- silently -- think of each other's ideas?

  1. Johnny: "Sally and Matty are so blind."
  2. Sally: "Johnny and Matty are so blind."
  3. Matty: "Johnny and Sally are so blind."

The takeaway: No matter how super-totally-fantastic-2-cool-4-school your ideas are, Joe Schmo thinks he has a better idea. You could expose your secrets to your fiercest competitors, and your business would probably still run blemish-free.

Nobody Really Cares About Your Ideas

You've lived, breathed, and througt about your very-highly-secretive ideas for years. No: decades!

  • "If these leaked, I'd be ruined! Ruined!"

But dude/ette (likely): No one cares. While you've been tinkering with your ideas for decades, Sally Jay -- on the other side of town -- has been tinkering with her own billion-dollar-plan-to-take-over-the-frickin'-world for decades, too. If you exposed your ideas to Sally, she'd probably dismiss it.

Her train of thought:

  1. No! I've researched my idea for decades.
  2. And, my idea will make billions! Not yours.
  3. I've listened to yours for seconds.
  4. To me, you conceived that idea in seconds.
  5. I conceived my idea over decades.
  6. Therefore, I have a more substantive idea!
  7. And thus, I will continue tinkering with my idea -- and ignore yours.

You have your own reason for thinking the way you do.

Sammy, Kathy, Phuong, Tomas, Miguel, Patty, Charlie, Dave, Navarro, Dung, Bobby, Hendy, Alex, Senia, Noura live a totally different life, with different ideas, different approaches, different contexts, different lifestyles, different ideas, yadda, yadda, yadda. Your idea works for you because you've built it on top of your unique strengths, abilities, and experiences.

  1. Dikembe would have to relive your life to put your ideas to full-use.
  2. Otherwise, you'd have one ridiculously-awesome-major advantage over him in exploiting those ideas.

According to a study by Harvard's Business Professor Karim Lakhani on open source workplaces:

Practice doesn't prove that out in the sense that even if other people know about the problems you're working on or have seen your solutions, it's very hard to implement those solutions in other settings. Knowledge is actually very sticky. Even if you reveal everything about what's going on, there's tacit knowledge behind a lot of scientific and technological activities.

Secrets, folks, are oh-so-overrated.

Why Leak Your Secrets

You know who can develop your ideas to those next 985039043523 levels?

  1. An outsider, who'll see your idea from her very-own-unique perspective -- one that she's developed since birth.
  2. You bring on another outsider, and he'll optimize that newly-conceived idea even further -- using his own-unique-one-of-a-kind life context.

According to Professor Lakhani study:

The benefit of opening up your problems to outsiders is that in fact you can get novel solutions - quicker solutions than what the firm or R&D lab might develop. It also opens up new domains for the pursuit of knowledge and activities.

Secrets = blah! And no, we're not telling you to parade your entire corporate handbook on Times Square; here's what we're saying: You'll optimize your 'secretive' ideas much further if you held them looser. Remember:

  1. Bill Gates, Oprah, Steve Jobs, Sam Walton, Michael Dell, Mark Cuban, Donald Trump, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, yadda, didn't make their billions by keeping quiet.
  2. Instead, they surrounded themselves with people who could push their ideas to those next 985039043523 levels.

Share, optimize, grow. Win.


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Posted on April 27

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