A couple of years ago a friend posted a link to an article, where the author argued that when someone picks your brain, it should be at a fee.
I naively argued against it. Ideas are to be shared, how else do you evolve, and all that open-source defense that I love to spout. However, soon after I started dwelling deeper into that thought, into that argument—in my mind.
I am all for helping people along, linking up contacts, helping others network, and I seek help ever so often too.
What I don’t do however is ‘pick’ someone brains to monetise their ideas. Or pick the brains of someone who gives the advice out on a professional basis. You know what I mean? Ask a doctor to for free diagnosis, or an editor for free rewrites (unless I am married to him), or a recruitment agent for free placement tips, or a trainer for a free session…
This post might draw a lot of ‘is she talking about me?’, ‘oh what a *****’ etc. Well if you think it’s about you, it could well be. Or not.
You must draw the line; differentiate between exchange of ideas and poaching them; differentiate between help and consultation.
I’ve learnt to be evasive: ‘I am busy now… I don’t have that information’; but am unable to tell someone: “Sure. And this is how I bill for my services.’
I earn my keep at work for my ideas, concepts and content. I am paid to share and enhance ideas with my colleagues. But I see increasingly that I am asked by people I hardly know to extend that service to them, because we are ‘friendly’. Ok I am no Jobs or Zuckerberg, but that doesn’t mean I value my brains any less.
I still have no objection to being a networking conduit, but am definitely no longer pleased to have my brains picked. Especially since I’ve realised that good ideas or inputs that are given for free may have value, but the person who gives it is taken for an idiot.
It is only of late that I appreciate what I bring to the table–I no longer treat it as ‘what’s the big deal’, because it is. For me. And only by putting a value on those inputs can I make that clear.
PS: My friends can pick my brains all they want. Fortunately, my circle is small and tight.