08 OctIdeas and Metcalfe’s Law

Ideas are worth sharing. This week’s post is inspired by two recent events; a great post on LinkedIn and a conversation with a great friend and great thinker over lunch about why it pays to share ideas.

Over a recent lunch with one of the great thinkers in and around the Financial Services business, Simon Bailey, we were discussing ideas in the payments space, who was doing what and what there was still to be done. Both of us would like to sell our services to clients and might conceivably compete to serve the same client. I commented that there was a natural instinct not to share, because some people thing others would do us out of something. I shared my view with my colleague that this was the wrong approach. A view formed long ago in university days. Back then, if somebody asked me how I was going to approach an assignment and what I was thinking of, I would normally tell them. I figured that there was little chance that even if I told them everything, there was little or no chance of them turning that information into a better essay or piece of course work than I could produce, because if they could do that then it was unlikely they would ask me that in the first place. Back then in college days, I was less concerned about learning from others. Now, all those years later, my views have evolved and matured and as I talked with Simon, we realised how much benefit, or upside, to coin a phrase, there is in sharing ideas and seeing how you can improve it. In fact, in the plumbing end of financial services I work in, we like to joke by saying: “It takes two (parties) to settle a trade,” You can’t do it on your own.

Just a short time afterwards I saw a wonderful post on LinkedIn, with a quote that quite brilliantly captured the thought I had been discussing with my friend.

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”  George Bernard Shaw and recently shared by Lance Scoular on LinkedIn.

Lessons Learned: Mr. Shaw’s quote is really compelling notion. Sharing makes sense. It seems that Metcalfe’s Law about networks applies here too. That law says that the utility of a network is the square of the number of users (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metcalfe’s_law)

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