top of page

Why Idea Theft Could Hurt Your Workforce

Key Takeaways

  1. Employees need to feel as though their ideas are being shared in an open space of collaboration.

  2. Giving recognition, credit, and communicating transparently at work is crucial to building a culture of trust and collaboration.

  3. If employees do not feel safe or respected in sharing their ideas, this runs the risk of creating a silo workplace (i.e., everyone keeping to themselves)

Picture this: it’s a brainstorming meeting and pressures are running high. The room is brimming with panic because stagnation is setting in - no good ideas are trickling through…

Just when things seem like they’re hitting a dead-end, a small voice pipes up and whispers the magic answer. In the height of stress, the solution is heard, but not listened to. Team members break away, agreeing to convene the following week. When next week comes, another bigger and different voice nearly perfectly recites the same glorious solution, but this time to appraising ears and congratulations - they’ve saved the day.

I bet if you’re reading this, you can think back to a time when the small voice was yours. Reluctantly, you might also be able to trace times where the bigger voice was yours too.

It’s more common than you’d think. Recent workplace statistics show that about 1 in 4 (29%) people have taken others’ ideas and rebranded them as their own. This can go relatively unnoticed because over half (51%) of employees whose ideas have been stolen stay in silence, too fearful to speak up.

The Difference between Collaboration and Idea Theft

You might wonder, “what’s the harm? If the problem gets solved, who cares whose idea it was?” While it’s true, that collaboration is at the heart of many great organisational successes, there’s a stark difference between putting your heads together and theft.

The former involves joint problem-solving, respecting everyone’s strengths and giving credit where it’s due. The latter involves distrust, a sense of being undermined and questioning one’s place in the organisation. These differences are what build successful company cultures and problematic ones.

The Consequences of Idea Theft

Where ideas are not appropriately recognised and rewarded, this can very quickly create a silo workplace; a culture where employees stick to their own area and feel reluctant to collaborate. Ideas are not shared with others, mouths are buttoned, and very little innovation occurs. Untapped AI’s insights reveal that where there is a high prevalence of silo workplace culture at work, there is an alarmingly high probability of alternative discourses taking place among employees. These conversations are founded on scepticism and distrust - honest mistakes can be interpreted as cunning moves to get ahead and thus creating a negative snowball effect.

The conversations that happen at work are truly foundational to how a company culture evolves. And the importance of company culture is tantamount to whether great talent and innovation stay or go. Columbia University found that companies with a “low” (poor) company culture reported staff turnover rates of 48.4%. Compare that to companies with a high company culture where turnover sits at only 13.9%. Furthermore, tricky company culture could send great talent running for the hills as 86% of prospective employees said they would actively avoid companies with a bad reputation.

It might seem far-fetched to suggest that taking another’s idea at work could have such significant consequences. However, if there’s anything we know at Untapped AI, it’s that the small things (good and bad) make an impact.

At Untapped AI, we also firmly believe that change is possible and, often, necessary. From our research, it’s clear that organisations that are open to thinking and behaving differently are the ones that stand the test of time. Using our data-driven analytics which features a unique blend of raw human emotional intelligence and cutting-edge AI, we get into the heart of what’s really going on in your organisation and drive bottom-up organisational change.

Want to find out more? Click here to see how we can help your organisation be exceptional at change

16 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page