Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Your Idea Is Worthless." (And other bullshit.)

Don't you love memes? You know, those ideas or bits that seem to spring from nowhere and suddengly appear every-frigging-where. 

They're great, because they often convey some surprising notion. Maybe they characterize something in a fresh way, and wake you up to possibilities. Or problems. Or they just make you smile. 

Sometimes these ideas or bits that the crowd seems to get so excited about have the ring of Truth. Someone says something that seems downright profound, and it's so interesting and so surprising that it grabs you by your sensitive parts and captures your attention. And you become a believer. 

"Your idea is worthless." 

This is one of those things people started to say that has the ring of Truth. Some of my best friends say it. And they are smart people. But this statement is stupid. Of course it's usually followed by some equally mornonic statement (again, uttered by otherwise smart people) that goes something like this:

"Execution is everything."

Sure it is. If you're executing on an idea, a model a plan that's worth the investment of your time and other resources. Because the real truth here is this: if your idea is worthless, your execution on that idea is also worthless. The truth is, there are terrible ideas, good ideas and great ideas. And whether your idea is terrible, good or great . . .  well, that matters quite a lot. 

So why do smart people make these mornonic statements. Mostly I think they do it to get your attention. And to get you to realize that by holding your ideas or concept too closely - too secretivley  - you stop gathering the input you really need to do anything meaningful with the idea. You think your idea is so precious that you're afraid someone will "steal" it. So you do everything you can to protect it. And the result? It dies. it dies because it doesn't have the air it needs to breath. It doesn't get any water, and it starts to dry up. So instead of using your idea to grow your business, you deprive it of the very things it needs to flourish.

So your idea (or concept or model) isn't (necessarily) worthless. But it's also not a company yet. It's (just) an idea. If you want it to become more than just an idea, you're going to have to gather input. Talk about it. Test it. Work it. And bring it to life. When you do that, your good idea and your great execution deliver value. 

But the next time you hear someone say "your idea is worthless," take that statement with a grain or two of salt.  


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