Shhh, don’t tell any­one!

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE -

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.”

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