The October issue of Business 2.0 magazine contains a fascinating article entitled “Making Ideas Take Flight.” (subscription required) In it, authors Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff suggest that what America needs to jump-start its entrepreneurial spirit is “an open-source movement for ideas.” “Open-source what,” you say? Here’s how the authors explain their idea for turning our natural ingenuity into real products and services:
“Linus Torvalds (the inventor of the Linux computer operating system) proved the power of unleashing intellectual property when he posted the source code for his Linux operating system on the Internet. The same approach — giving away ideas — could be a powerful engine of economic and social change. In our new book, Why Not?, we offer up hundreds of ideas for new products and services, and put them out there free and clear for the taking.”
“What do you get out of sharing your ideas? Well, if the concept ends up working, you’ll get a healthy shot of egoboo (recognition or praise for a job well done). Imagine how good you’d feel if you found a way to eliminate spam, or to reduce teenage driving accidents, or to make it easier for people to contribute to charity. Instead of hoarding these ideas in hopes of a killer payday, why not put them out there and see what happens?”
Don’t have the intestinal fortitude to start a new business to capitalize on your “killer idea?” Not a problem, according to Ayres and Nalebuff, who appeal to the entrepreneurial spirit in all of us:
“Constantly looking for new and better ways of doing things is a highly valued skill. Though we live in a high-tech world, innovation need not be left to scientists and engineers. The potential for everyday ingenuity is all around us. Bette Nesmith, for instance, invented Liquid Paper while working as a secretary. She wondered why artists could paint over their mistakes but typists couldn’t. Then, of course, there’s good old Ben Franklin: He wasn’t a physicist or a mechanical engineer, but he nonetheless invented or re-imagined the lightning rod, the odometer, bifocals, the rocking chair, and daylight savings.”
The authors hope that their idea-sharing Web site, Whynot.net, will become a place where good ideas can exposure, and where would-be entrepreneurs and their great ideas can link up with businesses looking for the next big breakthrough.