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
    John Wilson, 16 May 2008 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Ideas are not

    Reduction to practice can be either "actual" (you build it and test if for efficacy) or "constructive" (you describe it in a patent application is detail sufficient to enable a person having skill in the art to actually reduce it to practice without having to engage in undue experimentation).

    Adding a "constructive" reduction to the list is where the whole thing starts to go wrong. All one does in doing that is to describe the idea over again in more technical terms in how it might work as something actual.

    Case in point. Telephony was described as ideas long before Bell actually built one. Remember, too, that what he was looking for was something to help the deaf not to facilitate over-the-wire voice communication. That was coincidental and he recognized it for what it was. That he made it to the US Patent Office before another man who had come up with virtually the same product is beside the point.

    What both solved, in essence, was the transmitter of the telephone set. Loudspeakers, the receiver in a phone, were well known before either man built a telephone.

    Neither one would have succeeded or, perhaps, even attempted their work had there been a "constructive" patent laying about in Washington or London that said "if you do this you might just come up with my idea in a way that's practical so remember I own your work now".

    The idea itself is, in shorthand, the "Eureka" part. As has been said we all have them. Most of them are, beyond that, pretty much useless because we'll do nothing with them.

    As far as I can see the "constructive" description in a patent application is nothing more than "Eureka" thought out a bit more and described in more detail. It is not an actual product built on the idea.

    Nothing should be patentable in the absence of an actual working product. Until that point is reached there is, for all practical purposes, an invention.

    As to the distortions that are introduced into the marketplace by patents and (now almost) perpetual copyrights they do nothing at all to encourage innovation on top of the IP in question. Pharma is perfect example where the patent holder will change, ever so slightly, the formulation of a drug to extend the patent which does nothing to improve the efficacy of the drug and, certainly, nothing to reduce the end price to the consumer.

    In the same way that ideas are not "inventions" a so-called constructive description of the idea is not an "invention".

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