Ideas Do Not Matter – Here’s Why

If there is one thing I have learned from many long nights and anti-social weekends of being a moonlighting, lean-startup, entrepreneur wannabe, it is this: ideas do not matter, it comes down to execution.

At least in my experience, we have collectively developed an obsession with the notion of “great ideas” and “bad ideas.” We have nurtured a mindset where the distinctiveness of an idea determines its success — as though an idea must somehow be unique and “never done before” to totally take hold of a market or industry. The notion that copying or taking from an existing idea is cheating has become common place (think of Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins).

And there seems to be a sense that some ideas are inherently great — that just describing them leads one to an “ah-ha!” moment of “why didn’t I think of that?” Just one example of how we glorify the “idea” — how many of us have at one point felt an idea of ours needed to be kept a secret, or else people would steal it?

Valuing ideas above all else is bullsh*t.

First off, look at any industry and you’ll notice that there are multiple products or companies that do the exact same thing. Luxury cars, mobile phones, social networks — many are similar, and some even share the exact same features. At the end of the day, is an iPhone and an Android not the same idea, just executed differently?

Execution is what really differentiates products or companies, not ideas.

Seventeen years ago General Motors’ brought a car to market called the Geo Metro — it had amazing fuel economy — 50 miles to the gallon (about the same as a Toyota Prius today). But the Geo Metro was a consumer flop back then

Today, Ford is willing to try out a three-cylinder engine yet again with the insight that most drivers care less about what’s under the hood than they do about fuel economy. The basic idea they’re producing is the same as the Geo Metro (and in fact they plan on charging more for less cylinders.) So won’t it fail this time, too? Better execution, and smarter consumer/product fit is what will matter with that car.

It does not matter how large or successful of a brand it may be, or how popular, improbable, or obviously needed an idea is. Whatever the idea, it can be made into a great one with the right level of iteration, churn, and “re-design” — taking feeback into consideration.

When we worry about other people stealing our ideas, we ignore that ideas are just untested hypotheses. No one wants to take something that isn’t proven. Because it’s the proof — the effort and execution that really matters.