Do We Want To Monetize Every Business Idea?

from the not-really-sure-that-makes-sense... dept

For many years we’ve pointed out that ideas are easy but execution is hard. Unfortunately, as a society, we seem to romanticize and celebrate the idea over the execution — and our policies, such as patent policies — codify that into law. This is unfortunate — especially for anyone who has actually executed and built a real business, since you quickly learn that the original idea is quite frequently meaningless by the time you build a successful business. Earlier this year, we noted that Dilbert creator Scott Adams had jumped on board the whole “ideas vs. execution” dichotomy, and he’s apparently still working that theme.

In a recent blog post, he not only reiterated the “ideas are worthless, execution is everything” claim but tried to take it further by suggesting (as an idea) that it might help if there was a business to bring ideas together with people to execute. Now, of course, this is just an idea and, according to Adams’ own rules, it’s pretty worthless. My guess is that if people tried to execute on this particular idea, they’d find that it didn’t work quite the way Adams’ predicts (which is sort of the point). The basic idea is that people with ideas would tape themselves in a video talking about the idea and then others who might provide related services — such as management, capital, legal, sales, etc. — could join up. If a “complete team” was put together via this system, then they could go execute. The concept is to remove some of the inefficiency in executing.

In my imagined future, you start by making a home video of yourself pitching your idea, just as you would to an investor. You upload your video, along with a detailed description of your idea, to a web site where other entrepreneurs around the world are doing the same thing. But instead of simply soliciting funding, you solicit an entire team, based on whatever skills your business requires. The key to making this work is that no one quits his existing job, or provides funding, until all of the resources for the idea are lined up. The main function of the system is making sure everyone’s conditions for participation have been met before any risks are taken.

Now imagine that the legal contracts for your new business partners are based on standardized agreements that have been created by the online business to be fair to both sides. There’s no wrangling about the legal details. All you need to agree on are the “fill in the blank” stuff, such as who does what, and for what equity or salary. Likewise, the funding agreements are standardized.

As the entrepreneur, you might have a hundred people vying for the job of marketing for your new company. Each person would submit a resume, perhaps some text on how they would approach this specific job, and a minimum compensation requirement. The entrepreneur might choose a marketing expert with weaker experience to keep payroll low, which might in turn cause another potential team member to back out if he thinks the marketing person is too weak for the job. This process of adding and subtracting potential team members would repeat until everyone was happy with the contribution and compensation of everyone else. And during the process, all potential team members could communicate with each other to negotiate deals and refine the idea.

Of course, to some extent, things like this have already been tried. There are incubators out there. There are standard legal forms. There are all sorts of entrepreneurial groups that try to bring such people together. But, for the most part, they don’t seem to work all that well — and a big part of the reason for that is the basic worthlessness of ideas. For an idea to really be executed, you don’t just need the ten pieces that Adams lists out — you need a real champion. Ask most angel investors and venture capitalists what they invest in, and it’s not the idea but, quite frequently, it’s the team and their overall ability to execute. Working on a startup with cofounders is, in many ways, similar to a marriage. Making sure those people can actually execute well together is a key part of it — and this setup seems to minimize that, again focusing on the “idea” as the central focal point.

In reality, however, if you’re so focused on the idea, when the market changes or reality sets in, the team is less able to adjust and to change and to adapt. Adams’ basic premise is correct: ideas are worthless compared to execution but the response to that is aiding with execution in a way that lets people adapt quickly over time, rather than still setting up the key “idea” as the focal point.

In the end, I tend to think Adams’ idea for “monetizing” ideas is about as likely to work as the following idea from another well-known comic creator, Randall Munroe, whose recent xkcd covers the same topic from a slightly different angle:

Business Idea

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Comments on “Do We Want To Monetize Every Business Idea?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

What I want is to find a way to live without monetizing anything.

Just like this family here that made an incredible $20K a year and are living like kings when others would be starving.

How do we improve our quality of life?

That is the real question, monetizing things are not the only way to do that and frankly I’m starting to believe that money is being more of a problem than a solution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Money is more than that(i.e.: it also serve as a control point for distribution of scarce goods) still, you don’t need it to do everything, it may not be possible to get rid completely of the concept of money because it serves some very important functions but here is the thing do we really need it for everything or just some parts of our lifes?

That family right there proved they don’t need it all the time. They basically are living on $50 dollars a week per person, there is no theoretical here they are doing it, you can go see it with your own eyes, they even have netflix, a good house, plenty of food and depend minimally from the state their are closer to freedom than any one working for any company and have a good decent quality of life, why can’t we all do it?

We always will be dependent on others or something and maybe it is not possible without money to “buy” some services and products but really do we need money for everything to improve our lifes? to get more independency? to get more freedom? Do we need money to have innovation? or do we need security for living to get free time to create innovations on our own?

If I don’t need to worry about food, shelter and security what stops me from studying physics and using the money that I was going to use for those things to create something else?

On the “what if” dream possibilities.

What if we could do things different without money? How a world without money would look like? What it would take to live in a world without money? What would the rules be?

Of course if it was possible, which right now it is not, I know that, but what if…

We talk about monetizing but really we are talking about “how will I live?”, that is the need that “monetizing” is supposed to solve, but what if we could do it in another way?

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Money is just a storage device for labor. It’s neither good nor evil.

money might be intended to serve that function, but it doesn’t. money only works as a storage device when all labor is valued equally, you know, like karl marx did. it doesn’t even accurately represent an investment of time since time isn’t valued equally either.

also, there are revenues like rents and interest which involve no time or labor at all. i think these revenues actually devalue labor and time.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, it is used as a token in trading, so it would have to value the labour not equally, but “appropriatly”. If you were trading your labour directly, the skills that are harder to obtain, or the jobs that people do not want to do would still be worth more in trade than the jobs that anyone and their dog could do and don’t mind doing.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Corporate Greed

Monetizing is only one aspect of a bigger problem in the corporate mindset, that is an unfounded “need-to-grow” at any cost. Corporations need to realize that consumers will only consume so much and to adjust their business model to that demand.

Instead, when a business satiates its market, it goes on an irrational quest for future economic growth. One aspect of this symptom are ludicrous acquisitions/mergers by companies to achieve “synergies”. The classic example is the failed merger between Time-Warner and AmericaOnline (AOL). Intel seems to have gone down this losing path with the purchase of McAfee. American business mindset needs to put aside the concept of growth-at-any-cost and have a more collaborative relationship.

As a quick aside the New York Times recently noted that independent experimenters were making “the Kinect to do things it was not really meant to do.” to imply that independent innovation was, in a sense, stealing from Microsoft! So only established corporations can create ideas and monetize them??????

Ian (profile) says:

Here's the problem...

I see this all the time in a particular sub-culture: The MUD/MUSH community (online text games).

You get a guy who says, “I have a fantastic idea for a game. All I need is someone to program it for me, someone to write up all the flavour text, and some people to run it.”

Once you get all those people with specialized skill sets together, why the hell do they need you? They’ve already got your idea.


Re: Here's the problem...

Quite often all of the “real workers” do actually need some idea men to help them along. The fact that you can execute an idea doesn’t mean that you can think it up to begin with. This is the original reason that creative ideas were thought to be valuable and worth of encouraging.

Just about any open development project (free software) is a good example of this.

I have had fights of my own in this regard and been forced to “do things my own dang self”.

Chris Ball (profile) says:

Dragon's Den

This is the exact concept behind the TV show Dragon’s Den which airs on CBC in Canada and apparently exists in several other countries. The idea is that a bunch of entrepreneur competitors get a few minutes to pitch their business idea to a panel of venture capitalists. The competitors have a good (or sometimes hilariously bad) idea for a business, but lack the capital and/or business acumen to execute them on a large scale. If they can convince one of the panelists to go in on their idea, the panelist can invest in their company or partner with them to put the idea into practice.

Kinda boring as a TV show, but interesting from a business perspective.

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