We had a discussion recently on sharing and creating content, and I asked the question “are you afraid to give it away?” There were some exceptional comments, but this one from Malcolm Sleath opened up a whole lot of understanding for me on what value really is in a share-economy.

I think share-economy is also the operative term, at least for now. Certainly a large portion of my work, with Like Minds and the River Dream Centre in particular (a community around a conference, and a church, respectively) is about sharing, and I feel the need to better understand what the real value is here.

I trust you’ll start thinking on Malcolm’s thoughts as much as I have. Enjoy:

Scott, I think you have put your finger on something that many people are wrestling with – but my hunch is that much of the agonising is misplaced. If people are clear about their own value, and what they value, then decisions become much more straightforward.

It comes down to understanding where your true added-value lies, understanding the value in sharing, and sharing on the basis of enlightened self-interest and personal values.

1 Understand where your true added-value lies.

For me, the first step in resolving the sharing dilemma was to understand where my true value-added lay. This understanding came from the free exchange of ideas with other people, and the slow realisation of what made my offering different and special. For me, sharing was inseparable from realising my own value.

To those who are reluctant to share, I would say that if your idea is so good that it changes the game it’s probably going to be rejected and not stolen – ask James Dyson. Simplifying slightly, Dyson found that people were reluctant to take up his game changing idea, so he took a huge financial risk and made the idea real – suddenly the idea had value and all the money he had earlier spent on patents proved to be a good investment. As Thomas Edison said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

In my experience it is really hard to ‘give away’ my true added-value. The value is in enabling people to use my ideas, not in the idea itself. Delivering the process takes know-how, work, resources and mutual commitment.

But, to get to a level of trust where I can begin the process of gaining commitment, I need a way to engage with people, which brings me to the other aspects of sharing.

2 Understand the value in sharing.

Sharing makes it easier to earn a share of mind. My IP is not diminished by suggesting how people can do some small but important thing better in an article that I don’t even get paid for.

In reality, many of the things experts ‘give away’ are intended to educate people in the value of what they do. The other things they offer in the mix keep people interested in them as a source. If only a few people make the transition from passive consumers to active clients, they are still winning. Ideas are seeds. Nature is wasteful. In the end it doesn’t matter because we all return to the earth.

True experts know stuff they don’t even know they know – so there is no way they are going to be able to tell you everything. And anyway, you would have to have achieved a certain level of understanding to make proper use of what they are telling you.

In other words, by helping you they are not losing. They still have their competitive advantage and can afford to be generous. In sharing, they are gaining in reputation and becoming known, liked and trusted. This does not mean that others suddenly want to start sending them dollar bills. There is no place for Twitter followers in the company balance sheet. But the perceived value of their activities earns a bigger share of attention/mind, they become an authority by default, and the value of their brand is enhanced – which means that people are more prepared to pay for their advice and services.

So when I share ideas with others, I am hoping to earn a bigger share of their mind. When, in return, I give others a bigger share of my mind, I am rewarded with access to resources, contacts, ideas, inspiration, and opportunities that I simply did not know about before. My current personal example is the #likeminds club and all that flows from that.

3 Share on the basis of enlightened self-interest and personal values.

Having achieved some confidence in my value, it then becomes relatively easy to decide whether my interest lies in (a) giving away an idea to help others or for mutual benefit (b) sharing it with relatively few people for money, or (c) keeping it to myself and gloating over it.

If you want to give an idea away, then treat the satisfaction of giving as its own reward. Don’t agonise about the selfishness of other people in not giving you credit. It is very hard to predict what others will value and you will become richer emotionally and financially by learning what they do value.

If you are really worried that giving ideas away will affect your financial or commercial well-being, then consult an intellectual property lawyer.

Your Leading Thoughts

  • Read over Malcom’s points: how do you rank on each of his three points? Where are you in this journey?
  • Like a trailer is the pitch for a movie, how much do you think sharing value before the sale will increase and become a part of the game in your industry?

Archived Comments

  • annholman

    Thanks for ‘sharing’ this Scott. No pun intended. You and I both know the value in sharing and how much motivation and inspiration we get from it. This post by you proves that. Today you
    are perhaps defined by what you share not what you own. In the long run that openness, transparency and gift will be rewarded.

  • http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/ Adrian Segar

    Hi Scott!

    Twenty-five years ago, my mentor Jerry Weinberg wrote a brilliant book “The Secrets of Consulting” (still in print!) His Seventh Law of Marketing is “Give away your best ideas.”

    He wrote: “I do everything possible to encourage my clients to take over the work I’ve been doing. They usually give me direct credit, but even if they don’t, they love me for my generosity. This increases the chance they’ll give me future business, or recommend me to others.”

    While I’m quoting Jerry, his Credit Rule, “You’ll never accomplish anything if you care who gets the credit”, applies to Malcolm’s third point.

    I really like Malcolm’s framing: “sharing was inseparable from realising my own value”. When we predefine our value to others without the feedback and connection that sharing brings, we’re going to have, at best, a distorted and incomplete understanding of our true value.

    I also agree that, usually, the hard work lies in getting people to adopt good ideas rather than generate the ideas in the first place. (Is anyone really not in favor of peace in the world?)

    Malcolm has beautifully expressed three key principles for understanding our unique value and being generous with it. Thanks, Scott, for making it possible for him to share his value with us!

  • http://randelldesign.com/ Randy Dunning

    Hi Scott.

    The following doesn’t answer your questions, but these are my leading thoughts.

    Someone famous once said, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

    The way I see it there are two sides to this quote when it comes to intellectual property.

    1. The people to whom you generously give your intellectual property will be eager to give back – be it in the form of their monetary compensation, their services, or their willing referrals.

    2. When you give your ideas away (write them in a blog, share them over tea, express them in a seminar) more room is opened up in your mind and heart for fresh, new, and probably better ideas to flow in.

    In both ways giving away your IP benefits you more than anyone.

  • http://twitter.com/lisahickey lisahickey

    I have to admit, I went kicking and screaming into the “share economy”, but now that I’m immersed in it I find it truly amazing and couldn’t be happier. My biggest reason to sigh these days is that I get so many results I can’t do more sharing.

    These are my observations:

    1) I tell people that “I give my ideas away and sooner or later people tell me they want to pay me for them.” No – not the specific ideas I give away. But people see that if they could take my thinking and apply it to their business, they would have something of value. And that’s what they pay me for. More than anything else, I love the fact that I don’t have to promote myself – ever. I just solve other people’s really interesting really creative problems, all the time. And word gets around that I’m a creative problem solver.

    2) My second biggest joy is with people who, a year or so ago, stared at me blankly when I explained how social media, new media, and the share economy actually worked. And now, I can’t tell you how many come to me and say, “You know, everything you told me back then actually worked. I’m succeeding in ways I never thought possible.”

    3) A former venture capitalist that I work with, Tom Matlack, told me the secret to most of his multi-million dollar investments was simple: He figured out a way for the other person to get rich first. It is that word “first” which changed my mindset. OH. It’s not only ok if what I give away allows the other person to succeed before I do, but *that’s the way it works.* People who don’t share are worried there won’t be enough left over for them. It simply isn’t true. It’s that there isn’t enough right now. But there always seems to be enough as we all figure it out together.

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    You are what you share! Ann, that really resonates with me. Well said.


  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    I love your attitude to sharing, Lisa. :)

  • annholman

    Thanks Robin. Sometimes its the simple stuff…..

  • iancleary

    Greetings from Dublin Scott, great article. If you share good stuff people often pass on the stuff your share thus increasing your audience and potential customers. Not sharing in the first place limits your potential customer base.

  • malcolm12boxes

    Things have been a little busy around here, which is why I have only just got around to thanking you for your comment which was particularly relevant to what I am doing.

    It was item 3 that really came home to me. I’m speaking with several potential associates at the moment and considering how to set up relationships that work and deal with concerns about potential conflicts of interests and priorities. If I focus on how things are going to work out for them, the rest follows. When I used the word ‘partner’ to describe potential associates, someone who is close to me and has my interests at heart said this very morning, “Malcolm, you’ve got to remember they are working for you.”

    I know what he meant, and acknowledged his good intention, but it was your quote from Tom Matlack that was in my mind.

  • malcolm12boxes

    As you imply, when you share, people are also prompted to share. It is natural to want to reciprocate. I’ve never come across an instance where anyone who ‘stole’ my stuff actually knew what to do with it.

  • malcolm12boxes

    Thank you for the skilled way you reflected back. It helped me to understand what I was trying to say!

  • / Scott Gould

    You are what you share!

    Very nice

  • / Scott Gould

    Ann – agreed. There are long term benefits. Last night at Tags for instance, knowing all the people because I regularly share their content, and them knowing that I share their content!

  • / Scott Gould

    Adrian, thank you *so* much for this quote:

    “I do everything possible to encourage my clients to take over the work I’ve been doing. They usually give me direct credit, but even if they don’t, they love me for my generosity. This increases the chance they’ll give me future business, or recommend me to others.”

    I think that sums up what I’ve been trying to say for a while – that by sharing you increase the chance of people doing more business and referring more business because they know you have their best interests at heart and “share the pie” around.

    The quote about credit reminds me of the Harry Truman quote: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

    Thanks for sharing your insights back on this post Adrian. There is a lot of depth here, and I feel I’m only just scratching the surface!


  • http://randelldesign.com/ Randy Dunning


    I agree! Stealing IP is like stealing someone’s well-worn shoes. The size might be correct but they sure don’t “fit” well and you can’t walk very far in them without serious discomfort.

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    Hey Ann – I’m a simple guy! ;)

  • / Scott Gould

    Thanks Ian. Malcolm’s points were so good, they really helped me shift my view considerably!

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Randy

    I agree – I’ve given both away and I’ve gotten it back far more than I gave out.

    Funny how this was all in scripture 4000 years ago.. :-)


  • / Scott Gould


  • / Scott Gould

    LIsa thank you for your honest and openness!

    1. So what you give away is the trailer. The movie industry had sharing down years ago, right? They give away the best bits in the trailer, and you pay to see the narrative the makes those best bits flow together.

    You’re right – word does get around. Word of mouth is created by exceeding and disrupting expectations, so when you do that, people talk. So glad to hear how confident you are in this – it inspires me!

    2. :-)

    3. Thats a good tip for anything – serving people and helping them get the most first. Even in what I do now, I need to do this more.

    Thanks for these Lisa – hope to see you around here more :-)


  • / Scott Gould

    Very good Malcolm – in the same boat here too