What To Do When Someone Steals Your Idea


Has this ever happened to you? You belong to a group, and come up with a great idea. You tell someone else in the group about your idea, only to have them announce it as their idea the next time the group meets?

The theft of intellectual property, even ideas, is never nice, but here are our tips to manage the situation so that your blood pressure remains at an even keel.

1. Stop and breathe

If you think someone has stolen your idea, step back and take a deep breath. It’s natural to feel angry, but the best approach is to pause and give your emotions time to cool off before acting. Take some deep breaths, and give yourself permission to take time off before reacting.

2. There are no new ideas

There’s a view that there are no new ideas in the world – everything is copied or either built upon from previous ideas. Examine what the person has done – is your idea so revolutionary that no one else has ever thought it before? Or is it an idea that’s commonplace, but just hasn’t been thought of in your organisation before?

3. Why does it matter so much to you?

Think about your reaction to the idea theft. In the example given above, are you angry because they put the idea forward to the group, or is it because they said the idea was theirs? Are you nursing a bruised ego? Why does it matter to you that the person took credit away from you? Could it be that the person concerned has forgotten that it was your idea in the first place?

4. Talk to the person privately

If you feel that the person has genuinely aggrieved you, consider talking to them privately about it. Be clear about what you want from this conversation – do you want them to apologise to you? Do you want any minutes from the meeting to be amended?

5. The best revenge…

Speaking up is one thing, but there are very few situations in which it makes sense to raise merry hell about idea theft. Remind yourself that the idea thief must feel pretty low to have to snag your idea and pass it off as their own. Learn from the experience and be more cautious about sharing your ideas with this person in future. Then get your revenge by walking tall and making a positive difference with your ideas in the future.

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