Are you showing or hiding it?

A few days ago, my wife, who is a teacher, was telling me about a situation that had caught her attention.

She was explaining to vocational training students an internship in which they must prepare their professional project. What they see themselves working on in a few years’ time.

In order to motivate them, he suggested that those who wanted to present their project in front of the class would get an extra point on their mark.

These are quite young technical students. They are 16-17 years old.

As a rule, they don’t particularly like having to speak in front of an audience. Even if they are their friends in the class.

So, they have to be motivated and challenged to do it.

During class a student  approaches her to talk to her.

“It’s not that I don’t want to present my project in public. But I have such a good idea that I’m sure that if I explain it everyone will want to copy it.”

To which, my wife replies “Now you’ve really got me intrigued. In any case, it’s up to you to decide whether to expose it or not, but how secret is it? Have you checked if there are similar projects? Have you looked on Google?”

To which the student, said “Well, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll have a look and see what I can find”.

I don’t know if this is a diplomatic and original way of avoiding having to speak in public or if this boy  really has such a special project that he thinks it’s best to keep it to himself so that nobody copies it.

Curiously, a few days later, in another project I am working on, we were looking for hardware suppliers to create a new product.

It is a project that requires a significant investment.

And we are also at a time when the lack of chips and certain products can put very interesting projects on the back burner.

So, finding the right suppliers or partners to guarantee the availability of certain products can be the difference between having a viable project or not.

I spoke to a distributor who suggested the possibility of putting us in contact with different suppliers who could help us.

He asked for additional information about the project, including dates, estimates and data such as the business model.

It is an ambitious project that has been under development for months in terms of proof of concept and has significant potential. Moreover, if the project goes ahead, it is going to require really significant investments.

So, I spoke to the lead partner in the project to explain the situation and the information we were being asked to provide.

I indicated that I was preparing this information, but, before sending it, we should review it together to decide what to send and what not to send.

To which, without needing to see the detail of the information, he said: “Of course we can send it!

“We can absolutely count it all – no problem at all! There are no products like this on the market. I’ve already checked.”

“And these distributors have a lot of contacts in this hardware world who might be interested not only in being suppliers but even potential partners or investors.”

It is curious how two people can have such different visions regarding how to manage and protect their great ideas.

On the one hand, people who want to keep it hidden for as long as possible before showing it off. So that no one copies it. To get a head start on any potential competitor and try to occupy the market before others can react. He who gives first gives twice.

On the other side people who are not worried about making the project public, thinking that more people involved can contribute new ideas, new points of view and even new collaborations. The sooner the better.

How do you deal with your big ideas?

Do you keep them to yourself so that no one copies them and work on them in private to expose them only when you think they are going to be a success, even at the risk that they may be work that never sees the light of day?

Or do you tell potential collaborators who can contribute to your success in some way even at the risk that they might overtake you and leave you behind in the race?

It is said that everything has already been invented.

(A phrase I hate, by the way. How can anyone say that when new things are being created every day that were never even thought of in science fiction novels? You only have to look at the last 10 years to see how many new inventions there are).

In any case, the difference is not in the invention, in the idea.

The difference is in being able to put it into practice.

And no matter how much you talk about it, most people won’t even think about the work required to put it into practice.

And, as the saying goes, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.