The “idea”

Usually when someone approaches me with an idea for a new product or a new business, they blurt out something along the lines of “but don’t you go stealing my idea!” (yeah yeah, they’re all old men sitting on a porch) to which I always respond “but of course I will!” – and so will everyone else.

Everyone knows execution is key, and that ideas are worth a dime a dozen, but I’m talking about something deeper here. Ideas are important and in fact a crucial ingredient in making something amazing, world-changing happening. Without an idea, you’ve got… well, you ain’t got shit. So why do we discredit ideas so heavily?

The most obvious train of logic is exactly that point about execution: if you don’t bother turning that idea into reality with toil and sweat (and sometimes tears, usually not blood) it just won’t happen. We all ponder about all sorts of stuff while taking a shower or brushing our teeth, and we all had that same great idea months if not years earlier, you know, the one which made that young techie so rich and famous. Unfair. Or not.

However, the harder truth about ideas is that they aren’t static. You don’t get an idea and then just make it happen. Going again back to the days when I joined Google and became the product manager for Google Maps for mobile, I met Mark Crady who was the tech lead, and one of the founders of Zipdash, where he and his team had built a mobile mapping application. Mark is awesome, so was he the idea man behind Google Maps for mobile? Well… there was also Mike Chu, who was the other founder of Zipdash, working alongside Mark… and then there was Matt Waddell, who led marketing for the product… and Sanjay Mavinkurve who did the beautiful and highly intuitive design work… and the list goes on (Josh, Jerry, etc etc) – did you really think this product was built by one person?

The point is, I worked with a team of amazing engineers, designers, marketing people and other talented crafters. They all had great ideas, and it was the collective work – hard, hard work, mind you! – of all of us who made the product what it became. Believe me, the very first version looked nothing like what eventually shipped, and then it also changed rapidly post launch, as all good products do! That’s why an idea is worthless, because it’s like dough: it’s necessary to make something but you don’t want to eat it raw. Unless you’re 5. And then you get a stomach ache and hopefully learn.

If you think you’re the idea person, you lose. However, if you have no idea, you also lose. Tough world.

As always, discuss on Twitter.