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Non-Intellectual Non-Property

Non-Intellectual Non-Property

A very promising consultant told me the other day that he wasn’t going to use my concepts (for which he had permission) in a workshop, because he ought to be developing his own in the subject area. I told him that I thought it was a significant breakthrough and wished him luck.

A while back a guy asked permission to use “some” of my concepts in a book he was self-publishing. Naturally, I asked to see the entire work.

The entire book comprised work by three people, mine, someone else I recognized, and clearly a construct of a third party. (Or, should I say a “fourth party”?) I asked him what on earth he thought he was doing besides plagiarizing.

“I recognized the three of you in the acknowledgments,” he disingenuously pointed out. Sure enough, there was a single sentence stating that he had “learned a great deal” from us over the years.

“What is your contribution to this book?” I asked. “I have recombined your ideas to make more sense to my readers,” he said with apparently a straight face. Oh.

“Harry,” I said, not only do you not have my permission, but if you publish this even on a child’s printing kit in an alley and give it to three relatives, I will find out and I will sue you.”

He was convinced he was doing nothing wrong, but he was also convinced I would do that (I would) so the project proceeded without me and, I would guess, the other sources were kept ignorant. He eventually published a horrible work.

A consultant of any stature should be contributing his or her own intellectual property to the profession. You don’t have to reinvent cause and effect or action and reaction, but as your experiential base grows you should be observing and finding dynamics and relationships which you can write about, copyright, trademark, protect, and share. This is not some kind of Zen state, where all ideas belong to all humankind. We believe in fostering new ideas and in allowing the fosterers to protect them.

There’s nothing wrong with giving attribution to something you introduce, developed by someone else. But unless you are making a preponderance of the contribution to the article, model, workshop, book, or whatever, then you’re just serving as an echo for someone else’s shouting.

Some guy told me yesterday, in an effort to “collaborate” with me, that he was involved in “therapeutic work” with clients. When I asked if he was a psychologist or a Ph.D. in psychology, he stuttered a “no.” Well, what’s the basis for his “therapeutic intervention”? He then launched an exegesis about using research developed by two college professors who……yada yada yada. Get real. (Or, as the professional speakers are fond of saying, “Be authentic,” whatever that means.)

It’s fine to deliver the work of others as a subcontractor or employee. It wonderful to be part of a team where other partners are developing interventions and solutions. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’re in consulting for a decent length of time, and have nothing to add of your own to your client work except in replicating the work of others, then you’re not paying attention. You’re probably too occupied with making a living and earning some money, and not very occupied in really improving the client’s condition. (You do better at the former, by the way, if you do the latter well.)

I’m weary of people claiming to be “consultants” who are using someone else’s sales training package and merely implementing it. I actually read an article this week (in a training magazine!) from one of these “coaching university” graduates who claimed that you’re not coaching properly unless you follow the seven steps he was taught. Right. Throw out all of your personal experience and expertise, and use seven steps arbitrarily arrived at by someone who probably isn’t a successful coach, but runs coaching schools.

All I’m saying is, we have the greatest laboratory in the world to create better and more effective interventions. They are called “clients.” If we’re not cooking something up in there on a regular basis, but just relying on others’ cook books, we ought to be thrown out of the kitchen.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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