Let’s play a little game…
Maybe you know it? It’s called, “Would you rather?”
The way it works is this. I ask you a question, starting with “Would you rather…” Then you answer it.
Since I’m writing this to you and not speaking to you in person, I’ll simply have to trust that you answer the question in your head, before reading on.
Here’s my question:
Would you rather base your success on a great idea, or great execution?
Let’s get more specific. Let’s say you had an idea that was on-part with the next iPhone, or the next Facebook, or whatever other breakthrough innovation you can think of.
The only thing is, this is what you have. The idea, but execution that’s average at best.
Alternately, you could have an idea that’s average, at best — such as building a brick-and-mortar retail chain in today’s environment. But have excellent execution.
Are you playing along?
Can you pick one?
Most people have some kind of opinion here. So let’s play with the options.
The power of a great idea…
Maybe you’re familiar with the saying, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”
This truism has had an interesting effect as it took hold in our culture. In America, the invention type with the most patent applications and approved patents is… drum roll… the mousetrap!
Last time I looked at the number, there were something like 4,400 different mousetrap patents.
Presumably in those 4,400 variations there is a better mousetrap. And yet, the odds are overwhelming that if you were to go to the store today to buy a mousetrap, you’d buy one that involved a small piece of wood, a trigger, and spring-loaded bar. You know the type.
That previous saying may be the most misguided advice to inventors ever uttered — almost as misguided as the thousands of inventors who’ve actually followed it.
All of that said, great ideas do matter.
If you create something that the world really wants, you will find it much easier to find success.
And importantly, a bad idea matters, too — but in the other direction.
You can’t force success where it’s impossible.
This makes me think back to the Foam Wing Cutting for Model Airplanes video I used to sell for with my dad. By itself, it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. And it was really useful advice for the handful of modelers who bought the video and used it.
In that regards, it was a good idea. But as a scalable product or business? Not so much. It was a great product aimed at a tiny market that was demographically on the decline.
Even if we’d completely dominated that market (which we did, essentially), there was little possibility of it ever becoming anything significant in a business sense.
Rather, it was a great little project to play with some marketing ideas, and little more than that. Even if I’d optimized execution to the utmost, that idea wasn’t going very far.
The power of great execution…
If you talk to private capital investors — such as a Venture Capitalist — you’ll find that they don’t put a lot of stock in ideas.
Ideas are a dime a dozen.
The idea you bring to them — your preciously-guarded “secret recipe” — gets almost zero respect.
You want them to sign an Nondisclosure Agreement before you do your pitch? They laugh. Or simply hang up on you.
Ideas, they believe, are neither as unique or precious as you hold them to be.
Instead, they look to the team.
Who are the people behind it? What have they done before? What is their experience? How do they present themselves? How do they respond to rejection and adversity?
Yes, they want to hear the idea.
But then, they want to know what you’re going to do to make it happen.
They’ll challenge you. Partly to try to poke holes in your optimistic understanding of your idea and the opportunity. But even more so, to poke holes in you.
They want to see resilience. Because they know great execution often takes resilience, problem solving, tackling things head-on, and being able to pick yourself up and get back in there when things go wrong.
Plus, the ability to solve problems in a way that they won’t happen in the same way again.
This is all execution.
This all points to a middle way…
As in almost everything, if you give me an A/B choice, I’ll ask for the best of both.
So call my “Would you rather?” a trick question.
The best ideas are ones that truly feel new and interesting, and naturally grab attention and build interest from your market.
And starting with a bad idea is a huge disadvantage.
So give me a great idea, yes.
But I’m not going to stake my success on a great idea exclusively.
There are countless great ideas piled in the landfills of history, that never got off the ground because they were never made real through execution.
You need execution to turn any idea into reality.
And better execution will only increase the success you have with ANY idea, no matter how good.
So what do you do with this?
If you’re like me and most of my readers, you’ve had a thousand good ideas in your time that have never gotten off the ground.
Maybe it’s a copy idea for a client campaign.
Maybe it’s a new product or service for your business.
Maybe it’s something you want to do to create fulfillment in your personal life.
Just think of an idea that means something to you, that you’d like to see fulfilled.
Consider what you need to do — how you need to execute — to make it real. And start taking little steps to move yourself forward.
You’ll find it’s a feedback loop. The better you execute, the more refined your idea gets. The more refined your idea gets, the more it will motivate you to execute at a higher level.
But it starts with taking little actions today.
“How do you eat an elephant?”
“One bite at a time.”
Make that idea your elephant. Start executing, to the best of your ability, in small steps. And keep moving forward when you face resistance and failure.
The idea here isn’t necessarily that your best idea today will create a new life for you. Rather, you do this to practice and get in the habit of executing on your best ideas.
The more you do that, the better you’ll get. And the better you’ll be able to leverage the best ideas you come across into even bigger successes.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,