Everyone has Ideas, How You Execute them is What Matters

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Design Leadership

Written by Brian Ling (Design Sojourn)
Feb 25, 2008


Image by: Jane

Fellow designer blogger KK has uncovered a great representation on the value of ideas in relation to a success of a business. Derek Sivers, in his post for O’Reilly, conceptualises an idea vs. execution formula, which I have reproduced here. Sivers writes:

It’s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an NDA to tell me the simplest idea.)

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.



SO-SO- EXECUTION = $10,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.
The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas.
I’m not interested until I see their execution.

I have always believed that this is the big difference between a designer and non-designer, or an artist and a non-artist. Perhaps even an amateur versus a professional, you see it all comes down to execution.

People always point out a piece of modern art to me and say “well even I could do this”. I would then politely point out, “no you can’t, you don’t have the means or the know how to do it”.

The same with products. “God why can’t everyone be like Apple?” and my answer is “well we can’t because we either don’t have the means or the know how to do it”. Most of the time it is really the lack of the “means” or the unwillingness to put in the “means”.

Being in the design business for quite a few years now, I am surprised how many people (designers and non-designers alike) are so afraid to share their ideas. The point here is that ideas are dime a dozen, and like T-shirts, most of the people in world have them. What you do with them is the key.

The rest is all talk and talk is cheap.

For designers don’t let yourself fall into this same trap as great ideas are the name of our game. Look at it this way, having lots of ideas are like planting saplings. It is the bouncing, sharing and interaction of these ideas that turn them into strong trees.

So what have you shared today?

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Feb 25, 08 – 12:46 am

Hi DT, good points, fear about sharing ideas probably starting in between students, classmates. instead of to helping and learn from each other while they can test their abilities during the studies.

Good platforms to share idea are some community sites as behance.net where you can get instant feed back on your project.

Other way is what you do here at DS with your projects.

Anyway how is it going with your mp3 project?

Mario Vellandi
Feb 25, 08 – 2:07 am

While execution is of course the final straw, I’d like to throw in idea screening and feasibility review; while this may be covered your ‘worth’ equation, the process itself is just as important since “Idea -> Act, Idea -> Act” leads to wasteful spending for one.

Jim Rait
Feb 26, 08 – 1:46 am

2 quotes come to mind:
“The only valid test of an idea, concept or theory is what it enables you to do.” -MG Taylor DesignShop(TM) Axiom.
and secondly:
“[The G4 Cube] was not a failure of design,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “It was a failure of concept. We targeted the Cube at a professional audience. We thought they would rather have something small on the desk than expandability and we were wrong. It was a wrong concept “fabulously implemented.”
One thing I have seen groups do is to evaluate ideas on whether they will work today rather than whether the idea has value tomorrow… implication is business strategy and project goals are properly connected. So we need strategic filter to allow ideas through that have a chance of meeting goals and then to prototype early and inexpensively to rank their comparative potential. It is important to remember another tabulation: Relative cost of disruption per design iteration at each phase is
ideas 1.0
concepts 10.0
prototypes 100.0
deployment 1,000.0
post launch recall 10,000.0
So the temptation to carry on with a flawed idea increases the further down the funnel or stage-gate framework we go…. and then there is risk management to de-radicalise an idea and make sure it is similar to what we had success with last time!

Jim Rait
Feb 26, 08 – 1:51 am

… and another thing… I live in an area of market gardeners… they tell me that they nurture each and every shoot for a while, then pinch out those that are not doing so well… they have criteria to weed them out… and they start planting the next seeds long before the first have matured.. in order to have a pipeline… and they try varieties to keep the buyers’ interest and totally new to understand how to do more radical stuff especially as the seasons are changing…. hey it sounds like innovation!

Feb 28, 08 – 11:02 am

Once again…you have given me great food for thought…

From a student’s point of view…I find that this is happening as we get closer to our final year, exhibition and hopefully, graduation…a lot of students are getting paranoid in disclosing ideas. But this paranoia has some form of speculated groundings to it as we have suspicions on a few students playing the replication game…

Personally though…I do agree strongly with the execution. An idea is nothing until executed properly and I think that it is our each and every individual sense of style that dictates this caliber of execution…

links for 2008-02-25 « Arteliance
Dec 07, 10 – 2:52 am

[…] Design Sojourn | Strategic Industrial Design Blog » Everyone has Ideas, How You Execute them is Wha… I have always believed that this is the big difference between a designer and non-designer, or an artist and a non-artist. Perhaps even an amateur versus a professional, you see it all comes down to execution. […]

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