Over the last 22 years as a law enforcement trainer I have come to the realization there has not been an original thought or original material in about 100 years. Everything is recycled. As trainers we simply take the knowledge and information that is out there and we repackage it, reframe it, and retool it in original ways to put existing information in context for our particular audience and profession. We come up with original ways of interpreting and applying existing information. In reality it is the application, interpretation and delivery of material that is original, not the information itself.
In the book Be Excellent at Anything the author Tony Schwartz quotes George Keller as saying “One of the paradoxes of creativity is that in order to think originally, we must familiarize ourselves with the ideas of others.” Schwartz goes on to point out “Information, in short, represents the raw material from which original thinking emerges – and the more knowledge ones has, the better the base.”
When you attend an ILEETA Conference (www.ileeta.org) one of the things that becomes immediately apparent is people’s willingness to share. They willingly share their time, share their knowledge, share their experience, share their information, share their material and share the credit. ILEETA is an organization of peers and the majority of members are very willing to share everything they have knowing two things:
- Everything they have they first got from someone else.
- The people they share it with will give them credit when they use the material themselves.
There are some trainers in the law enforcement community however, who want to hoard all ‘their stuff’ because they are afraid someone else will steal it. My experience is if you are not willing to share, then people may steal it, however, if you share they are likely to give credit to you as their source. There are some who want to accuse other people of ‘stealing their stuff’. The reality is we are all using some variation of the same stuff, and just repackaging it differently so, if you are one of those people get over it. We all got our stuff from someone else, from a book, from an audio tape, from a presentation, from a conversation or from a class we took.
Professional speaker and trainer Joe Calloway talks about Becoming a Category of One (I would recommend reading his book by that title). His premise is that you need to focus on becoming a category of one by setting yourself apart from others through your preparation, your presentation, your content, your relevancy, and your style and stop worrying about people stealing your stuff.
The bottom line is this. Do not plagiarize other people’s work. Do not take someone’s else’s speech, article or powerpoint and claim it is yours. Do however, learn, study, read and borrow from others and always give credit. Doing so helps to spread the important messages and reinforces what should be the bottom line for all of us, which is keeping officers safe.