I’m realizing that I have a fetish for offering what seem to be contradictory points of view. In the world of entrepreneurship and our startup communities, one thing I’ve learned, certain with time, and it’s that the same advice, repeated ad nauseum, is helpful academically, to ensure everyone knows the fundamentals and tackles the basics, but when it comes to innovation, we must push people to think outside the box, not within it.
On a panel this morning, it was once again asked why founders struggle to raise money for ideas. And of course, the typical answer was repeated that ideas are worthless and that it’s all about execution.
Hearing it this time though, flipped a switch in my brain that made me react to that sage advice with a bit of revulsion.
Please, appreciate the point of it being said: no one funds ideas. And yet, entrepreneur communities, founders, and startups, indeed, our economy at large, suffers from a lack of ideas.
And then it dawned on me, that contradictory fetish… I’m thinking ideas are precious and invaluable in the same breath that I just wrote Founders, it’s time for “the Idea” to die.
Both are true.
Are ideas valuable? Absolutely yes.
Most businesses, organizations, and even startups, are severely lacking creative and entrepreneurial people who quickly propose relevant ideas.
Have you ever tried to host a brainstorming session? Often, they’re aggravatingly frustrating, with most being:
- Incredibly quiet without many contributing
- Full of very old ideas
- Flush ideas known not to work
- Filled with commonplace ideas
Business thrives because of innovation and marketing. Competitive advantages. This REQUIRES informed and experienced ideas.
Lots of them.
Hundreds per day. Attempted, validated, discarded, and iterated.
Most businesses and executives SUCK at doing this.
It’s really almost depressing when you see a business struggling or closing and you talk to the team…
- Did you try…?
- What about…?
- Why didn’t you…?
Nope, nope, nope.
Now, here’s the catch…
Fuel, in and of itself, is rather worthless too.
In fact, refining oil (data) into meaningful ideas (fuel) is a waste of time and money if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Without a match… without an engine… fuel doesn’t ignite anything. You don’t go anywhere.
People don’t buy fuel to have fuel, they buy fuel because they need a car.
But that car you’re building, without ideas, won’t go anywhere.
Businesses without ideas are like people with matches trying to light a wet campfire. Striking, striking, and striking again. You have the stuff that’s valued (wood, matches) but you can’t do anything without a ton of work.
And then someone says, “want to throw some lighter fluid on there?”
The reason it’s said that ideas are worthless is because WAY too many people (founders and working professionals) want credit and to be valued, or funded, for an idea. That idea without a match is worthless. But a match without ideas is just as useless.
[Image source: “Lit Match” by Vivere Exultantis, via Yvelle Design Eye]