Making a name for yourself!
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Step right up! For you see before you the LATEST and the GREATEST innovation in law enforcement training … it slices, it dices … it slithers on its belly like a reptile!
What is it you ask? Why it's the never-before-seen Farnesworth's Fighting Flavors Force Format. It is designed to help officers understand the various states of mind during dangerous encounters by equating it to familiar flavors and it goes like this:
1% Milk (white) - Bland, flavorless … not very interesting. Denotes a complacent mindset.
Saffron (yellow) - Recognized by herbologists for its relaxing properties, thus intones a relaxed state.
Tangerine (orange) - If you have ever bitten into a tangerine, it is an explosion of the senses … zesty … you are keen and you are alert.
Rhubarb (red) - Bitterness at its best … bite into this bad boy and your eyes screw up into your best fighting face.
Ah, I know what you're thinking … this is just a knock-off of Cooper's Color Code … no it isn't … I came up with this ALL BY MYSELF. Cooper focused on VISUAL learners … my system works at the GUT level of taste … something EVERYONE can relate to.
Ridiculous? Of course it is. But it is no more ridiculous than some of the trainers out there who are trying to re-invent someone else's wheel or take credit for the pioneering work done by others. I'm reminded of the scene in the movie "Something About Mary" when the crazy hitch-hiker comes up with the idea of "Seven Minute Abs" as a way to make a ton of money, because it would be so much better than the popular video "Eight Minute Abs."
This article is certainly not meant to slight those who have, after giving proper credit, built on the work of others. But there seems to be a growing number of "trainers" who are unceremoniously taking wholesale concepts of others and stamping their own name on them without so much as a "thanks to ... " or a "based on the work of …" in the body of their material or even in so much as a footnote.
On a tactical discussion board, Jim Keenan, a leading trainer from the UK and police inspector with the Lincolnshire Police, recently addressed the issue in a very articulate way. He stated:
- I recall watching a program about the people who broke the German Enigma codes in WWII, in which a man was talking about Alan Turing, the man who invented the computer. To paraphrase what he said;
"The difference between a genius and people who are just 'very clever,' or 'really clever,' lies, I think, not simply in their level of intelligence but in the level of abstraction in their patterns of thought. Turing was like this. Sometimes some of the answers he came up with were very simple, and once we were told the answers all of the 'very clever' people, (and we were all very clever around there), would say, "That's so obvious," but we couldn't think of it before he did, and wouldn't have thought of it if he hadn't been there. And it was often in the simple things that we found the most profound breakthroughs. But the 'really clever' people were the ones who can admit to themselves, "I could never have thought of that."
Theft (and plagiarism is just a type of theft) is a distasteful crime, particularly when the person with his hand in your pocket was a person you thought was a friend or fellow warrior. It is especially distasteful when the only price you ask for your property is the acknowledgement of where they got it. I imagine in some way that when they are introduced to the concepts of another they say to themselves, 'That's so obvious,' and then go on to say to themselves, 'I could have thought of that.' I guess that for some of them it is only a short journey from there to saying, 'I thought of that,' or, 'I would have got around to it eventually.'
I guess it takes a 'really clever' person to realize that, no matter how apparently simple the concepts of a true innovator might appear, that we couldn't have thought of those concepts without the help of a creative genius of a different level of abstraction. Perhaps it just takes somebody with integrity to admit that they didn't.
There are those who would argue that one concept or another is not the "work" of some trainer or another by virtue of the fact that the underlying physiological or psychological principle has been around for ages. Others might argue that a principle taught and popularized by a trainer with whom it has then become associated was so "obvious" that it falls into the realm of public domain. I disagree with both lines of thinking.
I have, whenever and where ever possible, attempted to give credit for any idea that I have heard from somebody else, especially when it supports my own opinions, work or philosophies. I have done this even when I have fundamentally disagreed with the bulk of the information that person has been teaching. I have gone as far as given credit to people I have downright despised, not out of respect for them personally, but because it was not my idea to begin with … it's theirs!!
Giving credit to those who have helped you develop your concepts is the right thing to do. It costs absolutely nothing, and if you ask the majority of those who have been plagiarized in the law enforcement training community, most would tell you all they would have wanted was a foot note of acknowledgment. Of course some don't know the original source of an idea … it's just something they have heard along the way. I don't fault these people. It's the obvious rip-off artists or those who have been told the source of an idea yet still try to pass it off as their own that I take issue with.
There are some trainers out there who haven't had an original thought in their lives. That's OK too! They might be the ideal vehicle for proliferating the ideas of others, and might indeed become known as the source of the information. Sometimes a new twist on old information or the repackaging of that information is just what is needed to help the audience to "get it" and will save some lives as a result. BRAVO! I would just hope that they in so doing they would take the high road and credit their source rather than take the low road and accept 100% of the credit.
There are very few innovators, those who take a new or original approach to a subject in law enforcement. There are many very talented speakers and trainers, but the innovators are few and far between. If you are a talented trainer or speaker and are using the groundbreaking work of others to further your career, take the time to do the right thing. Add a footnote to your article, or an end note to your training materials crediting the source. It costs you nothing, but to the person who broke through all of the barriers in an effort to have that idea broadly accepted it means EVERYTHING.
And if you come across one of those who is either unknowingly or blatantly trying to build a name for themselves off the obvious work of others, take them aside - do not embarrass them publicly - and urge them to cite the source. Nudge them toward the high road.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman once told me, "Ken, I am where I am because I have stood on the shoulders of Giants." Dave has never failed to give credit where credit is due, and is effusive about those from whom he has learned. As a result, Col. Grossman is one of the most well-known and respected speaking names in the law enforcement community. A higher road, I have yet to find.
Take the high road folks … make a name, but make it for yourself!
Kenneth R. Murray
- Police Training