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
    Adam Fisk, 15 May 2008 @ 10:59am

    Couldn't Agree More

    It's hard to learn this lesson unless you've had to execute something, but your point is unbelievably true. The degree of its truth struck me recently when discussing an idea with a group that did not have the skills to execute the idea. The conversation immediately turned to patents and legalities, and I was left scratching my head because all I cared about was the execution.

    The correlation with patents is what struck me. Patents make a lot more sense *if all you have is the idea*. If you have the capacity to execute, you know someone else would have to out-execute you to hinder your success. If you're good, then you have reasonable confidence in your ability to out-execute many comers. If you don't have the capacity to execute, however, the idea is all you've got. Then the conversation turns to the drudgery of patent law, forming a barrier to the next person who comes along with the same idea who might actually be able to do something with it.

    You're point is something much of patent law misses: ideas are worthless.

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