Good Ideas Are Worthless

Good Ideas Are Worthless

Written by Mark

Topics: Uncategorized

I hear good ideas all the time.  So many people have brilliant ideas.  Whether it’s to make something better, a process easier, or a cool way of doing something.  Ideas, are great, but alone are worthless.  Execution, implementation, and action are what’s worth something.  Whenever I hear about an awesome idea from someone, I get excited and want to talk about what the next step is too making it happen.  This is where people’s jaws drop.  Their tone changes from excitement to apprehensive as the reality sets in that their idea requires real work.  It’s an illusion that you stumble upon a magically amazing idea and sell it off for lots of money to someone who does all the work.

Too often action isn’t taken.  It feels good to think of how great an idea is, but hard to commit to the hard work and time it takes to execute an idea.  Another thing that can be disheartening to think about is that hard work and time do not necessarily lead to success.  Committing oneself to the execution and implementing of an idea eaves open the possibility of failure.  This is scary.  I am leaving open the possibility that my startup company SpotHero will fail.  While I am prepared for that, I am working as hard as I can in order to make the company a success.

This quote is fitting:

How does a project get to be a year behind schedule?  One day at a time. — Fred Brooks

There’s so many good ideas out there.  The ones that get executed are what’s worth something. There are an infinite number of decisions that need to be made in order for a new company to successfully get off the ground.  Each decision has the potential to break the company.  The odds aren’t great, but the potential payoff is extraordinary.  Not just in monetary terms,  but in building something remarkable from scratch.

Many companies attempted to build a better search engine, Google did it.  The idea for a portable digital music player wasn’t revolutionary, Apple’s delivery was.  Winklevoss twins believed in ideas.  Mark Zuckerberg in execution….

If you have an idea you truly believe in, roll with it. Get the ball rolling and start the process of seeing it out.  Time flies fast, so if you’ve got an idea, don’t sit around and wait. The best time to start something was yesterday but today will do.

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28 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Anh han says:

    Agreed totally! Ideas are pretty much worthless and it’s the execution that matters. I’ve always been an ideas guy and hope that 2011 will be the year I learn to execute more consistently.

    Any tips on deciding which of the many ideas are worthy of being pursued?

    • Mark says:

      Number one tip to see if you’re idea is worth being pursued. Tell everyone about it. The feedback (good and bad) will be valuable to you. Though, it comes down to your gut feeling. If you believe strongly enough in something, then go for it. There’s no magic bullet or perfect way to vet ideas. That unknown is what keeps most people from starting something. I wish you the best of luck in 2011!

  2. I absolutely commend your honesty in this post, Mark. I’m very much looking forward to SpotHero and have been following up on it for the past week or so. Also, killer last line. Great post!

  3. Trever Clark says:

    Hey Mark – Right on, man.

    I talk to friends and family all the time with some “great idea” that they’ve had for years. They act like you should sign an NDA in return for their telling you about it. But then when you start asking them what they’re doing to make it happen, they just shrug and give a vague response about wishing they had a rich investor. Fuck that. We’re responsible for our own ideas. Like I said in one of my previous posts, there is no great idea board in the sky that gives the thumbs up or thumbs down. If you believe in an idea, you do what it takes to make it happen. And if you’re not going to actually make it happen, then quit being so recalcitrant about telling people about it for fear that they’ll steal it. Better that someone does something with it than you just taking it to your grave you know?

    By the way – Can’t wait to see what happens with SpotHero!

  4. Mark says:

    Trever, acting as if you have to sign an NDA is a little naive. Like it’s so easy to run off and complete the execution of the idea. That vague response about a rich investor is a cop out excuse. Why would an investor invest any money in something where the purveyor of the idea has yet to do anything for it? Well said Trever, “If you believe in an idea, you do what it takes to make it happen”!

    And thanks, Ill keep you posted on SpotHero!

  5. Sounds awesome Mark. I hope it all works out.

  6. Noel says:

    And this is true in more than just business. It applies heavily in the arts. I talk to “writers” or as my colleagues and I call them “W”riters (people who are in love with the idea of being a writer but don’t write) who have “great ideas” or are “waiting for inspiration” yet–they don’t do anything. They write down their big ideas and don’t flesh them out, as if their tag line, plot summary or poetic image is enough.
    The idea is never enough. I tell my students that. You almost never stay true to your original idea when you write or draw or paint. So why hold onto someone so close?

    • Mark says:

      Noel, you make an excellent point. In all types of creativity whether business or the arts, creativity only goes so far when it’s never cemented in action. Thanks for sharing and dropping by. It’s always great to hear real life stories. The application to your students hopefully will spark something awesome in the future with them.

  7. Dave says:

    Hey Mark-

    Good to see you at the Everett Bogue tweetup. Great post! Seth Godin has a good solution for this: Just Ship it! Get an idea, do research but don’t overanalyze, and get something out there. Ship small, tweak later, but just ship something!

    • Mark says:

      Dave thanks for dropping by! That tweetup was awesome! Just ship! Great quote, great advice. How’s the rose website doing?

      • Dave says:

        Pretty well..I’m running a couple of sites so I just make a point to add something to them everyday. That’s my “shipping”. Constant progress on good ideas is better than no progress on an amazing idea

  8. Brandon says:

    Dude, I love this post, it’s made me think a bunch since reading, you know I do that a lot. You are the first to know how guilty I am of this cardinal sin, something that is a huge opportunity for tapping into potential. I really like what Dave said about just doing it, regardless if it’s flawless execution, just make a habit of getting every briliant idea that comes through the noggin out to the world. Another thought I had, that I felt I needed to execute on by posting here is, Inspired ideas are like gifts from the universe, and not executing is like never opening them. It’s like a slap in the face of the eternal source of goodness not to share them with the world.

    Another thought I just had, if we just executed every idea we had instead of feeling the need to nail it and make it amazing, we would suprise ourself with what ideas actually created something sweet in actuality. By just going for everything we think of, we can ease up some of the expectation for our ideas and suprise ourselves with what really is awesome and what was just exciteable gas existing our brain!

    Love it dude, and SpotHero’s a brilliant idea that you guys will execute brilliantly!

    • Mark says:

      One of the most pure awesome quotes of all time!

      ” Inspired ideas are like gifts from the universe, and not executing is like never opening them.”

      –Brandon James

      Seriously I love that quote man! What David said is right on! Just go for it, regardless of flawless execution. Or as Seth Godin says, “just ship”

      Recently Jeremy and I researched free parking around the United Center. I could have waited and perfected a map of the area to make it “perfect” before getting it out in the wild. I’m not a graphic designer so I just made the map in paint. The info is just as usefull and the post went absolutely viral. Many people have been able to find free parking because of it, and it’s now a huge driver or organic search traffic to the SpotHero blog. You can see the post here. Please don’t laugh at my Microsoft Paint Skills :)

      You’re totally right dude. If we execute ideas and just get them out there, we see if they’ll sink or swim and then just move onto the idea that works. Eventually you’ll find something.

      You’ve had a ton of amazingly creative ideas and I can’t wait to see which ones you rock out on. I don’t think of you as someone that I know that fails to deliver at all. You had the idea to quit your corporate job and embark on a spiritual bike journey across Asia. That was the hardest decision of your life. You went against everything you were brought up to believe in your whole life. I know that you are so glad you followed through with it. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

  9. Spot on, Mark.

    So many times I hear people complaining about their jobs or their bosses or their situation. They think they have all the answers and know exactly how it should be done. But the minute I propose the start their OWN business with their fabu ideas, they look at me like I’m a loon.

    They don’t want to do the work and take the risk to implement their amazing ideas, but they sure like to complain about the people who do!

    I say, if you really can do it better, put your money where your mouth is!

    • Mark says:

      It’s easy to gloat about something that has never been turned into substance. While theoretical notions bring oohs and ahhs of pleasantries, when something is made real, judgement happens. I think this fear of judgement can be a huge hindrance Alison.

  10. A.H.A. says:

    Orly? Good ideas are worthless? Frankly, that meme is sooo 2009 and it’s been said a billion times already. It’s like debating working smarter vs working harder, when the truth is really that it’s not a 1D axis but rather a 3D matrix of smart vs dumb/hard vs non-hard/utility vs non-utility.

    Read this:

    Also, read this:

    “Ideas, are great, but alone are worthless.”

    Of course, but that’s a truism. It’s not saying anything we didn’t already know. “Air is great, but without breathing is worthless”.

    It’s not my intent to flame you, I just have a different opinion on this :) I believe that great ideas ARE worth something. And I don’t really believe the scenario you imagine here where it’s common for people to get truly great ideas and then just sit on them. I don’t see that happening a lot.

  11. A.H.A. says:

    It’s an illusion that you stumble upon a magically amazing idea and sell it off for lots of money to someone who does all the work.

    Maybe not “lots of money” (whatever that means), but you CAN definitely sell a pure idea for money. See “So you want my lifestyle: mad inventor” in Interesting Times #5, an article on how to sell your inventions (even if they are just patented ideas) for money, or sublet the actual implementation.

    Again, I don’t want to come off too harsh. But I feel there are too many cheery over-simplistic slogans thrown around in the blogosphere. “Just ship!” “Ideas are worthless!” Not always.

    • Mark says:

      An invention or patent is something beyond a mere idea. If the “invention” was just an idea like “a car that can fly and run on air” it would be worthless. How could you sell such a thing? A car that could fly and run on air is a great idea and the one who makes this will absolutely be successful.

      If your idea is able to be replicated and implemented with such ease that someone could do that just simply from hearing it, then it is indeed worthless.

      If you have an idea you believe in. Go for it. Do not charge ahead with ideas you half heartedly think “maybe might be could be should one day” be worthwhile.

      The problem is execution and implementation getting over simplified. There’s an incredible amount of risk and work involved and even the hardest and smartest work is no guarantee a good idea is going to work out.

  12. I hear you on this. Implementation and execution take some SERIOUS hard work, but in the end, hopefully it’s all worth it.

    If you do something well, consistently enough, it could be good!

  13. Jeff Lane says:

    Just read this man… GOOD STUFF

  14. Jana says:

    This is so true! It’s the same with talents– there are so many talented people in the world who let their gifts go to waste. If you never do anything with it, what’s the point? It’s like an insult to yourself not to live your full potential.

    • Mark says:

      Jana, thanks for stopping by! Lot’s of talented people have lots of ideas, but talent is nothing if it’s not put to use. Right on!

  15. Ben says:

    Couldn’t agree more. It makes so much difference when people accept that someone stealing their idea really isn’t what they have to be worried about and start talking about them.

  16. Eric says:

    If good ideas are worthless, then check out this video and read below about great ideas

    Winkelvoss twins didn’t invent anything, neither did Zuckerberg. I had the idea for a college social network long before both of them, just my idea was 10 times better, and 100 times harder to execute. Don’t give any of them too much credit, just because there was a movie, the movie people don’t always know the real story. Unlike Winkelvoss twins, I still followed through with my big idea in hopes to get to the great ideas. If you know any college students, tell them to sign up for FreezeCrowd. If you still have your .edu or school email, you’re welcome to sign up as well for FreezeCrowd.

    Good ideas are useless, if you don’t make use of them. If you do use them, then they can change the world or your world. If I didn’t use a computer then I couldn’t send you this message, if I didn’t know of Traci, and you didn’t comment on her blog, then I wouldn’t have read this blog. If I didn’t read blogs, I wouldn’t know about your website. Good ideas are useless if you don’t do anything with them. Then again, most great ideas people were not able to do anything with their great ideas.

    “The value of an idea lies in the use of it.” – Thomas Edison

  17. steve werner says:

    excellent points!!

    you can have the greatest product in the world and unless you can get it to market and execute on a plan, that great idea is just what it is-
    a great idae.



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