Monday, October 19, 2015

Did Someone at Work Just Steal Your Idea?

Have you ever had someone steal your idea?

If you've been in the workplace for any amount of time, the answer may be "yes."

But as Daniel Solis points out, there really isn't a way to steal an idea, because someone else has probably thought of it first.

The world of work is rapidly changing, and ideas often are zipping around the workplace like a squirrel after drinking a case of Mountain Dew. There are bound to be ideas that sound similar, so it's easy to believe that Marty or Janet stole your idea.

What's important is that you don't stew in your own juices and a)pout about it like a 2-year-old denied a cookie b) cry or whine to your co-workers c) get angry and vow never to propose anything ever again. Ever. Again.

Those strategies will only damage your career, and eventually everyone will see you about as relevant as a rotary telephone.

So how can you pitch an idea and make sure everyone knows it came from you first? (Or at least you're the first to propose it in your company or department.)

Here are some ideas:

  • Stand tall. If you propose an idea in a meeting, make sure you don't drop it like a dead rat and then scurry away. Solicit feedback such as "Does anyone have any problem with what I've proposed? I'd like to start on it right away." This shows you're ready to stand behind your idea and hear any objections -- or supportive comments. It forces others to acknowledge your idea.
  • Don't fade into the woodwork. Sometimes days or weeks may go by without much fanfare about your idea, and then a colleague proposes nearly the same thing you did -- and it's greeted like the greatest idea since the light bulb. Respond with, "I'm so glad you were able to build on my idea from several weeks ago." Then, jump in with some comments such as "When I was researching this idea months ago, I found that younger customers will respond the best to such a marketing tactic."
  • Follow up. When you've proposed an idea in a meeting -- or even to a boss in the elevator -- then follow up with the idea in writing so that there's a clear record of when you proposed it. This helps remind everyone where the idea came from, and a clearly dated document can keep anyone from later crowding you out when you clearly initiated the idea.
Finally, never rest on your laurels. Always keep pitching ideas, even though some may never get far. Organizations today are under intense competitive pressure, and companies like Amazon and Google have shown that there is no such thing as a crazy idea -- just employers who are crazy to ignore any idea. As long as you keep your creative juices flowing, your career will be headed in the right direction.

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