Idea vs. Implementation: The Great Misconception

This is one of my favourite blog posts yet!

This post represents a flaw in my own perception as much as it does in others’ – but it’s only something I have recently come to fully appreciate and understand. Here it is: I used to think that everything was about the idea. If you had a great idea, you wanted to keep it close to the chest like a great poker hand – don’t show anyone, tell anyone or share it with anyone. However, I have come to realize how wrong I was. Idea’s are a dime a dozen; I would bet any amount of money that every person reading this blog post has a great idea about something. A new product, a new feature on an existing product, a new service or an improvement on an existing service; whatever it is, everyone has a least one interesting idea. That’s the crux of my revelation though: ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is priceless.

Why Ideas Aren’t Worth all That Much

Okay, before we can go on to why execution is the priceless piece of the equation, we need to talk about why ideas really aren’t worth all they are cracked up to be. I have had a lot of ideas in my time, and when I say a lot I mean A LOT. I have notebooks scribbled full of ideas, with things ranging from charitable projects to the first motorcycle airbag (I think it’s actually pretty awesome). Here was the hardest thing to admit to myself: these ideas aren’t in themselves worth anything. Sure, having the idea is great, and it might lead to some future value, but as we push 6 billion people on the planet, chances are someone else will have the same idea sooner or later.

Another misconception: I used to keep my ideas secret – only sharing them with very select people. That is also a worthless endeavour. If anything, sharing your ideas with others will strengthen the vision in your mind, and lead to some great input. Explaining an idea to yourself is easy – you never question it! Explaining it 10 times to 10 different people is hugely difficult but amazingly valuable! You get feedback from 10 different people with 10 different backgrounds – and it helps you perfect your pitch! But that’s really all it does. It doesn’t make it a reality or sell the first prototype. It’s still just an idea – and it will remain just an idea unless you do something with it, which  brings us to execution.

Why Execution is Priceless

So, if the ideas do not hold the value, then what is it? In my opinion, it’s execution. Being able to come up with a great idea is a small portion of the work – turning that idea into reality is the other 95%. I don’t think you can really appreciate this universal truth until you have experienced it. You sit with a group of people, and share the vision of a great idea – everyone in the room appreciates and see’s the value in said idea. Then you have to turn that idea into action. You have to develop a plan, start hitting the road fundraising, and building a team that can execute and construct your vision. In order to build a product, you need to come out of your ivory towers and get your hands dirty in the mud.

Caveat: Where Idea’s Can Actually Have Value

I don’t want to give a carte blanche for ideas being valueless; there is one situation in particular where I think ideas can have huge value. One of the few places that ideas have huge value is when it is more a macro idea then any particular product or service. When you can see a major watershed event coming, and how several different pieces orbiting that event will interact, and how it will affect the users day to day life or the use of said product/service, you should treat that insight as something of value. Very few people have the prescience and depth of knowledge to see something like that coming (I myself have not had any personal insight on that level yet, but I have had the fortune to work with a few who have), but when you do, understand the golden nugget that you have uncovered, and treat it as such. Verify, vet and examine your findings, but never give them away freely. For such insights can spawn new industries, never mind new businesses.

So, What Can You Do About It?

So, I have just dashed your dreams on the rocks, and you feel your grand ideas deflated. What can you do about it? Take heart, for there is lots you can do! As the words of Nike go, just do it – and I would edit that to make it a little more actionable – just do something. Whatever it is, find something you are passionate about (an idea, a plan, a thought) and make measureable progress forward with it. Talk to someone, send out an email, write a plan, do something. Planning the trip is a great idea, but if you never begin it, the plans have little value – I am sure thousands of people thought about being the first person to climb Everest, run a 4 minute mile, or sail around the world – but we only remember the ones who actually did it. Remember: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


Blair Livingston’s Blog



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