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, 16 May 2008 @ 6:52am

    All ideas are not created equal

    I have to say, these are some of the stupidest post I've ever seen, and I thought Mikebob was bad, but some people posting here have got to be denser the lead.

    The basic rhetoric being used here is:
    all ideas are the same,
    it's easy to come up with stupid ideas,
    therefore no ideas should be reward.

    Once more from the top.

    Article I Section VIII clause 8

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

    This is the basis for the patent system. Nowhere does it say to promote lame ideas or products. Come on people this really can't be all that difficult. The reason that good examples of patents are science and technology related is because, wait for it, IT'S WHAT THE U.S. CONSTITUTION SAYS.

    Here is a very simple adage that I use in my professional life which helps a lot and is surprisingly infrequently followed by most "WHEN IN DOUBT, READ THE DIRECTIONS".

    In this case that would be, again wait for it, THE CONSTITUTION, at least for those of us here in the states.

    By misrepresenting any lame idea with no hope of ever actually being implemented with PROGRESS IN SCIENCE AND THE USEFUL ARTS, you get to bicker endlessly about stupid ideas not worth the electrons needed to render them.

    Lets go over just a few of the idiotic examples currently in these comments. I hope that those of you who are not held up to public ridicule in this post won't feel left out, that would be you Mikebob, but time is limited and there seems to be, at least on this web site, and endless, but not infinite, supply of morons.

    Turning on a sissy motorcycle from a distance, incredibly not progress.

    Coming up with a way to increase Instruction Level Parallelism (ILP) in microprocessor, PROGRESS.

    Now for the idea man. I absolutely shutter to think what ideas he actually has. If they are, as I suspect, along the lines of: "hey lets build a time machine", then there is a very good reason for him not making a living from creating ideas. But I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Why don't you just trot out some of those brain storms of your's. It should be easy enough to judge.

    I'll even kick of the idea party with a few that I've had in the past. Of course I will be accused of getting all TECHIE on people. But it truly is hard to see how you can promote progress in science without getting technical.

    The first one was utilizing a modified binomial decomposition to speed up the microcode for a 17 bit multiply on a massively parallel Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) array of 1 bit processing elements with eight bit co-processors. It dropped the multiplication time from 51 clock cycles to 37. Which was sufficient to process the radar data in real time.

    The next one is in free text search. To resolve issues of lexical ambiguity (polysemy) the use of co-occurrence words were use. An example here would be the word tank. It could mean anything from a military armor, to a place to store liquids, to a type of tee shirt and more.

    In the first case the people at the company who were charge with writing and maintaining the microcode thought it was novel. That would be people knowledgeable in the art. In the second case it won a government Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant. It was also touted some years later by a different company as being a breakthrough.

    Since both of these occurred before I went out on my own, they were works for hire, I saw nothing from it. I left the second company shortly after the award so I wasn't there to drive the research. Which brings me to another topic of Mikebob's. Scientist and engineers are not fungible, at least the good ones aren't. Once I left the company with the free text award, they merely assigned someone to continue to run the grant but never really made progress.

    OK, hopefully that has set the bar somewhat higher the motorcycles or lawnmowers with remote starters. People, stay on topic, Progress in science.

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