Does It Matter to be “The First?” How about being the Best?

Soap Box Rants

A Weekly Column to CopyLine Magazine

By Pamela Bratcher-McMillan
President, Chair & CEO, of PETAL et al.

I often hear or read about someone being the first to do this or that only to find out later that they weren’t first after all.

As an example, I read online that some young girls in Lagos, Nigeria had presented a urine-powered generator at an innovation fair. Today, I read that some researchers in England had found a way to charge a cell phone with urine. The article went on to say “until now, nobody has ever harnessed electricity from urine.” Hmm. I’m not a scientist, but it sounds to me like the young ladies beat them to it so how can they stake this claim as first? Or does it matter anyway?

Last week, a woman shared an idea with me that she had for a company. It was similar to others, but she put her own personal twist on it. It was a great and unique idea. Weeks later a big company announces they will be doing the same thing she told me she would be doing. The term we always hear is that “Great minds think alike,” but that brought no comfort to her. It’s not the first time she had an idea that we saw come to fruition only weeks or months later. I suggested to her not to share her ideas with people. She said she hadn’t. Then I asked her something she had never thought of: “Did you do a Google search?”

Whenever we search for information, it can be cached (stored and saved somewhere). It can be online or on your machine that others may have access to. Your information can be captured by
someone sharing the network or free Wi-Fi at your local coffee house, at work or public library. You have to wonder about that when you are using free Wi-Fi provided by big corporations. What’s in it for them? Capitalists don’t give away anything without some sort of return. Maybe it’s your information.

While no search is really private, you do have access to tools that allow you to search anonymously and claim not to track what you are doing online. The latest and greatest dynamic duo is the Mozilla Firefox browser with the DuckDuckGo.com search engine.

And who says you have to be the first to be successful with your business idea anyway. No one can ever claim first with confidence unless it is a truly groundbreaking idea. Often there is nothing new under the sun. There is a good chance that the exact model or some variation of it has been done at some time or the other. The focus should be on being the best, and creating something useful for the masses.

Remember, before Google there was Yahoo. Before Facebook, there was MySpace and Friendster. In other words, these companies took an already great idea with users beating down the doors to get it, and improved it; thus making the other products old school, uncool, outdated and obsolete.

In other words, instead of reinventing the wheel find a great wheel and make it a super or better wheel than others.

Pamela Bratcher-McMillan is a technology Expert and President, Chair & CEO, of PETAL et al.