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How To Vet Clever Ideas Without Giving Them Away? 539

Posted by timothy
from the don't-clever-ideas-want-to-be-free? dept.
Rival writes "As an inquisitive and creative geek, I am constantly coming up with 'clever' ideas. Most often I discover fundamental or practical flaws lurking in the details, which I'm fine with. As Edison said, 'I haven't failed; I've found 10,000 ways that don't work.' Other times, I discover that someone else has beaten me to the idea. I'm fine with that, too. At least I know that I've come up with a great idea, even if I'm not the first. There are times, however, when I can find no flaws with an idea and nobody else seems to have thought of it. I'm not conceited enough to think my idea is genius; I just assume that I'm not knowledgeable enough to see what I'm missing. In these times, I often want to ask a subject matter expert for their thoughts. On the admittedly long chance that an idea is genius, however, what is the best way to ask for another's insights while mitigating the risk of them stealing or sharing the idea? Asking a stranger to sign a contract before discussing an idea seems like a good way to get a door closed on my face. What are your experiences and suggestions?"
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How To Vet Clever Ideas Without Giving Them Away?

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  • by alain94040 (785132) * on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:00PM (#28800869) Homepage

    Ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is confronting your idea with real world feedback and you'll be astonished by the results (read this for more on keeping your idea confidential: the great startup idea that I can't reveal yet [fairsoftware.net]).

    Guy Kawasaki gave one really good suggestion to test your idea: convince a woman. It sounds stupid and insulting, but what he really means is that it's too easy for geeks and tech lovers to fall in love with a geeky idea. Presumably, women are more grounded and will tell you why your idea is not practical.

    Finally, regarding confidentiality: don't worry about it so much

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:07PM (#28800951) Journal

      Guy Kawasaki gave one really good suggestion to test your idea: convince a woman

      Dude, the guy is asking his question on Slashdot. The odds that he knows any women or has the guts to talk to them if he does are slim to none.

      Now if you'll excuse me, the microwave upstairs just beeped. My hotpockets are done!

      • by cbeley (1071560) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:24PM (#28801147) Homepage

        Guy Kawasaki gave one really good suggestion to test your idea: convince a woman

        Dude, the guy is asking his question on Slashdot. The odds that he knows any women or has the guts to talk to them if he does are slim to none.

        Now if you'll excuse me, the microwave upstairs just beeped. My hotpockets are done!

        Why does it worry me that that was modded +5 INFORMATIVE!

        >_>

      • by mcrbids (148650)

        Dude, the guy is asking his question on Slashdot. The odds that he knows any women or has the guts to talk to them if he does are slim to none. ... which further underscores the original point - to be successful, you have to make your idea relatively popular in the target audience. If you are so socially backward that you can't confidently discuss your idea with a chix, you really should just go take a Dale Carnegie communication course or something.

        In any event, people who are convinced that they have to

      • Dude, you're not a Slashdot geek... your microwave isn't in the same room as your PC. You mean you have to walk to another room on another floor in order to get yer grub?! Who can live with that sorta distraction?

        • Microwaves can provide interference with wireless devices that are intended to connect to your PC :).

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:36PM (#28801869)

          your microwave isn't in the same room as your PC

          Mom said no microwave in the basement, and that's that!

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          I thought it was pretty obvious that the microwave is in his mother's kitchen.

      • by Alarindris (1253418) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:47PM (#28801369)
        Your mom doesn't bring them to you?
      • Dude, the guy is asking his question on Slashdot. The odds that he knows any women or has the guts to talk to them if he does are slim to none.

        Which makes it the perfect filter method. All the mundane and even good ideas will fall by the wayside, while only the great or truly exceptional ideas motivate him enough to try.

      • by samcan (1349105) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @08:40PM (#28802383)

        Uhhhh, why would you cook your pockets?!

        And speaking of not having girlfriends, I've got this great money-saving idea: wash the whites and colored laundry together. Saves a lot of money. Can't figure out why girls haven't caught on.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:16PM (#28801075)

      Exactly. One of the worst traps you can fall into in professional life is to believe ideas have worth. Sorry, but they are almost worthless. Even a good implementation is borderline worthless without the proper business processes including marketing and advertising.

      I've never heard of a uber-secretive guy making it big in the business world. The "I have a genius idea, but dont trust anyone" is the sign of an amateur and/or someone too lazy to learn to code. There's no shortage of people out there who just know their iphone idea will make them a millionare. Its a delusional and self-serving belief.

      The guy who does make it is the one who learns how to implement it or at least is trusting enough to hire a real pro without a draconian NDA to do it. This person also understands the business processes needed to promote and support the product.

      • by slazzy (864185)
        I've never heard of a uber-secretive guy making it big in the business world

        It's happened - you just don't hear about it :)
      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:42PM (#28801337)
        Lots of "uber-secretive" people and companies have made it in the business world. Microsoft, Apple, Edison... not even the tip of the iceberg.

        As for ideas being nearly worthless, you are just plain wrong. Ask the guy who invented the burp-tank for radiators in automobiles. He knew it was a good idea. He applied for a patent. And he took it to EVERY major automobile supplier in the world, trying to sell it. Every one of them turned him down.

        And, the very next model year, every one of those manufacturers were putting burp tanks on their radiators.

        And by the year after that, the inventor had sued 7 companies, won 7 times (for an average of $1,000,000 in each case), and had 12 more suits pending...

        All over one idea. Oh, ideas can be very powerful indeed. His problem was in being in a hurry, going to all those companies, and thereby giving his idea away. Sure, he won many millions in lawsuits, but lots of that went to his attorney(s). He could have made even more in the long run simply by being patient and -- eventually -- making sales.
        • by mdwh2 (535323) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:10PM (#28801603) Journal

          Most inventions are not simply "ideas". I do not know what a burp-tank is (and Googling doesn't seem to help) - was it a case of someone saying one day, "I know, let's put a burp-tank into cars"?

          Consider, it's a bit like me saying "I know, I'll invent a time-machine". And then not having a clue how to do it. Ideas are cheap, it's actualling managing to do it - to solve the problems in the way and so on - that counts.

          Now yes, to be pedantic the process of solving problems involves lots of little "ideas" along the way, but I'm not sure that this is what is being discussed here - a single "idea" on its own is still pretty much worthless.

          Having said that, yes I do concede that ideas can be worth something, but that's only a result of our patent system. Just because we have a broken patent system that awards people millions just for thinking something first, and then allows them to prevent others from doing so, doesn't mean that those ideas are inherently worth something. Indeed, the fact that they have to be propped up by an artificial legal system of patents suggests that ideas are alone aren't worth much at all.

        • by B'Trey (111263) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:11PM (#28801611)

          What brilliant ideas did Microsoft or Apple have? Microsoft was more lucky than anything else, and used mostly someone else's code to succeed. Apple didn't do anything there weren't dozens of other people trying to do. They just did it better. It was execution and implementation, not brilliant ideas. Edison might have had a few brilliant ideas but most of what he's known for weren't his ideas. He didn't invent the light bulb. In fact, he bought the patents from others who'd been there before him but weren't able to make it practical. See here. [wikipedia.org] He created the first commercially practical lightbulb, and he did it based upon thousands of hours of trial and effort. Many of his other inventions have similar histories. It isn't some brilliant idea that leads to success. It's implementation.

          As for the inventor of the burp-tank, several minutes of Googling turned up absolutely nothing. Unless you can provide some evidence, I'll assume that it's apocryphal.

          • by KingMotley (944240) * on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:53PM (#28802011) Journal

            A burp tank you probably know as the "overflow tank", or "coolant reservoir".

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            I've just been reading an Edison biography, and it depends on what you mean by "idea". Alexander Bell made the first telephone (he didn't really have the "idea" for it, because lots of people thought it would be cool to transmit voice by wires, although they didn't see any commercial application for it - and they didn't make it work). But, hearing of this idea, Edison (and many others) began to try to improve it, particularly for longer distances (which limited Bell's version), by creating a microphone tha

      • by Swampash (1131503) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @10:53PM (#28803129)

        I am constantly coming up with 'clever' ideas. Most often I discover fundamental or practical flaws lurking in the details, which I'm fine with. As Edison said, 'I haven't failed; I've found 10,000 ways that don't work.'

        I recall reading a quote of Nikola Tesla about Edison, something like "Edison wasted so much time and effort when he could have done it right on the first attempt if he just learned a bit of science".

        I'm not sure if Edison is any sort of role model.

      • by digitaltraveller (167469) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @11:52PM (#28803433) Homepage

        Im the founder/ceo of a funded tech startup.
        Let me share some advice I learned the hard way:

        Share your great ideas promiscuously as possible to attract collaborators, even in highly specialised science and engineering fields.
        Otherwise your ideas will never gain traction and actually happen, and you will always be a dreamer.

        In the unlikely event that someone steals your idea, take it as a compliment and move on to the next great idea.
        Great ideas are easy to come up with. It's the execution that's the tough part. Startups are 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

        Unless only 1-2 people in the world understand what your talking about, pretty much anything you communicate verbally is not going to have
        much value to a competitor.The vast majority of the time secrecy is extremely toxic and harmful to getting an idea off the ground.

    • by tobiah (308208) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:22PM (#28801137)
      If he understands and digs it, it's been done or is fatally flawed. If he stares at you blankly, maybe you're on to something. Best part: he's guaranteed not to accurately disclose or competently act on your idea!
    • Don't worry about it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by neapolitan (1100101) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:25PM (#28801163)

      Exactly. People overvalue the concept of "idea" and undervalue the concept of aggressive business positioning, development, marketing, capital, and a lot of, well, work.

      I was at Harvard when facebook was "born." I was persistently skeptical about the whole thing, as the concept was not new *at all*, and friendster was reigning supreme, which I kind of thought was a silly fad. I was subsequently astounded over the years how facebook has taken off. (I am still astounded.) But, had the founders listened to me, or saw that their idea was "taken," it would have gone nowhere.

      That being said, I wouldn't give a highly established potential competitor research data that you have gotten to get your idea off the ground. Despite my words, I also hold a few patents, but these are mostly defensive positioning and required by my corporation.

      Nebulous "ideas" have an insignificant chance of being "thought of" already. What you need to do is get honest feedback about the barriers to implementation, then just go and do it!

      • by mdwh2 (535323) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:18PM (#28801675) Journal

        Facebook is a good example - if someone travelled back in time and gave me the idea of Facebook 10 years ago, would I now be a billionaire? Unlikely. Firstly I've got to write the damn thing - even if it's within my skills, I may simply not be bothered to, and for many people, it would be beyond them. But on top of that, there's all sorts of factors, such as the details of the implementation, as well as marketing, as you say.

        The most obvious point is that the idea of social networking wasn't new when Facebook appeared - it'd been around for years. There've been loads of less successful sites before Facebook, so the idea alone is pretty much worthless.

        On a related note, this is what irks me about the "million dollar website" story - the story is spread as if the idea alone is what made him a million, and it's a tale that people love to tell, as it props up the myth that an ordinary person can make a million, just so long as he has the right idea one day. But you never hear the real story of how that website became a success - how it was advertised, how it was picked up by the media who gave him free advertising, whether it was skillful marketing or just luck. We've all had these "get rich quick" ideas - whether they succeed or fail is often little to do with the idea itself. There are many other factors.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Adm.Wiggin (759767)
          What really bothers me about the whole "Facebook" story is this:
          When I joined Facebook, I liked the simplicity. They had taken a page from Google's book, and created a really simplistic, intuitive interface. No real user-configurable colors, or other silly things that are rampant on MySpace, and just make its already hideous design look worse. Then they got popular, and started to emulate MySpace more and more. MySpace would then copy elements of Facebook, and they've been going back and forth ever sin
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by plus10db (765395)
      Convincing Kawasaki would be a better test. The well grounded sort are seldom visionary and a truly new idea will require more salesmanship than the average techie can muster. I completely disagree with the "don't worry about confidentiality" sentiment. Reputable professionals will sign an NDA and maybe even your friends should. Patents have been 'lost' by the determination that the information had been discussed in the 'public domain'.
  • by JDSalinger (911918) * on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:01PM (#28800877)
    What ideas did you have? This will help us make suggestions.
  • Just ask Rands (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cnvandev (1538055)
    Give them a FriendDA [friendda.org]?
  • NDA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@uberm00. n e t> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:04PM (#28800917) Homepage Journal

    You're looking for a non-disclosure agreement [wikipedia.org]. No method other than a contract has force of law behind it. That is, if you're using an untrusted stranger in the first place. There's something to be said for asking friends, even if they may not be giving you a completely unbiased opinion.

    In other news, you do come across as kinda arrogant here ("as an inquitive and creative geek..."). Everyone has ideas. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Even an NDA can be misused. A good coder or whoever he is trying to hire may not want to sign an NDA that ties his hands. Joe Wannabe Entrepreneur's NDA that includes "Not to work on any social networking apps for at least 18 months" will be laughed out of the room. He'll end up with a lousy coder or student and have a lackluster product that will fail in the market.

      • Yes, because in this vast world there is only the singular good coder and everyone else is lousy or a student.

        • GP's point was that no one with opportunities (which are the desirable people) will sign an overly broad NDA. I tend to agree.

    • Re:NDA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mdwh2 (535323) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:25PM (#28801747) Journal

      I agree that an NDA is the right tool here.

      But the problem is, who would be willing to sign one, unless there's something in it for them? They're the ones offering their advice, yet they get nothing in return - they can't use the idea, after all. Worse, even if they honestly had the idea, or a similar one, if they ever use it, they're now at risk of being sued.

      I've (anecdotally) heard this with companies, when people send in demos/etc - the story goes that a lot of the time, they chuck them in bin. The last thing they want is being sued, because some random guy claims that their new product is similar to some idea that he sent in...

      The OP said "Asking a stranger to sign a contract before discussing an idea seems like a good way to get a door closed on my face." and I think basically he's right. People are only going to sign an NDA if they're actually going to be working with you to deliver a product.

  • Act On It (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hondo77 (324058) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:04PM (#28800919) Homepage
    Got an idea for a better mousetrap? Build it and see if it really is better. Talk is cheap and action speaks louder than words.
  • and have the expert vet that element. You said yourself you think details are what you're missing; you have to hypothesize what details are missing or wrong and ask the expert to vet the hypothetical.
  • by lordsid (629982) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:09PM (#28800985)

    Talk to people you trust. It's just that simple. Use your friends and family as a "soundboard" for your idea. They will see the holes you did not.

    I wouldn't expect anyone to ever sign an NDA without knowing what they are getting into. I don't recall the article, but it basically said any company who signs an NDA like that is opening themselves to liability. That's why most will not even discuss ideas so that you cannot later take them to court for stealing your idea. If you want to discuss an idea and they already have 2 years of research into the exact same thing they are opening themselves to the liability of a lawsuit from you. The same apparently goes for music companies.

    Once you are sure you have a good idea run with it and don't stop until its too late. Anything else and you are setting yourself up for failure.

    • Friends and family are not much use for this. Either they are not in your target market (your mum doesn't need a new type of development tool), or they'll praise you because they think you're worth encouraging. Chances of you getting worthwhile feedback on an idea are slim.

      You're right n the NDA thing. I wouldn't sign an NDA unless I already knew I had a contract with the person asking me to sign it. There's no chance of me signing an NDA to hear an idea.

      Here's the thing, almost nobody makes money out o

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mysidia (191772)

      You shouldn't expect to get a NDA for nothing. Pay them some $$$ as a 'review' fee to discuss the idea with you, and the NDA is built into your agreement with them.

  • That way you can sell people with clip art, flying headlines, and indecipherable diagrams that will cause people to want what you've got, but have no clue what it is and how it can help them!
  • Just implement the idea and sell it. The market will give you a pretty good indication of the idea's worthiness.

    • by idontgno (624372)
      And the patent infringement suit you receive is a surefire indication that you weren't the first one with that particular idea.
      • Software isn't patentable.

        Oh, sorry if you live in America. I didn't mean to be an insensitive clod.

  • It's easy! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wahmuk (163299) <<wahmuk> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:10PM (#28801003)
    Most of your geekiest friends are intelligent people who can tear your idea apart and find the flaws, true enough. Just identify the geeks whose ideas you'll trust, but are far too unmotivated to take your idea and run with it. With a little research (you've been playing videogames with these guys at LAN parties for years, so you know who their friends are), you can make sure that you only show your idea to the most brilliant intellectually, but hopelessly inept socially. They'll never get it off the ground! And all for the price of a cup of coffee or a pizza! Win/win!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      The downside is, us geeks are more impressed with specs than actual usefulness. Most of us wouldn't hesitate to buy a huge beige box for $500 with 6 gigs of DDR3 RAM and a Core i7 CPU with a great graphics card. On the other hand, if you were trying to sell that to an ordinary person they would complain about the aesthetics.
  • Well, whenever this awesome inventor named Shampoo [slashdot.org] throws me a big fat random juicy idea in any e-mail, he just ends it with this simple disclaimer:

    Everything that I have invented is just in thought and is not produced for lack of money. These inventions are property of myself and are to be patented, copyrighted and trademarked under my name: Shampoo.

    So just remind everyone constantly that your idea was invented by Rival and should be patented and trademarked and copyrighted under your name: Rival. It's that easy.

  • Acquire a Men In Black mind eraser.

  • in book margins, and add that the space is not enough for explain yourself fully. Worked for Fermat for 400 years.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:15PM (#28801063) Homepage

    What I do is I pitch a modified version of the idea where several key components are blatantly impossible, stupid, and possibly illegal. Then I pitch it to my friendly neighborhood geek and ask for his advice. They'll start ranting about how retarded my idea is, but I'll keep goading them and say "Okay, but imagine if we could fix that, what else do you think?" Knowing how geeks are amenable to abstract hypotheticals, and love to refute things in a thorough point-by-point fashion, they'll keep going on and on about the rest of the design too. I'll pretend to take notes the whole time, but in actuality I'm just seeing what they say about the real parts of the design. But when I depart, they're left with the overall impression that my idea was retarded and useless. I get my feedback, and they're none the wiser!

    Anyway, that irrelevant nonsense aside, I'm busy working on a high performance V-8 hemi engine powered by babies. I'm having some troubles with the baby pump getting clogged by babies, and also my valve timing equations could use some tweaking. Any automotive engineers want to help me out with some constructive criticism and proprietary engine timings? Thanks!

    • Anyway, that irrelevant nonsense aside, I'm busy working on a high performance V-8 hemi engine powered by babies. I'm having some troubles with the baby pump getting clogged by babies, and also my valve timing equations could use some tweaking. Any automotive engineers want to help me out with some constructive criticism and proprietary engine timings? Thanks!

      That's ridiculous. If you're creating it, it's not a hemi!

    • by vandelais (164490)

      You could use synthetic babies as they have lower viscosity. Excuse me while I incorporate my synthetic baby startup and patent my business model. You can be employee #1, but I get to be employee #0. Anybody got the Pepsi CEO's phone number? I need to ask him if he's a virgin.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:38PM (#28801291) Journal

      Anyway, that irrelevant nonsense aside, I'm busy working on a high performance V-8 hemi engine powered by babies. I'm having some troubles with the baby pump getting clogged by babies ...

      That's absurd, everyone knows that kittens have a higher Joule per liter ratio than babies. Do you know what the incubation time on a baby is? Nine months! Compare that to the three months tops on a kitten. And you only get one or two babies per baby producing mother. Kittens come in litters, litters equal more fuel. Burning babies in an engine!? What a preposterous idea!

      You obviously haven't thought this out! Now if you can get your hands on some panda babies or endangered snow leopard, then you'd be in business!

  • by basementman (1475159) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:15PM (#28801065) Homepage

    Ideas are worth absolutely zilch. Any of the 6 billion people on earth can come up with your idea, and probably have. What is valuable is the execution of ideas.

    So my advice is to pick one idea that you like and execute on it. You'll probably find out your idea wasn't that good after all and fail. Do this another 10 times or so and you'll finally get one idea that works. Stick with that one. Good luck.

    • I dunno, winged airplane flight via lift was a pretty damned good idea circa 1903, even though the initial execution was awful. Just because there are 6 billion people doesn't mean that every idea has been thought of already. To argue that, you'd have to prove when the last idea was formed, and of course that's impossible. In fact, the opposite is true -- there are infinitely more ideas yet to be thought up than have been thought up to this point in the history of mankind. Try one idea, or a bunch of id

  • You say you come up with a lot of ideas, but what exactly are the ideas for?

    For example, I'm a marketing person at my day job, I think of new ways for our office to promote our listings and so I send out these ideas, after some testing and Q&A with my graphics and research departments, in monthly installments to everyone. No harm in anyone taking my idea and claiming it as their own as it ultimately wouldn't matter because any successful idea potentially helps generate revenue for our office and thus ke

  • Friends? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:17PM (#28801079) Journal

    You know those people you know you can trust...

    When you say "Don't tell anyone about my great idea..." and they DON'T?

    Yeah those are great people to talk to.

  • really, that's what patents are for, people who think their "linked list" idea is so genius nobody else thought about it and they need to protect it from the evil programmers (who make a living out of coming out with stuff like that every day) who want to steal it.

    • Uh patents cost a lot of money, if one has 10,000 ideas, it is impossible to patent them all.

      Better to figure out which ones are rational and reasonable and could work in the real world and then patent those ideas that are doable. Only way to figure that out is to talk to someone else about it first. Coming up with ideas is called brainstorming and usually you need other people to add in their advise to see if it makes sense to them.

      Lawyers and non-discloser agreements are usually used in these matters.

  • by aussersterne (212916) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:19PM (#28801101) Homepage
    Don't worry about someone "stealing" your ideas. They don't make money by stealing ideas, they make money by funding other peoples' ideas. A lot of money. They don't need to steal anyone's ideas. If you keep it to yourself, they will be perfectly happy to fund two dozen other people who share their ideas, and to make a killing doing it.

    Nobody is that interested in ideas; ideas don't make all that much money, believe it or not. Execution makes the money. If it's a good idea, lots of people will be happy to pay you a comparatively small amount (that well may seem huge to you) for the privilege of bringing it to market. They don't steal ideas; that would be killing off the golden goose. Venture capital and other similar interests don't want the ideas to stop coming to them, which is what would happen if they actually stole ideas.

    Same thing with publishing and creative works. When I was younger and working on my first books, I was very wary of publishers. I hated to discuss a manuscript. Everything I sent was plastered with copyright notices and I would be sure to send myself a sealed certified copy first with a postmark date on it and then file it away in a safe deposit box. I was that sure that my prose was precious.

    Now I have the better part of a dozen books on the market and I've been through the process a few times and I know much better. The publisher isn't interested in what's in your book. They're not impressed. They've seen tens of thousands of manuscripts. It's no crown jewel to them, no matter how good it is. They just want to know whether or not they can sell it. If they can, they're perfectly happy to pay you the royalty and rake in the dough.

    Ideas people often make the mistake of thinking that we live in a world of ideas, in which ideas are precious and he who has them rules. In fact, we live in a world of employees and middlemen, most of whom are perfectly uninterested in ideas. With or without your idea, they'll continue on their merry way to be successful by paying for ideas from someone and turning them into products.

    If you don't get over your fear, what will happen is that they'll continue to make money, continue to pay other people for their ideas, and you'll continue to have nothing but your great ideas that nobody knows about. Just put them out there. Talk about them as much as you can. That's the way that you broaden your network of contacts, potential funders, and potential buyers to the maximum extent possible.
  • For instance:

    I have this awesome idea that does this thing with this do-hickey which lets everyone do stuff in original and clever ways. Like when you're doing that thing and it wont do this thing, you know? That's where this thing really shines!

    • by Dunbal (464142)

      Dear Sir Taco,

            We were so impressed with your patent description that our firm, Patent Trolls Inc, would like to offer you a position in our patent submission department.

  • Don't worry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:22PM (#28801135) Journal

    "Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken

    Irony Can Be So Ironic (Massachusetts Edition)

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:23PM (#28801143) Homepage

    $100, no lawyer needed.

    • It's not that simple. Be aware that when you file a provisional patent, you have one year to file a full patent application in order to get the earlier filing date of the provisional patent. Moreover, if the invention is in use or one sale during the one-year period after the provisional filing but before the non-provisional filing, you may lose the right to ever patent that subject matter.

      Furthermore, the provisional patent has to enable the inventions claimed in the following non-provisional filing. This is very important. You can't file a jumbled provisional app then claim everything later on.

      Be really careful of the in use or on sale bar.

  • A friend of my brother's actually set up a private social network precisely for the purpose of batting around ideas. Each member contributes a number of ideas each month, and the members discuss it, pointing out flaws or opportunities. The ideas may be business ideas or invention ideas or ideas for writing a book.

    One of the conditions of joining the club is that each member agree that any idea belongs with its originator, and that nobody commercialize anyone else's idea without prior permission. I don
  • You'll need to pay people to drag it away.

  • I can find out if my tyres filled with a non-newtonian fluid and little ladders for moths to climb out of the bathtub with will be successful!
  • My experience has been that sharing the ideas creates contacts and opportunities which keep me employed at work I love and, last week, sent me all expenses paid to Hawaii where on the Big Island I did off-road driving like a maniac in a rented Jeep through lava deserts to beautiful deserted beaches.

    You are, as you put it, "constantly coming up with clever ideas." Don't worry about it if someone swipes one of them. Sooner or later, entrepreneurial folks who you become acquainted with notice that you're an id

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:34PM (#28801243)

    On the admittedly long chance that an idea is genius, however, what is the best way to ask for another's insights while mitigating the risk of them stealing or sharing the idea?

    Here's how: tell them your idea. Nobody is going to bother to "steal" your idea until you have already taken the risk and expense. People aren't cruising around looking for ideas to steal. Think about it: have you ever heard, even second-hand, of anyone doing that? Have you ever thought of doing that (forget whether or not you'd do it; have you ever even considered it)?

    What good idea-stealers do, is watch to see who makes what work, and then imitate. You won't be imitated until after you succeed.

  • If your invention is the "flashy thingy" from Men In Black, then I think you've solved your own problem.

  • You either trust the person not to steal your idea, or you need to get him to sign documents. There is no other way. I am going to give a shameless plug to an article I wrote regarding trade secrets. [jakubowitzchuang.com]

    The basic idea is that if you want to protect a trade secret, you should keep it secret. Even if you trust the guy giving you advice, a third party who misappropriates your trade secret may claim that it wasn't confidential if you let this other guy read it without a confidentiality agreement. In fact, that's pr

  • by Rix (54095) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:39PM (#28801301)

    If you want people to sign contracts, pay them.

    If their advice isn't worth paying for, it's not really worth having anyway.

  • It was a "Jump to Conclusions" mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor... and it would have different CONCLUSIONS written on it that you could JUMP TO.
  • I read an very truthful-sounding (as well as depressingly down-to-earth) advice on new ideas that goes like this: "Don't worry if anyone will steal your ideas... if they're any good you'll have a hard time showing them down people's throats anyway."

    The point is - ideas are a dime a dozen. If the idea needs some help to succeed - money, resources, people, etc. - which you don't have, there is very slim chance that some friend you tell it to will have them. If, and this is the really long shot - you ever come

  • It seems like you're concerned about whether or not your idea is justified or desired. Sometimes people don't know they need something until it's put in front of their face, and they instantly realize what they've been missing, and generally say the phrase, "I can't believe I've gone so long without this thing!" Those kind of ideas are what you'd need to discuss with the average person, if even a friend you can trust.

    My problem isn't for want of justification of the idea, I just don't know how to go abou
  • Everybody has "bright" ideas. Most of them turn out to be dumb, impractical, already known or based on a knowledge gap or misapprehension.

    The few useful and sound ideas that people have are probably re-invented a thousand times a year across the world. What makes the difference between "genius" and forgotten is whether the person who thinks of it (again) has the ability, resources and interest to follow through and make a success of it. It's not the idea itself, but how you progress it that is the differe

  • I've had a couple of ideas in my life that were very similar to several very successful start-ups at a similar point in time as their founders did (as I imagine several hundred thousand people did) and I have learned that most of the world is quick to find fault with original ideas and offers little advice on how to overcome those problems.

    My suggestion would be to refine your idea into the simplest form possible and create a prototype to show to people, and then use their feedback to improve your idea. Rea

  • Present your idea as clearly as you can. You have nothing to lose.

    then kill the person and hide the body.

    Now that I've told you all, step a little closer to the screen, please...

  • by Jeff Carr (684298) <slashdot,com&jeffcarr,info> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:00PM (#28801507) Homepage
    Ask a lazy person, or even better, a serial procrastinator. They may want to steal your idea, but will never get around to it.
  • by Syniurge (1550185) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @09:42PM (#28802771)

    There are times, however, when I can find no flaws with an idea and nobody else seems to have thought of it.

    You haven't made too explicit queries on Google for that, do you ?

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday July 24, 2009 @12:21PM (#28808417) Homepage Journal

    If you are the kind of person who has lots of good ideas, there's plenty more where they came from. I'd only worry about this if you'd sunk investment into making the idea real, e.g. if you have a company that's about to release a product.

    I've given away ideas, really *good* ideas, and never lost a wink of sleep over it.

    Once I was chatting with a software entrepreneur I knew about a software product he wanted to develop for the military. He'd had some success demonstrating the product deployed on a small scale, but the system concept wasn't practically scalable to large deployments. After hashing over the various approaches he'd tried, I drove home and as I did I had an epiphany. I realized how to make the product dramatically simpler to use on a large scale. I sent him an e-mail, and he went out and hired a math PhD and a couple of developers to make my idea work.

    I never received a cent; I never asked for one. He did all the hard stuff. He made the business contacts, he wrote the proposals, hired the staff, everything. He put up his own money too. I just had a nice half hour chat and spent about ten minutes writing an email.

    If I thought I only had a limited number of ideas like that in me, I'd worry about getting paid for a valuable idea like that. But I don't. The more ideas you discuss, the more you create. If you hole yourself up in your garage, you'll end up spending your time on useless ideas. This is heresy, but ideas really aren't worth much on their own. I've been in the tech business, and I've seen this is true. People who have lots of "clever ideas" have more than they can use. They get in the way. When they get a pot of money for idea A, you have to be careful they don't spend it on B. What you really need is money, time, discipline, contacts, technical skill -- a host of other things that are nearly impossibly hard to put together. Once you're able to do that, *ideas* looking for implementors aren't hard to find.

    When you consider this, you'll see the idea that sensible people might want to steal ideas is naive. If the idea is easy to steal, it's not worth much in itself. If it's worth much in itself, it probably takes a lot of other stuff before you'll see any money out of it.

    This gets to the nature of creativity. Ideas are like darts thrown into the wall. You can say, "Gee that's an interesting place for a dart to land," but that's not the same as being able to throw a dart into a bullseye not of your choosing. Really good ideas come from superior insights into the problem domain. When you pitch an idea to somebody, it should be clear that this idea comes from an unique understanding of the problem. That naturally makes you the best person imaginable to lead the conversion of the idea into reality.

    Of course, if you think somebody is talking to you under false pretenses, you should cut off right there, but it is a rare, rare idea about which somebody could reasonably say, "Gee, I could make a lot of money at this by doing it myself, and I'd be better off doing that than working with the guy who had it." If you do have one of those one in a million lifetime ideas, then you ought to be talking to a patent attorney. But I can almost guarantee that none of your ideas are as valuable without you as they are with you. Very few ideas can be turned into money without solving many related problems which you have unique insight into. In that unlikely event, you should just *do it*, you should just create this amazing, money making, easy to implement thing. And of course get an attorney.

    Mainly, I think you should concentrate on making your ideas a reality. If you do that, you'll probably make a living. Make enough money for other people, and you'll be in a position to make more money for yourself. If you want to get rich off your ideas, then be prepared to do a lot of the boring work it takes to make that happen. If you don't want to do that work, then prepared for other people to make money "off your ideas".

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