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All Ideas Are Brilliant Before They Are Executed

By: Tim Berry



“No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth von Moltke.

Similarly, all ideas are brilliant before they are executed. Ideas have to run through an obstacle course of hard realities before they are really opportunities. Few ideas make it.
Everybody has ideas, Millions of them are floating around everywhere. Every problem anybody encounters is a solution waiting to be unwrapped. Every time somebody follows the comment “there should be a better way” by suggesting a better way, that’s an idea.
An opportunity is way more important than an idea. The difference between idea and opportunity is huge. An opportunity is an idea somebody can execute. An opportunity is an idea you can execute on because the technology and product development will succeed, people want to pay for it, there is a team with the capability to execute, the needed resources are available, and the economics will work. Ideas have no value because nobody owns them and there are billions floating around every day. Opportunities are the beginning of something that can gain value.
That idea you have, the one you think will make millions? If it’s any good at all, you’re not the only one to have it. You’re right now in a race with somebody else to execute on it. What’s more likely, however, is that it won’t make it through the gauntlet of execution. It’s really hard to get from idea to opportunity.
  • Most ideas have huge fatal flaws that would be obvious to somebody with the right experience, but aren’t obvious to somebody who hasn’t tried to build on them.
  • As you get into the reality of developing a prototype, fleshing it out, making a minimum viable product out of it, you’ll discover why it won’t work. Trying to design and code a software or web product quite often leads to the discovery of why it won’t work as conceived.
  • As you get into the reality of user testing, initial marketing, you’ll discover that nobody wanted it. Or they wanted something different. Trying to get early users, customers, distributors, allies, or channels often leads to discovery of the hidden flaws.
Why am I sharing this discouraging word?
  1. First, because I see so much noise and distraction related to ideas, sadly unrealistic suggestions, people asking experts how they can sell an idea. People want to know where to sell their ideas. That’s all wasted effort.
  2. Second, because an idea somebody has about how to improve an existing product owned by somebody else (such as ideas to improve Facebook, or autos, etc.) is even more likely to have a fatal flaw in it. The companies who own that product probably know why your idea won’t work, even if you don’t.
So what do you do with an idea?
You gather a team, you develop early versions or minimum viable versions, prototypes, get on kickstarter, get traction, and so forth. You execute on the idea. And if you can’t find people who want to join you, get a clue.
This article was originally published by Tim Berry
Published: April 8, 2015

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Tim Berry

Tim Berry is co-founder of Have Presence, founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software, founder of bplans.com, and a co-founder of Borland International. He is author of books and software including LivePlan and Business Plan Pro, The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, and Lean Business Planning, published by Motivational Press in 2015. He has a Stanford MBA degree and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. He taught starting a business at the University of Oregon for 11 years.

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