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
    Nasch, 16 May 2008 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

    I get this a lot, the greater the risk the greater the reward. It only makes sense if you want to encourage adrenaline junkies, it has nothing to do with promoting progress in the useful arts and sciences. If you would like to encourage risk taking behavior then try getting a constitutional amendment, at least in the US, which states “in order to promote risk taking ...”. Put in that light it sounds kind of silly doesn't it. Which is why I told Mikebob he should start of each of these post with that clause. It might eliminate some of the red herrings.

    His point is that something that has little or no risk (coming up with ideas) doesn't need to be encouraged or protected - people are going to do that no matter what. The question is whether we need to protect risky ventures in order to ensure progress. And keep in mind that patents are not supposed to be about making sure inventors get paid. They're supposed to encourage progress for the whole society.

    My opinion is even the risky stuff needs little or no protection. If there's a market for something, somebody is going to take the risk to try to bring a product to that market. If there is no market for it, then a patent would not serve any purpose anyway*. First mover advantage is known to be quite substantial in general - I think patent protection should be very short, if it needs to exist at all.

    * this doesn't mean we don't need that thing, whatever it is, only that a patent is not the way to encourage it

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