"But I do have an idea in my head before I go in about what I'm going to do." — Caroline Corr, The Corrs
Everything begins with an idea. It is my opinion that the value of an idea is grossly underestimated. The reason? It is an intangible asset. It's not something that can be easily measured. However, ideas are the foundation of human existence. A thought is an idea or conception. An idea is like energy. We take it for granted and the average human does not recognize its power until it is gone.
Take a moment to ponder your day. Think about what you ate this morning, what you watched on television, what you read in the paper, what you did at your job, where you recreated after work, what music you listened to. The totality of your day was a series of ideas if you really think about it. What you ate this morning was most likely a product of somebody's idea.
This morning, I ate organic eggs and prepared potatoes. Some ingenious person was behind the brand of eggs that I ate this morning. This person cared enough about creating healthier eggs and healthier conditions for their hens. Their idea and passion for healthier eggs birthed the product, EGG LAND'S BEST EGGS. The potatoes that I mixed with my eggs were precut and cooked which is extremely convenient for a busy working mom such as me. Some genius probably had someone like me in mind when creating the idea for their product.
The music that I listened to today, the news stories that I read, and the recreational facility that I visited after work are all products of somebody's IDEA.
Dissatisfaction v. Passion
How does an idea begin? Generally, an idea is born from dissatisfaction or passion. When one is dissatisfied, he or she begins to look for solutions as a means to counter the dissatisfaction. For example, when I began to be dissatisfied about the lack of culture, diversity, and creative expression in my hometown, I began to look for solutions to change my environment. I stumbled upon the forgotten music history of my hometown and began developing a plan to create change. The main components of that plan included educating others and networking about the lost legacy of Paramount Records in Grafton, WI.
Dissatisfaction in the workplace can lead to thinking of creative business solutions to better the company. Dissatisfaction with a product can lead to an invention of a new product or the improvement of an existing one. Dissatisfaction with government can lead to political activism. Dissatisfied with threats to the environment and humans, new environmentally safe and organic products are created.
First is the dissatisfaction, then the brainstorming for a solution, and finally a new idea. I believe that it is built into the human spirit to constantly be seeking for balance. When we accept dissatisfaction as the status quo and put up with it, we are burdened and stressed beyond what we were ever created to handle. But when we seek to find solutions to our dissatisfactions, we are creating balance for our turmoil.
Think about areas in your life where you are dissatisfied. Are you in a rut of thinking that things cannot change? Do you find yourself complaining all of the time? Does your dissatisfaction bog you down? I encourage you to begin the next phase and begin brainstorming about how YOU can create change. Yes, one person can make a difference. And that person can be you!
New ideas also stem from passion. When I sought to change the cultural climate of Grafton, WI, I had a passion. That passion was for the African American artistic contributions to American culture that are frequently minimized and/or forgotten. Sometimes this history is overtly underscored due to racial prejudices. Other times, it is due to a general lack of knowledge. I realized that it would be easier for me to approach the lack of knowledge through education. Writing is my passion. Speaking the truth is my passion. Teaching is my passion. Music is my passion. African American history is my passion. All of these passions acted as conduits for new ideas to flow.
As a composer, some of my greatest ideas flow from my passions and feelings. I am not always inundated with passion, but when it rises up within me an idea for a song is often born. People who have a passion for animals create ideas. New in my lifetime are the "pet spas" where dogs and cats can get massages and pampering like humans. Pet spas began with an idea. It stemmed from a passion for pets.
I pity the person who does not have any passion for anything. People who lack passion generally also lack vision and purpose. They are also very depressed people. Consider yourself. What is your vision and dream in life? For what purpose do you think you were created? Which themes keep coming up that you are passionate about? What have you been passionate about in the past? Have any of your passions sparked new ideas?
This book idea stemmed from both dissatisfaction and passion in my own life. As a creative, entrepreneurial and highly visionary individual, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with coming up with ideas to better individuals, companies, organizations, and the community in which I live. Don't get me wrong. I love coming up with ideas. They seem to come naturally. What I do mind is when others benefit from my idea, take the credit, and walk away richer. I have not yet tapped into how to make a living of creating ideas that promote change. If I were an inventor of products like my great grandfather, I could patent the ideas and receive royalties. However, ideas that bring more tourism into a community, ideas that launch successful programs in organizations, and ideas that launch others toward reaching their goals aren't so measurable.
Naively at times, I have shared my ideas with others without researching how to copyright them. It is my understanding that ideas cannot be copyrighten. Perhaps in the writing of this book I will find more insights and a good lawyer will prove to me otherwise. After being burned time and time again, I am now seeing the need to at least write down my ideas and mail them to myself as a poor man's copyright. Whether this method is truly effective in a court of law, I still do not know. But I hope to find more answers as time moves on.
It's the taking credit for ideas and benefiting from them that dissatisfy me the most. I have spoken with many other artists in my lifetime and many are equally frustrated. Idea generators are not always obsessed with gaining a buck. Their primary goal is to express themselves and to offer a creative solution. However, after being taken advantage of, lied to, devalued, and stolen from time and again, they can become very dissatisfied over time.
Savvy business people are often some of their worst enemies. There are some people who don't have a creative bone in their body and long to pirate the ideas of others. I found this to be the case of the recording business that once existed in my hometown. Back in the 1920s and 30s, savvy business men knew how to manipulate contracts of illiterate African American musicians and make a buck off of their talent and musical ideas. Many of these delta blues musicians lived impoverished lives and became bitter toward the company.
Ironically, I live in the village of Grafton, WI. One of the haunting definitions of
Graft (verb) "is to obtain money dishonestly by exploiting one's position of power, especially political power [American English]. Graft is understood as political corruption with an element of greediness. Graft (noun) refers to the rewards of corruption: the loot, booty, payoffs, or spoils." (1)
That "grafting spirit" existed in my community about a century ago. I believe it can exist anywhere in the world at any time. Using power to exploit and steal from others is one of the cruelest types of human behavior that exists in the world.
Idea generators have always been exploited by greedy and jealous people in power. Songwriters struggle to make money for their musical ideas due to greedy and illegal downloads on the Internet. This exploitation is not new. Various websites of mine have been hacked repeatedly. We discovered in one of the instances, a man from Romania hacked into the forums section and was trying to steal private information from others. Hackers from China breaking into websites and stealing information have been in the news recently. Someone recently stole original photos from our historical website, ParamountsHome and credited herself as taking them!
From the beginning of time, that desire to steal from another's hard work and favor has been present. Whether you are spiritual or not, consider the early biblical story of Cain and Abel. Regardless of whether you think it is true, it is a great story that conveys the greed, stealing, and murder over something that was coveted. Cain killed his brother because he coveted the favoritism that Abel had with his father. Abel was an innocent victim killed by someone close to him that wanted to steal from him, was jealous of him, and ultimately killed him.
Without getting too political, I would also like to mention that wars have historically occurred when those in position of power become greedy. The innocent are the ones who suffer.
My inspiration for this book also stemmed from a passion. There are many things that will be outlined in the chapters that I am passionate about. These are all valuable and deserve to be recognized as such in a material world. I have come to the actualization that I am created as an idea maker. I am proud of who I am. I am passionate to stand up for myself against greedy people. I am anxious to hold onto my ideas as valued treasures and to release them as I see fit.
I am calling forth change in how ideas and idea makers are valued. Everything begins with an idea. Ideas come about because of dissatisfaction and passion. They are birthed through the brainstorming process of a concerned individual.
Consider the mothers who birth children and give them up for adoption. Both the birth mother and the adoptive mother are equally important. I see birth mothers as a prototype of idea makers. They birth a child. They carry the child the farthest they are able; until birth. But, for whatever reason, they need or want someone to take over from there. That gifted person is called the adoptive mother. My husband is actually adopted and has hung a poem on his wall for years called "Legacy of an Adopted Child" (author unknown). The poem relates, "The first gave you life, and the second taught you to live in it…."
In order to value idea makers more, I would like to better explain them.
Idea makers carry a unique entrepreneurial or visionary spirit. They have special problem solving and intuitive skills that fuel their idea making process. Like the birth mother, idea makers give life. They often spend a great deal of time problem solving, researching, observing, piecing together, brainstorming, evaluating, etc. Idea makers such as Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, the Wright Brothers, Benjamin Franklin, and Dr. Seuss have experienced what all idea makers do. That is failure. But each failed attempt is a learning experience and the idea becomes better refined with each failure. That refining process can often take quite a bit of time. And time equals money, right? I have often wondered why money is spent on medical research but not so much on ideas that better our world in which we live in.
Idea makers use one of the greatest intangible assets that exists and that is TIME. A lot of the time spent is time thinking. There are occupations that get paid for their time thinking. Journalists are a great example. They spend time gathering story ideas and researching what is going on in their field of interest. They spend time interviewing subjects for quotes and more research. They don't always use all of the material that they glean. The end product is edited several times over by both the journalist and the editor. Journalists weave their observations, intuitions, research, interviews and writings in the form of a story or article that they have researched would be of interest to the readers. Much of the time spent as a journalist is time spent thinking. A journalist gets paid for their thinking time.
Idea makers also need to present their ideas in a way that sells. The process of creatively marketing an idea takes a great deal of time. Often times, connections and networking relationships need to be developed which is time consuming. Idea makers are generally extremely good at coming up with good ideas but need assistance in implementing them. In fact, I have found that idea makers are often void of the skills to execute their ideas effectively. This is where the ball is passed to the executors or the managers of an idea.
Executors of ideas are generally very practical people who have experience or talent tapping into resources such as money or other valuable resources. Like the adoptive mother, they are able to take the idea and raise it in the most suitable way. Meanwhile, the idea maker does what he/she does best and goes on to create new ideas!
There must be a mutual respect between idea makers and executers of ideas. Without an idea, people can't execute and without executors, an idea can't grow to its full potential.
The world that we live in tends to reward the executors of ideas while ignoring the originators of ideas. My argument is that originators need to be valued more and dishonored, taken advantage of, and stolen from less.
Have you ever known someone full of ideas that you benefited from? Would you consider yourself an originator of ideas or an executor of ideas? What have been your traditional thoughts toward each? Which one is more important in your opinion? Do you think that it's OK to steal an idea because, after all, you are the one who can execute it? Have you given credit to the idea makers of projects you've executed? What are your thoughts on stealing an idea? Is it OK or is it wrong?
"If one person furnishes all of the ideas to make an invention and another employs him or furnishes the money for building and testing the invention, should the patent application be filed by them jointly?"
No. The application must be signed by the true inventor, and filed in the Patent and Trademark Office, in the inventor's name. This is the person who furnishes the ideas, not the employer or the person who furnishes the money." (2)
"Increasingly, people understand the value of invisible assets in their organizations. It has become the holy grail of the accounting world. The value of an organization can no longer be based on facts and events as before, but needs to take account of intangibles, invisible assets and added value. These are hard to imitate and are powerful sources of sustainable competitive advantage." (3)
The way that I see it, the monetary value of an idea is easy to determine. The equation would be this:
compounded assets gained minus
execution costs (materials, labor, marketing, etc…) equals
the value of an idea (to be credited to the idea maker)
CAG – EC = VI
©2007 Angela K. Mack. All rights reserved.
Angie Mack Reilly is a musical director, performing artist, blues educator and writer who has a wealth of experience and connections in the arts and entertainment industry. More