Helping Creative People Create

Are You Prepared to Lose Control of the Idea?

by glen

Are you prepared to Lose Control of your idea

People are awfully protective of their ideas (myself definitely included). There are plenty of reasons for not sharing ideas:

  • we’re afraid people won’t like them, or worse, won’t understand them.
  • someone might steal them
  • they might, in reality, be total crap
  • they’re hard to explain, especially when the proverbial ink is still dry in the mind
  • etc., etc., etc.

But the biggest fear I have of sharing ideas is losing control.

There is an awful lot of ego that gets attached to our ideas, (see: the God Complex), and the thought of losing that grip is crippling.

One of the most intoxicating aspects of having an idea is having control over the idea. We thrive on building, planning, analyzing, almost anything but actually doing.

It’s not just little companies or amateurs that struggle with letting go. Some of the biggest companies in the world suffer from these “idea insecurities” listed above.

Microsoft’s Decline In Innovation

I read an interesting sad article about the causes of the downward spiral of Microsoft’s innovation. For the past ten years, Microsoft has been playing catch-up to companies like Google and Apple. Instead of creating breakthrough products that once made the software giant famous, the company has relied on a monkey-see, monkey-do approach to production.

The article goes on to explain that the top brass at Microsoft were directly responsible for the void of innovation, simply by harboring the fears listed above. Products were never made because of petty differences between divisions. The main reason for the lack of innovation was the stubbornness of division heads to work together on technologies.

They were afraid of losing their ideas in favor of someone else’s better idea.

Letting Go of the Idea

Some people never understand that if they hand over control of the original idea, something better might come out of it. Flickr was set to be a gaming company until the founders discovered a really efficient way to serve photos. There are plenty of examples of this happening throughout history.

Letting go is one of the absolute hardest concepts to grasp as an entrepreneur. But sometimes our idea outgrows us. The trick is to swallow the thick pride and embrace the potential of what could happen.

If the powerful suits at Microsoft had put aside petty differences and allowed other departments to improve their products, who knows what Microsoft would be today. They might have had a Google killer, or the iPod. We’ll never know.

This wasn’t an excuse to single out Microsoft. Every single company and entrepreneur deals with control issues at some point. I know I have. The important thing is recognizing when we’re holding on a bit too tightly on what’s “ours” and not recognizing the full potential of the idea, with the help of others.

Photo by chavals

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Get In The Hot Spot February 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Interesting that actually doing something about an idea means relinquishing control of it. I suppose its true because when you put an idea that sounds great in theory out into the real world you always have to change, refine and compromise it to get it to work. You have to be prepared to kill your own babies so to speak.

It sounds as if there were too many egos battling for power at MS – I think the other thing we need to remember is not all ideas will work but if you don't try them you'll never know. I'm sure that Apple planned and experimented with heaps of gizmos before they finally decided to run with the ipod or the itouch.


Craig Thomas February 10, 2010 at 3:16 am

Nice post. I agree with you that Microsoft's story is sad, yet, entertaining. My biggest fear with ideas would have to be failing and having someone else do it better than me – probably the same to your losing control.


Glen Stansberry February 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Yeah, insecurity of my ability is a big factor too. Excellent point.


Jonathan Patterson February 10, 2010 at 11:45 am

Great topic. You're right, it's critical that you allow your idea the opportunity to receive input and criticism so it can grow even larger.


augapfel February 10, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I don't entirely agree with this post. There is a time and a place to relinquish command over a project and let it take on it's own form. You have built a nice case around Microsoft to demonstrate this.

I think that @Get In The Hot Spot is on to something by mentioning Apple. Steve Jobs is absolutely obsessive over a product like th iPod and controls it every step of the way. He doesn't relinquish control, rather he takes control and drives his concept to life.

I think the key here is really knowing when to use total force to drive a product or idea and when to loosen the reigns a bit and let an idea take on it's own form.

Achieving that balance is where real leaders shine.


martynka February 11, 2010 at 9:47 am

ah you see, it is the same what also interests me in Napoleon.
He was such a MAN!
but he collapsed, and was imprisoned( I try not to think how such a creative and powerful mind feels when put into four walls)
it is a big question mark what was it

when you love the idea too much you may stop listening what the surrounding is telling you, no mystics involved- just nothing stays the same, and big ideas exists because they coexists with the ever-changing world

hm, you gave me some great ideas to think of, because you see, I also have this issue- I love my vision

best wishes


mrwong February 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Nice Post. Totally agree. It feels good to know that other people are dealing with the same issues


Michelle I Taming Time February 14, 2010 at 7:41 am

Compelling delivery of your point. I had never thought of ideas as something we can hoard, or try to keep to ourselves before!


stmcdonald February 15, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I completely agree. Companies have lost their mojo. They have lost their creative edge. The company lawyers seem bent on squashing creative ideas because, well maybe it's not politically correct or might offend someone. As a country and as US companies we need to spark that creative edge that makes America and each one of us the best in the world.


Shaun Lewis March 2, 2010 at 6:40 am

Nice Post…Organize your work properly with Pocket Coach iPhone app…its pretty worthy buying


ralphcarlson March 2, 2010 at 5:21 pm

In a business environment, you always lose control of your idea. It needs to be embraced by the organization or it dies friendless and when it is embraced it changes.


Spirituality Minded March 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm

There's a lot of psychology that goes into this. Comes down to the fundamental human issues of how we manage change. We either expand through change or attempt to preserve through sameness. When we are on top, preservation becomes vital. That's why the moment small companies become big they lose their innovation. Check out Regulatory Focus Theory (heady – but spot on).


craigharper March 15, 2010 at 4:57 am

It’s fair to assume that the first idea won’t be the best. Be completely willing to hear alterations to your ideas, even if the original idea doesn’t survive in any obvious way. If the end result is better, and is what everyone wants, isn’t it worth it to stand back from the whole issue of being prideful in your idea?


Maggie at KI March 15, 2010 at 11:14 am

I posted this in the comment section of another blog, but meant for it to come to you. Your wise post reminds me of a favorite quotation:

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman


Glen Stansberry March 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Brilliant quote Maggie!


Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey March 21, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Some of the greatest inventions ever created were sparked by people who thought and stepped outside of the box.

I remember when they first invented the car phone and how everybody said that was crazy. Everyone was like “this technology has gone to far…” but not only do they have car phones made their mark on society, and has become a thing of the past now we have cell phones with all these applications and what not.

Cellphone companies make money because they've developed a product to an extent that people almost can't live without it.

We should never go by what people say at first, anytime something new comes about that people haven't seen before it's like they just saw an alien. It's not until it becomes regular that people start to become more accepting of it.

This is a really great thought and great post! Thanks for sharing.


Chris Levis March 26, 2010 at 4:16 am

Great Notes. Got some valuable insights. I wish to share that i am using Pocket Coach to never lose an idea and improve my productivity. It has given results on a daily basis


Anelly March 29, 2010 at 6:53 am

No, I'm not prepared to lose control of my idea and I think nobody is. But the diffcult part is in fact to get that idea. here is an interesting article on how to come up with fresh ideas at work:


Mars Dorian March 29, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Yep, I'm in a similar boat – great ideas are protected by great egos – and I hate losing control. I get your point however, and I'll think about it :)

Reply April 7, 2010 at 2:40 am

Very nice post. That old dilemma of parenting: knowing when to give up on what you think is best for your baby, be it a kid or an idea… What helps is to keep an eye on what you ultimately wish to achieve. So Microsoft might ask itself: Do you just want to grow your own bank balance or are you also interested in improving the PC experience of Joe Soap?


Harrisburg pi lawyer April 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Very nice post, the concept of idea anxiety stopping innovation is an interesting thought.


Anelly April 15, 2010 at 5:07 am

I guess the difficult part in all this is not to have an idea, but to have an idea and to ask yourself if it's ok , if it's a crap or to be afraid that others might steal it. That's why is always important to know how to come up with new fresh ideas. Here is an interesting article about how to get some fresh ideas at work


Maxim Kharchenko April 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm

How about sharing your screen snapshots so your pet idea goes public in minutes; see


travesti May 8, 2010 at 1:23 am

hi very nice your site's contents. If this is a nice sharing. Thanks


debt solutions team May 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Thank you for this story! I appreciated it especially since I have had many of ideas slip away from me with the 'fear factor' mentioned. Great story! Thanks again.


cherryjones May 26, 2010 at 12:57 am

here is really knowing when to use total force to drive a product or idea and when to loosen the reigns a bit and let an idea take on it's own form.



ozgur October 31, 2010 at 8:12 am

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