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. icon
    Mike (profile), 15 May 2008 @ 5:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Improving the Interface.

    This is where I see NPEs being unambiguously useful: an independent inventor has a fantastic idea; however, he just doesn't have the means to bootstrap the invention himself, and no one will listen to him....except the NPE. He gets paid for his idea, the public benefits from the product, the corporation that licenses the patent makes money from the product, etc. Everyone wins! Doesn't this happen sometimes?

    No, everyone does not win. Because in actually bringing a product to market, companies will soon discover (again) that the idea itself isn't really important. They're going to make changes to the idea, respond to the market, adjust and keep trying and changing. The final product will almost never resemble the original idea. So why focus so much on the original idea.

    As for independent inventors, why not get associated with a group who can actually implement the product. Then as they go through that implementation learning process, the original inventor can be a part of the discussion. I just don't see why you should separate the idea from the implementation.

    If you take requests, I'd be very interested to read your opinion on the role of Big Pharma in all of this. It seems pretty plain to me that pharmaceutical companies get screwed if patent strength is weakened. This is a bad thing, agreed? How do you deal with the issues you see with the current system without harming the innovators within this industry?

    I've written a bit about it in the past, but am working on a much longer post about it, that probably won't be done for two or three weeks or so. While I agree that *current* pharma companies may get weakened, I don't see that as a problem. First off, Levine & Boldrin show that it's clearly false that pharma needs patents, with their study on Italy. Italy had a thriving and very competitive pharma industry that was developing new compounds -- all without patents. Once patents were put in place, the opposite of what you think would happen happened. The industry collapsed. There were fewer patent companies, new drug developments did not increase and the industry itself shrunk.

    The other key point is that "pharma" has distorted the actual market: which should be making people healthy. The pharma industry (thanks to patents) has unfortunately brought the focus of R&D money into what's patentable, rather than what's the best solution to making people healthy.

    Take a look at Andy Kessler's book and Merrill Goozner's book to understand how pharma companies are often making it much *more* difficult to create new products and businesses that actually do make people healthier.

    Patents have distorted the healthcare market in a dangerous way. I don't mean that drugs are bad, but that the incentive structure we have currently basically takes R&D money away from non-pharma solutions, and gives incentives for pharmas to game the system for monopoly rents, rather than for creating solutions that actually make people healthy.

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