The (Un)Value of Ideas

How much is an idea worth? Sometimes it seems that the only thing separating wild success from abject failure is that “one big idea”. What’s more, people who can generate ideas are positively perceived:

“Joe is the creative brain behind this”

Conversely, no matter how good someone is in other areas, saying that they can’t generate ideas sounds like a strong criticism:

“Greg does a great job on implementation but he’s not an ideas man”

But you know what, I think ideas are overrated. And I’m not alone. Rob Walling explains this well at the end of his post A Fool’s Bargain: Building Software for Free (or, An Idea Ain’t Worth Squat):

If you’ve never launched a product you have no way of knowing that it takes three legs to make this stool stand: the idea, the market and the execution.

Finding a market you can afford to market to and executing the idea (including the marketing) are insanely hard.

Finding an idea is the easiest part.

This is why there are websites and blogs all over the place where people share their startup ideas with the world.

The importance of implementation is often neglected. A great idea implemented averagely will be average. An average idea implemented brilliantly can still be brilliant. Heck, even a terrible idea implemented brilliantly can be brilliant.

A good example is Microsoft. Most of what Microsoft has achieved it has done so with ideas that were not original. In terms of implementation however Microsoft has outshone many of its competitors. They were not the first on the scene with a web browser. The .NET platform takes most of its inspiration from Java. Apple were the first to produce a windows based graphical operating system. And yet who now holds a commanding market share in all these areas? This is not meant as a criticism. It is just meant to show the value of implementation.

My Dad used to tell me “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” and, although I never thought I’d say this, he was right. Look at how top tech blogger Jeff Atwood attributes his blog’s success not to a revolutionary concept or amazing idea or even his great writing style but simply to the fact that he “kept jabbing, kept shipping, kept firing”.

So next time you find yourself wishing that you were working on something more exciting or waiting for that big idea to hit you might I suggest you just focus on getting on with doing what you are doing and doing it very well.


1 comment so far

  1. aedjp on

    I think the inspiration/perspiration formula is perhaps too one-dimensional. It implies that if your good idea didn’t work, you were too darn lazy to make it work.

    Applied to Microsoft: 1% inspiration, 49% perspiration… 50% sharp business practice?

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