Idea sharing but not caring

story-telling

Who owns an idea on the Internet? Apparently, it’s difficult to say since ownership of one, which to many people is something ephemeral, seems to depend on who capitalizes on its advance the most and converts it into revenue. If you write something down on Facebook that you feel is original, or even if you take a picture and post it on Instagram, and then someone shares it and eventually that idea goes viral and then becomes the topic of someone’s story or movie, should you share in whatever compensation results? Many people think no because while you had the idea, you stopped after the act of posting.

An article in the New York Times this week called, the Internet is where we share and steal the best ideas, doesn’t really clear up the debate but it’s still worth reading. It contains many of the fundamental elements of the kind of story that our societies seem drawn to these days. Innocence, theft, greed, personal affront. There’s no redemption, or at least nothing more than a whisper of it at the very end, but there is a kind of hope in the simple act the writer made of calling out the subject.

That subject of borrowing, stealing, copying ideas is worth considering in the business world where, it seems, most messaging are a rehash of other messages, either a company’s own or someone else’s. It’s difficult to be a marketer today with the widely available channels of communication and the endless deluge of messages our audiences receive each day from hundreds and thousands of people and companies. What target audience can absorb all that? It’s why in the Marketing world there is such intense conversation around the need for story-telling, to stand apart by being original. We’re focused on that because we’re worried that only original-seeming content has the chance to cut through the chaos and the noise of the Internet and stick in the eye (and hopefully the memory) of our target audiences.

We’re right to worry about it. Over 200 million people now use ad blockers, which tells you that they only want to see something they’re interested in. How to get around it as a marketer is to learn how to tell a story. It’s a struggle though because there is a fear that all the stories have already been told. There’s an old canard that all the world’s melodies have already been written and while most of us nod solemnly when someone states that as fact, other people dispute that claim. This guy even applied math to address the question and worked out that the world has 2.6 trillion years worth of melodies (humans have only been around for 200,000 of those years so there’s plenty of music ahead).

Taking other people’s ideas, co-opting them, spinning them, tossing them around to see which ones land and stick… we all do it but it doesn’t work over time. It actually works against us and if you’ve ever been in front of an audience and you present ideas that you know everyone has heard before, you feel diminished and (too harsh?) fraudulent. So let’s try to be original even if those ideas take flight and someone else profits. People tire of hearing the same thing over and over and so even if just a few people are positively affected by something original that we’ve said or written, that’s just fine because it means it is memorable. We’ll be remembered.

About Peter Armaly
I get jazzed by automation, big data, and blockchain tech. Business, technology, and fitness are things I understand. Scotch, wine, food, and fiction are things I appreciate.

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