Idea vs. execution: who wins?
Recently, I spoke about the relationship between vision and execution which brings up the question of which is more important for an entrepreneur, startup idea or business execution?
While there isn’t one decisive answer, many entrepreneurs have shared their thoughts on this question previously. Let’s look at some opinions from around the startup community:
But the reality is that ideas do matter, just not in the narrow sense in which startup ideas are popularly defined. Good startup ideas are well developed, multi-year plans that contemplate many possible paths according to how the world changes. – Chris Dixon
My view is that a startup is a continuum of ideas. The initial idea may bear some resemblance to the idea at any future time, but the actual instantiation of the idea can vary dramatically over time based on the learning that happens along the way. – Brad Feld
The value in an idea is found in the ability to execute and make it meaningful, not in protecting the idea from others. – Anthony Iannarino
Ideas don’t make money. Businesses make money. And businesses might be sparked by ideas, but they’re built on execution. – David Berube
When entrepreneurs come to me with that “million dollar idea,” I have to tell them that an idea alone is really worth nothing. – Martin Zwilling
Yes, unsurprisingly it seems that the general consensus is that execution trumps idea. Of course, it doesn’t have to be one against the other and successful startups should do both things well while successful entrepreneurs will have passion for their idea and inspire it in others to help execute. Unfortunately, this is all you get: an ambiguous answer at most; it’s up to you to put your idea and execution to the test as an entrepreneur.
However, I will offer this: either great ideas or great execution can lead to good startups. If you have a great idea that answers a need or solves a problem well, your startup can succeed. If you have a great team or set of skills which can help you with execution, your startup can also succeed.
Which path is right for you?
An entrepreneur must have vision, they say… Vision is nothing without execution, they say… What they don’t (need to) say is that direction is crucial for getting anywhere. To go from idea to execution, you need direction. Direction is what connects vision to execution, it makes your idea come to life in several successive steps. You absolutely need it to know how to get from one step to the next.
Idea is a plain description or image, a mental visualization, while execution is a task or result, a checklist that’s been checked. Direction is knowing where you want to go and what you need to do, it’s a plan with clear steps that’s in your head, it’s a checklist that needs to be checked. That’s what makes the real difference between success and failure. Does that make an idea any less important? No.
It’s important to know where you’re going and also how you’re going, but we often forget about how to get there (which is understandable since we practically depend on our GPS for getting around). However – and somewhat unfortunately – a GPS won’t guide us to our final destination in entrepreneurship. If you want to achieve success, map out how you’re going to lead your startup there from early on.
Entrepreneurship is a chaotic ride with ups and downs all along the way; it’s all about the journey, isn’t it? That doesn’t mean we can’t choose which roads we take, what turns we make, and when we need a pit stop. Think about direction as well as vision and execution. Be prepared for everything. Readiness is a virtue!
Will you stop to ask around for questions or do you have a road map?