Ideas Are Easy... Execution Is Difficult

from the so-why-do-we-protect-the-ideas? dept

It's an ongoing theme around here, but ideas are everywhere. The real trick to making something great often has extremely little to do with the idea, and much more to do with the execution. That's where the real innovation occurs -- in taking an idea and trying to figure out how to make it useful. It's that process that's important, much more than the original idea. As nearly anyone who has brought a product from conception to market will tell you, what eventually succeeds in the market is almost always radically different than the original "idea." That's part of the reason why patents are so often harmful to innovation. The patent is for that core idea, which is rarely the key in making something successful. But by limiting who can innovate off of the idea (or just by making it much more expensive) you're limiting that process of innovation.

Some people disagree with this, but the failure of Cambrian House, once again seems to demonstrate the vast gap between ideas and execution. Cambrian House was a well-hyped company that tried to "crowdsource" new companies and products. I've paid attention to them for a while, since their business model had some similarities to what we do with the Techdirt Insight Community. However, as the founder of Cambrian House admitted in explaining the company's changing plans, it wasn't difficult to get people to come up with all sorts of interesting and exciting ideas -- but where the company failed was in getting anyone to actually execute on any of those ideas. Ideas are a starting point -- but it's high time that we stopped worshipping the idea, and started recognizing how much more important execution is in driving innovation.

Filed Under: execution, ideas, innovation
Companies: cambrian house


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  1. identicon
    mjr1007, 15 May 2008 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

    Mjr1007 wrote:
    Why is it necessary for someone with a good idea to have to devote so much time, effort and money to non idea producing activities to be rewarded for a truly good idea?

    MobiGeek replied:
    Because the people that do the work deserve the bigger payoff?

    Mjr1007 replied:
    This is almost never the case though. The investors are the one's who get the biggest payoff. The people doing the work get far less. Do we want a nation of rich investors or a nation with lots of ideas. The constitution of the US says “in order to promote progress in the useful arts and sciences”, not in order to have the richest investors. As it stand now, the investors are gatekeepers and do a great job of keeping most people out.

    There is another basic assumption here which I don't believe is true. That is coming up with good ideas and following through to the patentable stage is trivial/easy. The prior art search alone is a pain in the ass. Having to read so many bad ideas in the form of academic papers and patents, and figure out why they won't work, well it mind boggling. But that actually pales in comparison to actually coming up with a really good idea and taking it to the patentable stage.

    Having said that, I will admit there are a lot of bad patents out there which never should have been granted. Anyone knowledgeable in the field would have reject the idea immediately. Which is why compulsory licensing with an overall fixed percentage for the pool seems like the best way to promote progress. People could file whatever lousy patent they want, if no one actually uses it, then it won't really matter.

    As far as the people doing the work, it would be a piss poor allocation of scarce resources, see how I through in the economic jargon Mikebob, to reinvent the wheel. Most of the good development people I know, look for good, existing algorithms to implement before going off to invent new ones. Inventing good algorithms is not nearly as easy as some on this site would have you believe. The whole point of promoting progress is to encourage people to publish these really good ideas so those who are better at implementing can spend their time doing what they are good at. It's a win win. It's also a division of labor, different people all doing what they are good at to produce a product, not because they have your best interest at heart, but because they have their own.

    Maybe you experience is different. Maybe you work with implementors who spend most of their time coming up with new algorithms, but it is a slow time consuming process, at least for good ones.

    Mobigeek wrote:
    Because there are often many people with the same idea?

    Mjr1007 replied:
    There are often many people with the same bad idea as well. Just as I would not reward bad ideas I also would not reward obvious ones either. But how about rewarding those truly great ones?

    Mobigeek wrote:
    The system today rewards the first person to the post office, not the first person who actually does the work of executing on that idea.

    Mjr1007 replied:
    Not sure how to read this. Is this a first to file verses a first to invent issue or is it a patent verses product issue?

    Mobigeek wrote:
    Why should someone who risks very little (think, write, apply) deserve more (any?) than the person who risks lots by investing in developing, prototyping, marketing, producing and selling?

    Mjr1007 replied:
    I get this a lot, the greater the risk the greater the reward. It only makes sense if you want to encourage adrenaline junkies, it has nothing to do with promoting progress in the useful arts and sciences. If you would like to encourage risk taking behavior then try getting a constitutional amendment, at least in the US, which states “in order to promote risk taking ...”. Put in that light it sounds kind of silly doesn't it. Which is why I told Mikebob he should start of each of these post with that clause. It might eliminate some of the red herrings.

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