The Value of Ideas
I live in a world of ideas. It's rare that I produce something that's not recorded to a hard drive, or that I handle a physical product. My entertainments are usually delivered on a screen, ranging from the big silver screen to the little mobile screen, and even the rare times I read a book or magazine that's been printed on paper, it's not the medium that I'm interested in, it's the ideas.
So, yes, I see the value of ideas, but ironically, I have a real problem with the, ahem, idea of owning an idea. I own the storage of the idea, I own the maintenance of the idea, but the idea itself? It may cost me an opportunity, but really, it costs me nothing directly if you use my idea.
I come up with three brilliant ideas before breakfast some days, but running with that idea and creating something of value out of that idea takes other ideas. The printing press wasn't Gutenberg's idea alone, he just got there first. The light bulb wasn't Edison's. The Internet wasn't Gore's (and, he never really claimed that it was, either).
Ideas are powerful things, but the power of an idea is in it being shared. 'Ownership' implies control, and control implies stifling the idea. And stifling an idea doesn't imply creating new ideas.
But business is all about monetization. And here lies my schizophrenia. I want to control the ideas that I come up with, and I want to be rewarded for those ideas, but copyright and intellectual property laws aside, if you're a dreamer (even a somewhat skilled, vivid dreamer like me) how do you put value on a dream?
What bothers me is the over inflation of either side of the equation -- if I come up with something really inspiring, and something new and wonderful (and profitable) arises from that idea, then my idea has value.
But, in the world of patents and copyright infringement, companies are sucked dry and destroyed on the premise that having the idea alone is the same thing as building the business, creating customers, and generating revenue. Actually, I think the argument is that the business execution is somehow less valuable than the idea itself.
In the world of intellectual property, the idea has taken center stage -- there was a time that the craft itself took center stage. I truly believe there is a balance, but when you consider how unoriginal most ideas are, how little effort goes into securing the rights to the idea, and the complexities of really fleshing an idea out and creating something, it makes me wonder if someone can come up with an idea for a better way to value ideas.