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Inspiration: Your enemy is not piracy, but obscurity

Your enemy is not piracy, but obscurity.—Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media.

I’ve often heard people express concern about talking about their ideas externally. “What if someone steals my idea?” “What if our competitors find out?”

Some companies’ paranoia is laughable. They worry about piracy when they should worry about obscurity. They worry more about protecting an idea than they do about making sure it’s an idea the market will embrace.

Frankly, I’ve never been too concerned about non-disclosure agreements. Sure, I use ‘em. And I sign ‘em. But my rule is this: Don’t share information with people you don’t trust. Don’t show your confidential roadmap and new product ideas to anyone you don’t trust. In fact, I’m reluctant to give confidential documents to some people inside the company. (You know the ones I mean. They think ‘confidential’ means ‘distribute immediately’.)

I prefer to build a personal product advisory. A small group of customers and colleagues I can talk to about an idea and be assured they’ll keep it to themselves. A few people I can have discussions with and know the discussion won’t show up in a blog post or in a tweet. Or in a contract!

Got a great idea? Test it with your friends and colleagues. Pick some favorite customers and get their feedback.

If you consider how hard it is to create a great product—and to launch it successfully—how likely is it that someone can steal your idea and get it in the market before you can?

Yes, ideas are precious but don’t be so afraid that you fail to share your ideas with others.

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