I loved Michael Connelly’s book of the same name, and over the past year I’ve come to realize that many first-time individual inventors live in a state of fear. It’s taken me a while to recognize the signs, but one or more fears are present when an inventor lives in a State of Fear. Inventors arrive at a State of Fear shortly after the The Moment of Conception (they have the Eureka moment -- A ha! I have invented the greatest thing since sliced bread).
State of Fear 1: this is SUCH a good idea, if I tell it to anyone, they will run with it and steal it from me. And I won’t get anything.
State of Fear 2: this idea defines me and is directly related to my self-esteem. I thought of this idea, it’s a great idea, therefore I’m great. Subconsciously this creates a fear of telling anyone about the idea as to share the idea might result in a negative or indifferent reaction from others. And this would negatively impact the inventor’s self-esteem -- better to keep it to himself/herself so that it is treasured, hidden knowledge.
State of Fear 3: this is my ticket to the big-time -- I’ll never have an idea this good again, and I can’t screw this up. This fear can be the most debilitating of all as it creates a self-paralysis where fear of action breeds inaction.
When I have the opportunity to talk with inventors who are in a State of Fear, I try to put myself in their shoes. It’s easy to get frustrated with someone who is in a State of Fear, but I try very hard to realize that their fear is real to them -- as real as someone who’s afraid of heights or afraid to fly.
The good news is that in my experience, individual inventors are a rationale lot, and they can be walked through the logic train of why they need to overcome their fears and take the first steps towards commercializing their product. Here are a few first steps towards overcoming the State of Fear:
Recognize that 99.999% of the people you willingly disclose your invention to won’t steal it and run with it if you know who they are or you’ve done your homework on them and know they have integrity. If they’re willing to listen, they probably want to help in some way. Stay at a slightly elevated level of disclosure, and share with the intent of getting feedback so you can make your invention even better or find someone to work with you on it. I’m unaware of anyone getting it exactly right the first time -- inventing is a messy, iterative process with a lot of re-work, and critical feedback is always helpful.
If your invention is so simple and so easy to copy that a couple hundred words or a 2-minute discussion gives the reader/listener all they need to "steal your invention" then you probably haven’t invented anything. The really simple inventions are easy to design around and are likely already on the market somewhere; it’s the simple IDEAS that are difficult inventions that are the big money makers.
Finally, get moving! Imagine you’re in a race with (tens of) millions of people all trying to create new products. The odds that a thought occurred to you today, and won’t occur to someone else in the near future, is low. Scary low. Get off the dime and start working hard on the idea -- find a partner like us at EIP or work with a local inventor club or whomever. But get crackin’ or someone is going to come up with the same idea and you’ll see it on the store shelves. And no one stole it, they just acted on their idea faster than you...