Monday, June 21, 2010

Open Sourcing Your Innovations

As many of you know from my last post, we are in a ministry transition right now. Transitions are tough, but one thing they make you do is hone and develop the ideas you really believe in. That is what I want to share about today.

When you have a new innovation that you are nurturing one of the gut reactions is to hide it. You don’t want anyone to steal your idea or, even worse, make fun of it! So many times we develop innovations in secret and wait for the right moment to spring them on the world.

I would like to suggest that this thinking is actually counter productive. In an idea economy, your innovation has real value if it is viable. However, your idea is just that – YOURS. Only you have the experience, understanding, perspective and creativity to design your idea. Even if someone else were to take your blueprint and roll it out, it would be dramatically different from what you would do.

This means that innovative ideas need to be shared openly at the initial stages. Instead of worrying that someone will steal your idea, share it in such a way where you are the only possible owner. That uniqueness and creativity that you bring to your innovation will set it apart and set you apart.

Ok, but you might be asking, “If the idea is mine and unique to me, then why should I let it out there as I am developing it?” My answer is that while the idea is yours and it is very hard to really steal it in today’s idea economy, your idea is a work in progress. It needs refining and it needs other people’s experience and input - a little like open source software needs ongoing development. Your idea is not nearly as good as it could be if it was shared and refined!

Let me give you an example. I have some innovative ideas about the future of publishing in the 21st Century. I’m not sure what God is going to do with those ideas but I am passionate about them and willing to invest time and energy to see them become a reality. So what did I do? I created a white paper sharing my ideas and asking people to engage with me. Then I began to send it out to various people that I trust and that know the publishing industry. Each time they came back with input, I have thought it through, asked the hard questions and made a new version of my white paper. I’m several iterations into the document now.

Each time someone interacted with me on my innovation, my ideas have improved. I have developed a better understanding of publishing and of my unique perspective.

Now let me be clear, don’t hear me saying that you should share everything. If you have a unique business model or some key relationships or pieces of intellectual property that need to be protected, then you need to share those very carefully. However, that should not stop you from sharing your larger idea and being willing to learn from others.

Ok, so now I need to practice what I preach! I have this white paper on Cause-Oriented Publishing and if any of you would like to read it and give me input I would love to share it with you. You can email me at But when you ask, it will come with an expectation:
1. That you will read it and consider the idea seriously.
2. That you will take the time to write me back and share your thoughts honestly.

I look forward to sharing with some of you about my latest innovation!