Ideas are useless without execution

In my adventures as a web & mobile developer and entrepreneur I have met many people with great app and business ideas. It’s really fun to meet them and to dream with them about what’s possible.

Unfortunately I find that many people fall into the trap of thinking that an idea is all it takes. I want to burst that bubble today and say that execution is far more important.

Ideas are like armpits

Ideas like an armpits. Everyone has two of them and they both stink. An idea is just an idea. Without executing on it, it is worth absolutely nothing.

I can share an anecdote about this. Years ago, I was running a popular online web forum for digital art professionals called CGTalk. I realized that there was so much amazing digital art being created, but it didn’t have much credibility as ‘art’ because it was digital. At the time, there were no tablets or smart phones. People still read physical books and enjoyed art hanging up on walls. So I went ahead, partnered with another entrepreneur and founded Ballistic Publishing. We published our first book EXPOSE, which happened to be a runaway success.

Two competitors who were also running online digital art forums at the time got very upset. One of them claimed that he had the idea of publishing digital art books first and that we had stolen it. He never published a book. The other one went on his forum and told his users NOT to buy our book and that they would publishing their own. He never did. We ended up publishing their book instead.

Can you see how delusional both of these viewpoints are? One guy got all upset because we apparently stole his idea even though he did not execute on it. The other guy thought that it was a great idea and decided that he too wanted a piece of the pie but forgot that setting up a publishing business is freaking hard work. Again, failure to execute.

Execution is key

Executing on an idea. Turning it into a reality is absolutely key. But executing doesn’t just mean running ahead, quitting your job and doing it. You have to validate the idea and iterate. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.

My point is, your idea is worth absolutely nothing without you actually executing on the idea in some way.

Never sign an NDA for just an idea

Occasionally people come to me wanting me to sign an NDA about their idea. Unless they actually have a prototype of their idea, or they have proven that they are able to execute on an idea, I tell them no and end the conversation.

Seriously. What makes your idea so worthwhile? I come up with 3 new business ideas a week. I can’t keep up with myself. I have a Google doc with tons of business/app ideas and some even have business plans and wireframes for some of these. I never ask for an NDA from people. I just openly tell them the idea and ask for their opinion (which helps me to validate and iterate on the idea).

Stay away from ‘ideas’ people

‘Ideas’ people freaking drive me crazy. You know who they are. They are the ones that come up with ideas, wave their hands but have no means of actually contributing in any useful way to the product. If you meet one of these ‘hand-wavers’, avoid them at all costs. You will end up being more successful and they will claim that you stole their idea (no matter how remotely different it is).

Stay grounded. Get real

So everytime you have an idea. Make sure to stay grounded. Be realistic. Everyone has ideas. Your idea only becomes worth something if you do something about it.

Leonard Teo

It's my blog!