I never thought to document this before, but noting how it’s not uncommon for commercial writers to “borrow’ ideas from the non-commercial writing sector when they’re on deadline, I always thought it was fishy how I posted the following note on my blog on March 7, 2014 where I laid out the “organizational surface area” of Dr. Arno Penzias and the footwork of finding his piece in Fortune:
Organizational “surface area” is a concept I came into contact with recently. It’s based on the ideas of a prominent scientist, Dr. Arno Penzias.
To later learn that on March 10, 2014, a GigaOm writer published a piece that subsequently develops on what I posted that doesn’t seem to mention how he may have bumped into what I’d written online.
In this update, I look back 20 years to some thoughts from a Nobel laureate about company shape, and I juxtapose that with a recent report on best practices in listening to your marketplace for ‘weak signals’.
And it goes on to quote the same source that I had located … hmmm.
Does that count as plagiarization? Well, I share things online for the benefit of others — and I bump into ideas all the time. Do I claim them as my own? Well, I certainly try not to — especially if I were being paid for them. And really are any of my ideas original?
The definition of “plagiarism” is rather vague:
The purloining or wrongful appropriation of another’s ideas, writings, artistic designs, etc., and giving these forth as one’s own; specifically, the offense of taking passages from another’s compositions, and publishing them, either word for word or in substance, as one’s own; literary theft.via Wordnik
And when you think about it, in the world of art, theft is a natural and normal thing. So I’m okay with it. After all, I lifted the idea from another mind in the first place as I definitely never met Dr. Penzias during my own liefetime.
How did I come upon the Penzias reference? I was hanging out with someone at Davos who mentioned the concept — as having worked at Bell Labs for a Nobel Laureate. The story interested me, and so I went diving into the Web to figure out who had said this in the first place. I was given the wrong name to search for … but I eventually found it. I recall being super proud to find the strand. In hindsight, I should have written down the name of the person who gave me the lead … that way I wasn’t doing the same thing that the professional writer may have done to me. Well, we’ll never know if it was really a coincidence or not. And that’s no reason for me not to blog, blog, blog …. I also admire the kinds of things I see him writing about these days as they’re in my wheelhouse. So que sera sera ….