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The Knowledge/Ideas Paradox
By Jack Deal

....... I recently met a colleague I had not seen for some years. His life work has been conducting research in a somewhat esoteric branch of business. We had a pleasant chat and eventually turned to the discussion of each other's work. I was very much interested in his work and he freely related what he had been doing in the past few years.
....... He inferred that his business was not doing very well and I suggested he 'branch out'. I told him that I was fascinated by his work and had been putting together notes and data for an article that was closely related to his field. He wished me luck and we parted.
....... The next day I received a rather surprising e-mail. He stated that he had been working in his field for almost 10 years and was having to struggle. He added that he really did not appreciate some 'clown' like me writing about something I did not know about and 'taking his material'. He specifically gave reference to copyright, trademark, and patent infringement. He specifically stated that this would include concepts and ideas and added that 'if I even thought about using one of his ideas' there would be severe consequences.
....... After several days I went back and reread the e-mail. I ignored the pettiness and anger and another message began to emerge: a knowledge/ideas paradox. My ex-colleague felt that if he hoarded his knowledge and ideas he would somehow get financial reward. On a certain level I could see his rationale: he had worked hard to learn something of value and did not want to give it away. He perceived that by giving it away he would lose it all.
....... I concluded that the world had changed and I had changed but my ex-colleague had not. By staying rigid and inflexible he had become stagnant. My suspicion was that much of his work had become stagnant as well. I, on the other hand, had become excited by new technologies, the web and the Internet.
....... The knowledge/ideas paradox is this: by giving knowledge and ideas away you get more in return -- by hoarding you get less in return.
....... I decided not to write my ex-colleague a nasty e-mail reply. I won' even write something sarcastic like 'my condolences on your recent illness'. I will thank him for his honesty and concern and wish him the best.
....... But still not invite him on my radio show.

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