Saturday, 12 February 2011

Utilizing ideas.

  This article was published in 2006 (in Danish on - to introduce the "idea-originator" as the key figure in idea utilization. 
The present understanding places the entrepreneur at centre stage, and that is very unfortunate.
To get a more thorough understanding go to the article below, or even to the main "Science History and the Future" blog.
This article though is short and easy to grasp and  can therefore be recommended as an introduction to the theme. "idea exchange and utilization".

For mature nations to survive and prosper in the global economy it is of increasing importance to develop know how and to utilize new knowledge and new ideas as efficiently as possible.
                      One should think that the “mature nations” in this situation would do everything possible to support and motivate those persons that create the bright ideas. In reality the mature nations do quite the opposite.  At present new knowledge and new ideas have no legal protection, and in the rather rare instances where the new ideas can be turned into a patent, such a patent description often provide the competitors with a good foundation for developing products that circumvent the patent. To establish a patent and to legally protect the patent rights is furthermore so costly that the “Idea originator” often has to give up when confronted with large firms breaching the patent.
                      “To get at bright idea” sounds like an easy job, but that is not the case. In order to get new ideas of such high quality that our mature nations will be able not only to survive but also to prosper from them, the “Idea originator”  through his  life, his personal and professional development must have created some unique qualities which combined makes it possible for just him to develop those unique thoughts. What turns a new idea into something special is precisely that those thoughts do not spontaneously emerge in other people’s minds or in other countries. This quality of new ideas means on the other hand that in most cases it will take quite some work by the “Idea originator” to develop and describe the new idea in such a way that it is possible for others to understand the concept of the new idea and to grasp the possibilities connected with the utilization of the idea. The more advanced the idea is the more difficult the task of describing and communicating it to others will be!
                      Everybody can understand that it was an obvious waste of time and talent that the composer Mozart had to make his living as a poor musician while his compositions were stolen as soon as they were performed, and that he as a result of this died both young and poor. Today’s composers are better legally and economically protected, but such an obvious waste of time and talent takes place everyday for today’s “Idea originators” .      
                      The present situation for today’s creators of ideas and other non physical achievements can best be understood by drawing a parallel to the situation the creators of physical goods had to face e.g. in Homeric times in Greece, or in Western Europe at the time of the Vikings. On a Viking expedition it was the custom to rob as much as possible when the Vikings had the upper hand. When meeting others of equal power the Vikings traded on e.g. a neutral beach, and when the Vikings were the inferior power they fled as fast as possible.  Culturally it was more heroic to rob than to trade! It is obvious to everybody that seen in a production and trading perspective the above was neither a dynamic nor an effective way of producing and exchanging goods. The exponential societal growth which our present day societies has experienced is the direct result of the establishment of firm rules for the production and exchange of goods, and this rules are backed by  both legal, police and military protection.
                      The exchange of ideas and other non physical achievements are never the less still on the same developmental level as were the exchange of physical goods at the time of the Vikings. The creators of ideas and other non physical achievements, the “Idea originators” have still no legal protection whatsoever and often they are robbed of their creations which the “robbers” then profit from.
                      One might think that it is of less importance to society weather it is the “Idea originator” or some business entrepreneur who profit from the idea as long as the idea is marketed and benefits society, but such a presumption is wrong. Usable ideas are not a resource which pup up ready made to the benefit of society. Naturally just as there are oil wells where the oil by itself flows to the surface, bright ideas might also emerge ready made. In the majority of cases though the oil has to be searched for and found, and brought up from the underground through much work and at high costs.  In most cases creating usable ideas also require a laborious search process, much labour and costly time and energy before such ideas are presentable to the outside world.   Remember that the emergence of new ideas require that the “Idea originator” has spare mental capacity, that is why solutions to problems often emerge when the mind is at rest or during sleep. When the ”idea germ” first has presented itself in conscious form,  spare mental capacity and personal motivation is crucial. If the person is in a state of stress the “idea germ” will just pass unnoticed, and if the person is not highly motivated, he will not bother to invest the necessary amount of time and energy in developing the “idea germ” into a thoroughly formulated solution and further to an idea that can be communicated to others. In fact there are a genius in each and every one of us, but it is our upbringing, education and approach to life which either furthers or hampers our ability to be creative in a useful way!
                      As it is the case in nearly all other areas of society the most motivating factor for an individual is to be paid for his achievements. Is the “Idea originator” not properly paid and are there too many hindrances then the “idea germ” will never be developed.
                      The Vikings naturally found their way of robbing and trading very efficient, and today it seems that there are an abundance of profitable ideas which just have to be picked up by enterprising businessmen, but what today seems a quite acceptable level of creative activity is nothing compared with what would be possible if society nurtured the “Idea originators” in stead of just supporting the start up firms.
                      Today we are societally in the grotesque situation that the survival of our mature societies depends on the development and utilization of new ideas at the same time as those who create those new ideas in reality are enjoying no legal protection.
It is a very vulnerable situation when an “Idea originator” wants to find partners with whom he can develop his ideas. Consequently the most common strategy is for the ”Idea originator” to start a small firm, perhaps in participation with a few others. The “Idea originator” has to take great personal risks, giving up job and setting the personal economy at stake in order to establish the project, without any guaranty of success. Often such start ups do not have the necessary business skills and the needed economic means, and more often than not does that result in the project collapsing or being cheaply taken over by others. Never the less this method is so frequently used because of the compelling need of not revealing too much in our “idea economic” lawless societies.
                      Unique qualities are required by the “Idea originator” in order to create superior and useful ideas. The process of developing the idea into a product requires very different human qualities to those needed for the creation of advanced ideas. Marketing the products internationally calls for yet very different qualities. Those cases where all those human qualities are present in the same person are indeed rare!
                      The success of the industrial revolution was founded on the splitting up of the different processes in making crafted goods. That division of labour made possible the continuous rationalization of the industrial processes which still are the driving force of our societies.
                      In order to effectively utilize new ideas the mature societies must turn from the present situation where the “Idea originator” has to struggle with all the different aspects of developing, maturing and marketing the product. To a situation where the “Idea originator” safely can turn to established firms which master the much needed developing and marketing qualifications. In order for this to materialize the firms have to bind themselves to a set of collective ethical and juridical rules. A set of rules that in beforehand determines the conditions for being presented with the new ideas. The firms involved in this form of organized idea exchange also have to systematically describe their skills and interests in order for the “Idea creators” to easily find the most suited and motivated firms for their specific new ideas.
                      Many firms have themselves developed ideas which lie idle because they do not fit into the production and developmental strategies of those firms. Those ideas remain worthless for the firm and also for society as long as they just rest idle in the archives of the firms. If a system in future is organised so that ideas are not at risk of being stolen, the firms will be motivated to exchange ideas, resulting in great benefit to the firms as well as to society.
                      There are three fundamental conditions which have to be met by firms participating in an orderly and dynamic exchange of ideas. The first condition are that a firm presented with an idea have to agree on total professional secrecy and have to be willing to accept a substantial fine if the secrecy is breached by the firm or its employees. The second fundamental condition is not to utilize the presented idea or derivates thereof without coming to agreement with the “idea originator”.  The third condition is that the firms must be willing in writing to describe all their own projects and ideas. These descriptions will then be deposited by a neutral third party (e.g. a notary). A situation might very well arise where a firm feel that the presented idea are so close to one of their own ideas that they believe that they have the right to utilize the idea without the consent of the “idea originator”. In such a case the dispute can be solved through arbitrage by a judge with the help of experts. The judge and the experts can compare the new idea with the list of the firm’s ideas and decide weather or not the firm has to respect the “idea originator” and have to reach an agreement with him if they want to utilize the new idea.
                      Just as it was wasteful that Mozart had to earn his living as a musician and a conductor in stead of being a full time composer, it is very wasteful that those who today get creative ideas have to earn their living doing other things than what they are extraordinarily good at. They might even be just as helpless in practical and economic matters as Mozart was, and in that case their creative talents that are so important to the competitiveness of our mature nations might very well be lost.
                      The best way to change the present situation is to establish a firm set of rules which ensure that the “Idea originator” safely can contact the most suited firm for his project. Even if the firms that agree to the above conditions have to give the “Idea originators” a larger share in the projects than what hitherto has been the norm, there will be a much larger chance that the new ideas reach the right firms resulting in all bright ideas being utilized to the benefit of society.
The dominating motivating force of our present dynamic capitalist system is self interest. If the development of new ideas shall be expanded to the point where our mature societies can maintain their leading position, the same form of self interested dynamics has to be applied to the development and exchange of new ideas.  
                      The group or even country which first implements such a system will not only prevent ideas from being given to others or even directly exported to other countries. The system will ensure that “Idea originators” will prefer to take contact with firms embracing such firm rules and there might even be a significant inflow of bright ideas to those countries that secure such legal conditions to the protection of the rights of the “Idea originators”.           


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