Shhh, don’t tell anyone!
Why you should stop protecting your ideas if you want them to succeed
Ihadn’t seen Dean in over a year but he looked like he had aged 10 years since we last met. There was none of the jovial banter that he was famous for. Instead, my greeting was met with a grunt and a slight nod of his head. “What’s the matter?” I asked, genuinely concerned about what had happened to my friend to cause such a marked deterioration in his demeanour.
“I’ve lost everything” he lamented. “The house, the car, the wife – everything.” Then he pulled out a strangelooking nappy of sorts. Soft padding lined the inside of the nappy, and a round black gadget stuck out over the top of the elastic fastener. “That’s the alarm” Dean pointed out. “When the baby makes a number two, it reacts with chemical sensors in the padding, and that triggers the alarm, which alerts the mother that the baby needs a change. It’s called the TurdAlert. They sell for R20 each.”
“Wow, that’s quite an engineering feat,” I mused, “but aren’t you over-complicating things? And anyway, is that really a problem for mothers? Surely the bad smell alerts mothers that their babies need to be changed? Plus I don’t think people would pay 10 times the price of a normal nappy for that feature.” I paused while I imagined how the invention would be used in practice. “On top of that” I chuckled, “does a mother really want an alarm going off to let everyone in the nearby vicinity know that her little darling has just soiled herself?”
“You’re spot on” moaned Dean, looking even more dejected than before. “I thought it was a brilliant idea but apparently no-one else does. I’ve got 10 000 of these crammed into every corner of my house, and I can’t even sell one of them! I wish I had spoken to you a year ago.”
Funny thing is that I did speak to Dean a year ago. I remembered the conversation well. I had asked him what he was working on and he had told me that it was a secret. “If I told you I’d have to kill you” he joked. “But I can tell you it’s going to change the baby care industry.”