Let’s start at the very beginning – what exactly is Intellectual Property?
Is it something to do with an ‘Invention’ or perhaps something that is associated with a particular product, then don’t leave out things like designs or even copyright? Would you consider any of these IPs (Intellectual Property)? The reality is that it is all of these and still so much more. It’s also about all the information that you have in your head and how you use it. Think about it for a minute – if you go to the doctor, you would not even think twice about the fact that you would need to pay him – you would automatically expect to pay “professional” people. Yet people think that they can phone me up (whether they actually know me or not) or mail me and ask for all sorts of advice on whatever topic they think that I might be versed in and expect to get that information for free. Why is that do you suppose? Is it because I don’t have an “MD” or a “PHD” behind my name? Here’s the thing though, just because I don’t have a degree behind my name, doesn’t mean that I haven’t paid my dues, one way or another!
The reality of the situation is that I have the information and I have in it my head, I don’t have to do the research. Much of the information that is in my head had been gathered over a period of over 50 years. It’s information that I have paid dearly for, with my time, with my sweat and with my insatiable curiosity. I have done without, in many instances, to get my hands on the information. I have struggled and been tenacious in my quest to get there and do it. That’s not to say that you could not go that route yourself – much of the information is freely available – what it will cost you is your time, your ability to understand the information and often the price is the cost of your experience.
The problem here, as I see it, is that you want the information now. It’s instant gratification that you want. You don’t have to want to go and look it up on the internet or spend some time in a library or even experience the thrill, the taste or the pleasure of it. You just want the answer and if I am the only one to be in a position to give it to you right here and now, well then my dear, that makes it my Intellectual Property and that gives me the right to charge you either the time that it takes for me to give it to you or for the actual information or both. Of course, whether you are prepared to pay for it would also come into play, but make no mistake – it’s mine to give or withhold as I see fit.
Mentoring is something that I am very passionate about and it is something I really believe in. I have a mentor and there have been several people over the years that I have mentored. That said, I don’t necessarily believe that it is your God-given right to demand a mentor or even expect a mentor to give you anything for nothing – even mentor’s need to put food on the table and what kind of mentor would I be if I gave you everything of me and in me and then starved to death – not a very good example I’m afraid! So where is the line between what I am prepared to give out for nothing, nada and with love and no expectation and where I get to a point where I say ‘enough now – you have to start paying or reciprocating in some way’?
I recently had an experience whereby I was asked by a colleague to mentor someone (let’s call her Jane). Jane got halfway through a university degree, she then dropped out because of financial constraints and now Jane works as a clerk for a corporate company. Jane now wants to become an Internal Auditor and wanted my help. Let me be clear on that Jane wanted my help, I didn’t particularly want Jane in my life!
It was pretty clear from the get-go that as much as Jane wanted the help, she didn’t want to pay for it and certainly, she did not want to be inconvenienced in any way. In other words, Jane wanted my help but Jane wanted help in her time and on her terms. Jane never phoned when she said that she would, she didn’t get back to me when she said that she would and when we eventually did commit to a meeting, she didn’t pitch – not only did she not pitch but she also did not even have the good manners to contact me and tell me that she couldn’t make it.
How absolutely disrespectful!
When I reacted and charged Jane for wasting my time, not the consultation you understand and not the mentoring – but for wasting my time, Jane had a conniption fit!
Poor Jane – you see, she may not pay me, but I will still have the knowledge that she wants and now will not get and quite honestly money is something that is very easy to generate.
Me, what don’t I have – well thankfully I don’t have Jane!
You, what do you have? Do you have a mentor with the Intellectual Property that you would love to have and do you treat them with respect or do you ‘trash’ them, much in the same way that Jane tried to ‘teach me a lesson’ by refusing to respect me, by refusing to understand the value of what I could have given and shared with her?
I wonder, what is my Intellectual Property worth to you?