August 9, 2012
In the wake of the ruckus over Jonah Lehrer’s fabricated quotes in his best-selling book, Imagine, I was looking through one of my little idea notebooks. I found these words. “Might be stolen.” A warning to my future self that this idea probably didn’t belong to me.
As fundraisers and marketers, we’re constantly called upon to create, write, produce and dream up new ways to express the value of our mission. That’s why we need notebooks and file folders and Pinterest pages to collect our thoughts.
But ideas aren’t created in a vacuum, and there are very few that are completely new, yet there are infinite possibilities for how we string them together and make them our own.
Sometimes it might feel easier to just use a found idea before letting it mix, gel and settle with other ideas to become all yours. “It’s only an annual appeal… it’s only a paragraph in a newsletter… it’s only a quick post on facebook….”
It’s a tough choice to make. While you might get the job done faster and get to go home on time… in the end, it risks the strength of your program, it risks your own growth and it risks the pleasure you get from doing your job well.
Maybe Lehrer was pressured to produce his work too quickly… maybe he was too in love with his ideas and felt compelled to alter the truth… maybe it was something else. It doesn’t really matter. It’s simply unfortunate that it now calls into question the integrity of all of the intriguing ideas he brought forth.