How To Steal A Coworker’s Idea And Sell It As Your Own

How To Steal A Coworker’s Idea And Sell It As Your Own

Struggling to come up with new ideas at work? Worried you might get canned if you can’t bring something brilliant to the next meeting? Provided you don’t mind being evil, you can steal someone else’s great idea and sell it as your own.

Title image remixed from Ernesto Ochoa (Shutterstock).

As Pablo Picasso (or maybe Oscar Wilde, or who knows?) said: “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” That same philosophy applies to all those ideas you have at work. Want to know the easiest way to hijack a brilliant idea as you own? Let’s look at three methods.

The Easiest Method: Beat Them To The Punch


By far the easiest (and most nefarious method) of stealing a coworker’s idea is to simply take it to the boss before they even get the chance. Of course, you have to know what their idea is first, and that takes some quality eavesdropping.

If a coworker sits near you and regularly sounds off with their ideas, then all you need to do is sit and eavesdrop on their conversations. If you’re worried about getting caught, throw on some headphones so it doesn’t look like you’re paying attention.

If the rising star of the company is on the other side of the cubicle farm, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. One method is to create a FM bug to eavesdrop on their conversations. If they store ideas on their computer, it’s always good to know how to break into a Windows PC or a Mac so you can recover any documents filled with great ideas. Granted, if you’re caught, you’ll probably get fired, but if a really good idea is worth it to you it might just consider it. Photo by Tina Lawson.

Repitch The Same Idea, With A Snazzier Presentation


Ideas are all about presentation. Perhaps if Nikola Tesla was a better salesperson he would have beaten Thomas Edison in the War of Currents. With that in mind, hijacking a coworker’s idea doesn’t always have to be about getting to the boss first; sometimes you just have to present it better.

We’ve walked you through creating presentations that don’t suck before, and that’s certainly a key part of the process. Jazz up your presentation with catch phrases, create a simple but awesome PowerPoint, and learn how to give a great public speech.

Even if you deliver this amazing speech after your colleague, you’ll get extra kudos for selling it better. Think about Apple and the iPod. All Apple did was repackage someone else’s idea with a better pitch. Photo by Matthew Hurst.

Figure Out What’s Worth Stealing, And Make It Better

If you’re not incredibly evil and thus are unwilling to just totally rip off an idea, it’s time to rework the idea into your own and make it better. This is certainly the least evil approach, and hence the most common. Even CareerBuilder suggests that stealing isn’t all bad if you do it right. In his book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, author Austin Kleon suggests one simple idea, expressed by this image:


His point is that stealing an idea is common. Think your coworker has the seedling of something interesting? Make it better, repackage it, and the pitch it as an all-new idea of your own making (you can of course bring them in on this process).

If you’re not into stealing ideas, and you’re sick of people stealing yours, perhaps you should start working in a team, documenting everything, and talking to your boss. Or you could steal one of their ideas, make it considerably better, and show them up at their own game.

Lifehacker’s Evil Week is all about topics such as password cracking, social hacking and other ‘questionable’ tricks. Knowledge is power, and whether you use that power for good or evil is in your hands.


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