About a week ago I had an experience that I still don’t know how to respond to. I was looking through CNN.com headlines as I often do (thank you Google personal homepage) when I came across a news article of somewhat personal interest. The article was a brief business piece about a small company with a somewhat unique and specialized business model that is apparently doing quite well.
The kicker for me is this: Many years ago (pre-Summer even) Fireheart and I had pretty much the same idea for a business based around providing the same design and custom modification service to the same specific clientele as the business profiled by CNN. I’m not going to go into details about what this business is/was because it is irrelevant to my point and I am uninterested in debating the merits of said business. There were a number of reasons that we did not pursue our idea, some were financial, some technical, and some were based on negative feedback we got from people we ran the idea by.
In truth, I do not think that the market was ready for this idea back then (which accounts for some of the negative feedback mentioned above), and I believe that the people who are running the business profiled on CNN are probably better suited to this particular line of work then we were. All that said, here is my internal debate:
Be pissed off. Not with the people making this work, huzzah for them. Rather I could be pissed at myself and Fire for not pursuing what was clearly a good idea after all. As a designer I feel an attachment to my ideas and designs, event the ones that went no where. This experience is a bit like debating buying a scratch ticket but eventually choosing not to, only to have the person behind you on line strike it big (with the caveat that buying a scratch ticket is easy and making a good design idea into a successful business is one of the harder things that a person can set out to do).
Perspective #2 (the healthier one)
I can take this as a vindication of my (and Fire’s) intuition as a designer. An idea that I had (though clearly we weren’t the only ones) is now a successful business model. Granted it is someone else’s business, but I had the idea too, and now it is working. In a removed way (as in, I didn’t do any work at all) I can be a bit proud of these other peoples’ success. I’d like to be able to gain a measure of confidence from this experience. At the same time, when I look over our current proposed project list I want to do everything in my power as Project Manager (yes my actual title) to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
The truth is that I feel both of these things. I wonder, if Fire and I had taken a different road, would our names now be up on CNN? Or were we right to pass on this idea because it just wasn’t the right one for us? Just because these people succeeded in no way guarantees that we would have.
Lastly, I just want to clarify incase I haven’t been adequately clear: I DO NOT think that these people somehow “stole” my and Fireheart’s idea. It was a good idea, and I imagine that many people other than us had it. The difference, as with all successful design is that these people took thought to action and for that I wish them only the best success.