The other day, a guy stopped by wanting some advice on his great idea. He drilled me with a series of typical questions. “How do I get a patent? How long will it take? How do I manufacture this thing? When should I form a company? How should I fund it?” Unfortunately, I could only give general answers because the only thing he told me about his product idea is that it would be “really great” and “everyone would want it.” Then he pointed to a small empty room and said, “Let’s go in there. I don’t want anyone to hear. Just between you and me, okay?” At which point he secretly informed me of a dull idea that I have heard many times before.
I wish I could say this was the first time I’ve experienced this, but it’s not. It happens all the time. Look, I understand the concern. I’ve even done it. At first blush, it seems rational. You have what feels like a great idea. You imagine the possibilities. You should surely keep such a genius idea top secret because if anyone else finds out, they would obviously recognize the greatness of the idea and steal it for themselves, right? Wrong. That top secret formula is a fast track to terrible ideas.
Here’s why classifying your great idea as top secret is a bad idea. [Read more…]