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Give credit where credit is due. Or not?

 
 
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 01:17 pm
My friend and I have a fundemental difference of opinion on the nature of giving/getting credit for ideas.

I am of the opinion that as long as the idea gets enacted that getting credit for it is not important. That it is in fact often easier to get the idea off the drawing board if the person responsible for making the ultimate decision believes the idea to be their own.

My friend not only believes that my approach is manipulative but that assigning credit where none is earned is, in the long term, counterproductive.

I'm curious as to whether you are willing to give up credit for your ideas in order to see them in action or if claiming credit for them is more important that the actual idea.

Thank you for your thoughts.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 01:32 pm
Oh, very interesting. I've thought about this a lot, too.

I definitely am in the camp of letting credit slide in favor of seeing the ideas happen, though it's sometimes hard for me. I LIKE getting credit. But one thing that I am very very good at and which stood me in very good stead professionally was specifically manipulating the situation so that people would "come up with" an idea that was the idea I wanted them to have.

For example -- I took over a small educational program which had two positions, instructor and staff interpreter/ job developer. The instructor, Cathy, was absolutely horrible. Disorganized, impatient, not all that smart. The staff interpreter/job developer was really quite cool, but she had to quit after a short amount of time.

Cathy's experience was in interpreting, and I had my eye on someone (deaf) for the instructor position. It's very very difficult to find staff interpreter positions as the pay is well below what they could expect to get if they were freelancing. So, the obvious thing was to move Cathy over to the interpreter position and then hire the new instructor. But Cathy was VERY sensitive to criticism, and would freak if I just told her that I wanted her in the interpreter position. (Writing this out now it doesn't seem obvious as to why she would freak, but it was obvious at the time, given her history and the many talks we'd had in an effort to improve her performance.)

So, while we were at a conference together, just waiting around between the action, we got to chatting about the hiring conundrum. I very, very carefully laid a path to her offering to move over to the other position. She did. I expressed my deep, heartfelt thanks for her excellent solution to the problem. She felt good about herself, and about the move.

This is manipulation, yes, and that necessarily has a pejorative cast to it. But I think that it was the best possible solution to the problem.

I don't do that in my personal life, but I think it is sometimes necessary, professionally.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 01:34 pm
Oh, one more thing...

I almost always let credit slide -- if it happens, great, if it doesn't, I (usually) don't press the issue. What I have found is that things have a way of getting out, and then the benefit is doubled when people know that not only was it your idea, you've been sitting quietly by letting people think it was someone else's idea. Makes 'em wonder what else you're behind. Wink
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roger
 
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Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 01:35 pm
Your approach may be more effective, but I'm agreeing with your friend, especially if the creator of the idea thinks she is having her idea stolen. Anyway, giving credit makes you both look good. I realize you are the boss, but the principle still applies.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 01:37 pm
Oh, I read it from the opposite direction, roger; that the "stealee" makes the decision not to demand credit from the person who "stole" the idea.

(I think stealing ideas without giving attribution is never OK. Along with this other Machiavellian stuff, I always always always made a point of singling out employees for credit when they came up with good ideas.)
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 01:42 pm
I think it depends on the situation. Sozobe's solution was perfect for the problem she faced and leadership is in part letting others share the credit for a job well done. But if the result is the innovator, or the perceived innovator is the one who is going to get the enhanced professional standing, job promotion or pay hike, then the credit belongs to the originator of the idea.
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boomerang
 
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Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 01:44 pm
I like getting credit too but I really view it as more of a perk.

The situation that you describe is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about, sozobe. It really seems like everybody wins.

In other types of situations there may be resentment over the stolen idea, as Roger points out, but really the whole point is to have the idea stolen so that you get what you want.

The most persuasive argument that my friend has offered is that my approach also allows me to shirk responsiblity for the idea should it backfire or fail.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 01:47 pm
Hmmm.. I think it depends on the situation. If I go and feed and idea to my boss and it is adopted and he/she gets credit for implementing it that's fine with me. I've always worked with the concept that people know that whenever a "boss" has an idea someone under that boss actually came up with the idea. The boss knows who actually gave them the idea. In an ideal situation of course the boss that comes up with the good ideas gets promoted and if they kjnow what is good for them they get you promoted right behind them. Wink

Now, if "Mary" comes up with an idea and passes it on to her boss and then when it is implemented the credit gets pointed toward "Sue" from another department then there is a real problem.
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boomerang
 
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Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 02:11 pm
Hi Acquiunk and fishin', thanks for adding your thoughts.

I hadn't really thought about it in those types of professional situations - maybe because I've been self employeed for so long. You're absolutely right - in many circumstances it is unforgivable to steal an idea. I'm sure it leads to a circus of finger pointing when things don't work out.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 02:17 pm
What about in the educational setting?

One of the marks of a gifted teacher is the ability to guide a class discussion towards a pre-determined end.

Examples:

Is LOVE more important than anything else? (Romeo and Juliet).

What constitutes a hero? (A Tale of Two Cities)

Should all promises be kept? (Rumplestiltskin).
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 02:18 pm
boomerang wrote:
The most persuasive argument that my friend has offered is that my approach also allows me to shirk responsiblity for the idea should it backfire or fail.


Hmm. I don't think my example really works there, since the whole point was that it be her idea.

In terms of a more cut-and-dried example, I think it is the decision of the person who falsely takes credit for the idea. Say that you're at lunch with a coworker and mention this idea you had for drumming up some business. At the staff meeting, she brings up this idea as her own and doesn't say anything about you. Once she has done that, she takes responsibility for the possible failure of the idea as well as the possible success, IMO. Live by the sword, die by the sword. It's not your responsibility to rescue her from the repercussions of her inethical decision to claim your idea as hers.

(That said, in that situation I would probably say something like, "Oh great, I'm glad you brought that up! We really came up with some promising ideas at lunch today, didn't we? Here's another one..." Razz)
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2003 02:45 pm
My ex is a writer who happened to be involved in neighborhood political groups. With his writing, he didn't want to see his story ideas taken, of course, if he wrote a piece. But it he was writing it with someone else, it wouldn't matter who came up with each idea, because the manner of writing was riffing back and forth to make something work.
In his neighborhood discussions, he never cared if people made his ideas theirs, thought it was inconsequential to getting things moving.

Myself, I have run into this over and over at work.
For whatever reason, I have always tried to give the right people credit. I can't count, though, how many times people under me that had come to me for advice, then presented the work to the design principal as entirely theirs. I never contradicted them, and still like many of those people. I see it as human behavior in action. On the other hand, that is not all so beneficent of me, as I wasn't vying with them, I was much further up the work ladder.

In my own business partnership, which is also a friendship, my partner is a
rather dominant personality, who tends to hold the floor, as we used to say. I absolutely know that she often doesn't remember she got an opinion from me. For example, I was amazed as she said "I believe the most important aspect of a painting is whether or not it shows movement" to a group of people the day after I pointed out why preferred six out of the twenty paintings present....leaving me standing there saying "Me too!"

Although I could then elaborate on different types of movement through a picture plane, I didn't, in the interests of, what? In the interests of letting that conversation go on its course, in the interests of having people even notice movement in a painting, in the interest of her more dynamic personality actually help a painting sell, in the interest of not getting into some vying for attention mode.

What happens in these instances is that the opinion I showed the day before gelled with her and she recognized it as her own.

I notice we have different memories of what happened in certain situations.
Hers tends to change, and I can see it change in steps, kind of a new story formation. I've switced here from talking about the matter of credit to talking about the nature of memory.

I see her do this, but I may do it too. And we all know the Roshoman stories, on one event.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 07:02 am
Hmmmmm

Reading these responses left me thinking that it is perhaps diplomacy rather than manipulation.

In my experience it seems that my response (or my feelings when I don't respond) depend a lot on who has presented the idea.

For example, I regularly advertise portrait service to pet owners and, over the years, have discovered a few very successful promotions that increase awarness of this service. I've shared the idea with collegues around the country and have in some cases even supplied them with my advertising and promotional materials. Not too long ago I was talking with a group of photographers and the topic came up again. When I shared my ideas someone said "Oh - you stole those ideas from "Jim"." As "Jim" was part of the call, he jumped in blah blah blahing about his great idea.

Now, because "Jim" is someone that I have very little respect for, especially in regard to the way he runs his business, it really made my blood boil. Because I didn't want to dissolve into a defensive, childish, temper tantrum I let it slide. After all, it really wouldn't have served any purpose to try to prove that they were my ideas; these are not direct competitors and I (and a few others on the call) know the ideas are mine.

Still, I'm bothered that some people believe I presented "Jim's" ideas as my own and, to be honest, it's mostly because I don't like "Jim".

In your experience, does who steals the idea make a difference in your response?
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 07:22 am
I think it probably does boomer. If the person is a friend then sometimes I'd let it slide just to allow the the friend to maintain that little ego boost - especially if I know that they've been having a hard time lately.

If it's someone I dislike, as you mention at your gathering with "Jim
", I tend to resent it more.

If someone besides me is going to get credit for my ideas I at least want it to be someone I like! Smile
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eoe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 07:37 am
For me it depends on the idea and just how important it is. I want the credit due me if it will make me look good, especially in a professional situation. But if it's a small thing like selecting a restaurant, everyone loves it, but someone else claims to have selected it, then altho' I may grit my teeth about it, hating to let people get away with such behavior, I 'll keep silent and let them have it if it's so important to them that they would lie about it. That's what it boils down to. Lying. And why should we allow people to lie when they know that they are lying and what's more, they know that we know and are depending on our remaining silent. Are we helping that person or hurting them?
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 08:48 am
The "who" definitely makes a difference.

One extra complication is allied to what Osso said, though, that people sometimes a) genuinely forget where they got the idea, or b) come up with the same idea independently. If it's either of these two, you stand to look petty if you make too much of an issue about it.

I'm re-reading the Jim story and don't like that he let people assume you stole the idea from him, even if he really had the idea independently. Evil or Very Mad That just ain't cool.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 11:37 am
This is a serious issue for a close friend of mine. She was for many years in the museum profession. While she was in that profession she noticed it was quite common for many curators and directors to take ideas other people had proposed and/or developed and use them without attribution. As the museum world has a rather ridged status hierarchy these people could do this without fear of retribution. She suffered a disabling accident that made it difficult for her to continue in her profession so she left and started her own media company which catered in part to museums and related organizations. The company is a nonprofit and is grant supported. She developed an idea, an independently produced television show, which would allow small museums to present their collections and exhibits to a wider audience and won several awards. Fortunately, given latter developments, she copyrighted both her ideas and her show. Larger museums saw the success and blatantly attempted to steal it, but as she held the copyright and they were caught. The reaction has been devastating. Through slander and pressure on smaller museums and granting agencies the have attempted to shut her down and have nearly succeeded. Were it not for a small and inadequate disability pension she would be completely out of business. Credit for and protection of original ideas can be important, and I do not think that one's status should determine who is allowed to take credit.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 01:13 pm
Wow Acquiunk. You have hit on the most important issue of idea theft Policing one's copyrights is a difficult task and I am constantly amazed at the aggression people exhibit when faced with the fact that they are violating federal law.

As a professional photographer I deal with copyright infringment on a continual basis. People don't understand that even though they buy the print - I own the image; I'm the only one who can reproduce it and I'm the only one who can sell it. This makes many people very very mad.

I hope your friend has the ability to persue the infringers. It's a hard road but one well worth traveling. I would love to know how this turns out for her.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 01:31 pm
Boomerang, at the moment things are not going well at all. She has an attorny from a large expensive law firm, but while the copyright infringment has been stopped, addressing the othe problems has been very difficult and she is very distraught, althogh she tries not ot show it. The problems are both financial and emotional resources and I'm very concerned.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2003 01:41 pm
Boomerang--

My sister dealt with a Credit Ursurper this way.

She worked for a private firm that had a lot of government contracts. In spite of a prejudice about the ability of women, she cracked the glass ceiling and became supervisor of her own little division.

One day in a meeting an underling--male--piped up and presented several of my sister's ideas as his very own. She said from the way he looked at her, he didn't think she'd make a scene.

She handled it like a lady, "Very good, "Jim". You remembered everything that we discussed and you presented my ideas very nicely. Now, have you done the reseach into these other points?"

Here she proceeded to list several ramifications of her ideas (which she had never mentioned to "Jim", thus making it perfectly clear who had come up with the ideas in the first place.

"Jim" never tried that trick again.
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