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 @ 8:50am

    All ideas are not created equal

    MLS wrote:
    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).

    John Wilson replied:
    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.

    mjr1007 replied:
    Rent seekers tend to do whatever they can get away with, why would anyone expect the field of patents to be any different then any other, in that regard. The idea, not what actually may happen, of describing something completely for other to implement is not novel. Any good scientific paper about an experiment should contain all the information necessary to reproduce that experiment. In fact that is part of the scientific method. Now humans being humans, sometimes it necessary to contact the original scientist to clear up some points, but the idea of being able to reduce to paper the information to build something is actually pretty common. Ever see blue prints?

    The bitonic sort example was another case. In this case they read the original paper, instead of a patent, but clearly there was a great deal more there then "MAKE SORT FASTER", which is the level of much of the discussion here.

    The only thing worse then having inept patent examiners approving patents is to then have corrupt attorneys bicker over it in front of a jury who thinks that "LETS BUILD A TIME MACHINE" is a worthwhile idea.

    Just because the current system is poorly implemented doesn't mean all possible systems would be piss poor.

    The obvious solution is to have compulsory licensing at a low fixed percentage for all of the patents and then let those knowledgeable in the field, i.e. the engineers actually developing the product, determine which patents where in fact useful and which were garbage.

    It seems obvious that someone with great skill in the field would be working in the field and not as a patent examiner. It might be a place for older engineers to go but that's a whole different discussion.

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