Oct 15

How often have you been approached by somebody who has a great idea for an iPhone app, and they will tell you the idea if you just do the programming, and then you will both share in the profits?

As an aside, I wonder if this happens to book authors as well. “I have this great idea for the next blockbuster novel, if you just write it, we can both share in the profits from the book sales and the sure-to-come movie rights.” Why is programming generally considered to be a simple task once you have hatched the idea? It can’t be because of all the shining examples of software projects that go over budget and never deliver anything useful to its users. End of soapbox.

I was reminded of the old adage about ideas vs. execution when I watched the episode about Mark Zuckerberg in the Bloomberg Game Changers series. In the program the Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra alleged that they gave Mark Zuckerberg the idea for Facebook. And therefore they demanded to be compensated for their contribution to the success of Facebook.

Of course they didn’t write a single line of code, they didn’t contribute a single hour of work to Facebook, but they had The Idea. In my book, that contribution is infinitesimally close to zero. To make the lawsuit go away, Facebook/Zuckerberg settled for $65 million. My advice would be to take that money and run. And maybe use it to pay someone very well to execute on your next idea if you’re unable to do it yourself. Instead they are now rejecting the settlement and are looking for a larger handout. Lame.

Another episode in the Bloomberg series is about Steve Jobs. Jobs and Apple represent the polar opposite: they are masters of execution. Many of the most successful Apple products were not original ideas hatched at Apple: GUI, MP3 player, laptop computer, smartphone, app store. But the key differentiator is that Apple executed on these ideas better than anyone else.

written by Nick

8 Responses to “Ideas are Nothing – Execution is Everything”

  1. Neo Says:

    Very nice post indeed, you got a really good point on this one. But I just don’t think that someone can claim to have an idea if you don’t know how to execute it. Like Thomas Edison said: “Keep on the lookout for novel ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you’re working on.”

  2. Bugler412 Says:

    While I personally agree with you, the structure and current usage of the patent system worldwide unfortunately does not.

  3. Nick Says:

    @Bugler412: Contrary to popular belief, you cannot patent an idea. A patent covers “the concrete expression of an idea”. This requires a lot more execution then just hatching the idea.

  4. Jyaif Says:

    Spot on.

  5. PRCode Says:

    Totaly agree

  6. Tamara Wirz Says:

    Couldn’t agree more!

  7. Paul m. Watson Says:

    This is simplified thinking. It takes ideas to wield tools and tools to hammer out ideas. By all means both are important but ideas are not worthless. If they were, every tool in the land would already be rich and not looking for a hand to wield them. It takes both tool and idea.

  8. Kristopher Johnson Says:

    Neil Gaiman wrote about this in regard to writing stories: http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/Cool_Stuff/Essays/Essays_By_Neil/Where_do_you_get_your_ideas%3F

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