The myth of the Great Idea

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While the word “execution” may sound a lot like “doing stuff,” it’s really about “doing stuff right.” Coming up with an idea is the easy part. Bringing it to life involves vetting, planning, development, testing and coordinated go-to-market tactics.

The Idea Man

Years ago, my friend and I worked for an international telecommunications service provider; I was in product, and he was in business development. Nearly every afternoon, when the weather was nice, we would head to a nearby coffee shop to discuss his latest ideas, because that’s what you do when you work at a place like that.

He was never short on ideas, both in terms of quantity (he was a veritable idea cornucopia) and enthusiasm. After he pitched me an idea, I would visualize an execution path, including potential pitfalls and roadblocks, which always ended with the idea on the cutting room floor. I was batting 1.000 and we were getting nowhere.

Inspired by Tragedy

Then, one afternoon, he told a scary story: over the weekend someone had broken into his house, while he and his wife were home. His wife had left her purse on the counter, someone saw it through his sliding glass door, broke in, and took it. He heard the noise, went to investigate, and felt the perpetrator rush past him on his way out the door.

I was shocked at his horrible experience, but he had been girded by it. His idea that day was for a home security system that could be monitored via the Internet (years before Ring). As I worked through the execution path, he was in the zone, talking about his youth in Chile and his connections with that community. The pieces kept falling into place until we could see our way through the forest of uncertainty and fear.

Path to Victory

When he realized how far we’d come in developing the execution path, he stopped and asked me where it had come from. I told him that’s what product people do with ideas, we visualize the execution path to victory, if there is one. We continued the conversation, even talked about it a few more times, but it didn’t go anywhere; we were too busy to work on it, and I think he enjoyed the ideation more than the execution.

The road to Hell

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The same might be said for great ideas. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that most folks think ideation is more important, or at least more enjoyable, than execution. I started referring to this phenomenon as the “Myth of the Great Idea.” You can see it prominently featured across the spectrum, from scholarly literature and reputable articles, to casual discussions at the neighborhood pub or a backyard barbeque; everyone wants in on the ideation and no one wants to run with the execution.

Fortunately, the execution path has always been the fun part for me, which has allowed me to see some great, and some good, (and even some not so good) ideas to fruition. Some of those implementations have tanked, some of them have exploded in value, but most of them are still out there, chugging along, making good money for their operators; and I’m proud of each and every one of them.

Helping clients with execution is one of the four pillars on which Ronin Technology Advisors has built a successful practice. We have the experience and knowledge that comes from helping service providers take good ideas and turn them into scalable and successful products. Need help getting past ideation? Let’s talk!


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