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?