William Goldman, the famous Hollywood screenwriter, got so tired of people coming up to him and telling him they had a great idea for a movie. When a doctor at a party said “I have a wonderful movie idea. Someone just has to write it,” he replied “That’s funny, I have a great idea for a surgery, someone just has to do the cutting.”
Ideas aren’t worth much.
Yes, that’s right, ideas are worth next to nothing. I know, it seems crazy – as ideas are what innovation is all about.
Sort of. Everything starts with an idea, but unless you put the idea into practice, it’s just an idea. And ideas by themselves don’t go anywhere. Think about how many times you’ve had a great idea, did nothing about it, then saw later that someone else had done it.
Almost every company has changed and adapted from its original idea. The world is about change. It’s great if your company starts off with a killer idea. But unless you have a good management, or unless you’re incredibly lucky, the business will fail, plain and simple. Business isn’t a one time shot, it’s daily execution.
So don’t wait to start your business until you have the best business idea of all time, because you’ll be waiting a long time. A bad team will drive a good idea into the ground. Start with a good idea, and get the best team you can. Strong management will adapt an ok or a bad idea over time, and make it work. They’ll commit to making the business work, not the idea. They’ll adapt as necessary. The real value isn’t in what you provide as a business, it’s the customer problems you solve. Customer problems have a funny way of changing too.
A partner of mine once described a strong idea as “basic with a twist.” That’s about right – don’t be too far ahead of the world, like FedEx was with Zap Mail in the 1980s. Do something that other companies already do, just do it a little better. Don’t focus on what you do, but how you do it.
Now that’s a good idea.