This morning, I read Apple's Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy. It is among the most honest I've seen, and a model for all entities that receive proposals, bids and feedback from external parties.
Two paragraphs, in particular, struck me: the TERMS OF IDEA SUBMISSION and PRODUCT FEEDBACK >> Feedback and Information. Here are the details:
I am forwarding this post to a pair of clients, with whom I was just discussing these issues. The partners recently hired me to certify their professional practice as a women-owned business, then expanded my role to squeeze the certification for all it's worth.
TERMS OF IDEA SUBMISSION
You agree that: (1) your ideas will automatically become the property of Apple, without compensation to you, and (2) Apple can use the ideas for any purpose and in any way, even give them to others.
Feedback and Information
Any feedback you provide at this site shall be deemed to be non-confidential. Apple shall be free to use such information on an unrestricted basis.
Both were smart moves. But then, they're brainy babes.
One partner had attended one of my seminars at the SBA (United States Small Business Administration) District Office in New York. It was either: "Want to Be a Millionaire (Or Just a Survivor)? Success Strategies for Serious Suppliers" or "Tolliver's Top Ten C's For Small Business Success."
No matter. Both seminars addressed the abundance of opportunities, tremendous benefits and how-to's associated with certifying small, women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned and otherwise "disadvantaged" businesses. That is, for suppliers who can qualify for, capture and competently manage contracts.
My classes covered certain precautions, too. Which inspired this post.
An ugly facet of contracting is the riskiness associated with submitting proposals to almost ANY entity. One concern is the effort required to prepare proposals that may not be accepted. Sometimes the winners are the most qualified bidders (either by price, qualifications or both), and sometimes they are not.
Surely, you're not shocked. There's been lots of press about contracts that have been inappropriately steered to preferred suppliers (some qualified, some not).
However, there is a greater concern. No amount of intellectual property protections or confidentiality clauses can prevent inappropriate appropriation of proposers' content, including trade secrets and pricing schemes.
Sometimes, in fact, bidding and information-gathering processes are initiated specifically to elicit best practices for use by pre-designated entities. Those entities may be favored suppliers or even the issuers of the Request For Information, Proposal or Quotation (RFI, RFP or RFQ, respectively).
Of course, some organizations and staff are above reproach. But I've personally witnessed and heard about many bad apples. That's why the frankness of Apple's Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy, albeit hard to swallow, is just what the doctor ordered.