Super Magazine

Change the channel on the idea vs execution debate (video)

A week or so ago I stumbled across a few blog posts on the nature of ideas in startups. They are:

I enjoyed reading them and got to doing some thinking. And some digging. Among other places, the digging led me to the work of Balaji Srinivasan who Chris and Brad both reference. He’s a Stanford professor turned entrepreneur who offers a course through Coursera called Startup Engineering. And it turns out that one of his lectures seems to have motivated both Chris and Brad’s posts.

I think I agree with what all of these guys have to say about this, but I believe we need to take things even further. Read on or check out the video below which explains my thinking on all of this.

I’d like to propose that we reframe this discussion: we should be talking about the deliberate design of opportunities, a process that includes both ideas and execution and sees no reason to pit them against each other. And when it comes to startups we shouldn’t be playing the odds or even trying to run the maze quickly. We should be deliberately designing our opportunities to be at the same time highly impactful and highly feasible. The right path will then follow.

In their posts, Chris and Brad both challenge common perceptions about the idea vs. execution debate and suggest we need to move beyond them. Chris argues that ideas matter but not in the narrow way in which startup ideas are normally defined. He then introduces and provides examples of Balaji’s metaphor of an idea maze. Brad takes the discussion further, suggesting that a startup is a continuum of ideas and that “a different construct is needed other than ‘idea.'” In my understanding, both of them are building on Balaji’s thoughts about the idea maze, the notion of a continuum, and the importance of the entrepreneur’s plan and path.

What’s important is not just that we move people away from debating whether ideas matter more than execution just because it does us a disservice. I’d like to propose that we reframe this discussion: we should be talking about the deliberate design of opportunities, a process that includes both ideas and execution and sees no reason to pit them against each other. And when it comes to startups we shouldn’t be playing the odds or even trying to run the maze quickly. We should be deliberately designing our opportunities to be at the same time highly impactful and highly feasible. The right path will then follow.

And we shouldn’t lose track of the fact that behind all these words and concepts – such as ideation, maze, continuum, evolution, design, and modeling, some of which I use myself quite often – we’re still talking about value creation. The good old stuff in our decades-old strategy toolboxes. It’s just that we’re just finding better ways to understand, teach and learn that stuff for innovation’s sake.

Here’s a video sharing my thoughts on all of this. I’d love your feedback. (And for more of a focus on how one might go about deliberately designing opportunities, check out this introductory video and these tools for idea modeling.)

 
 

4 Comments

  1. a great labour. very interesting for my bussines students

    • Alex Bruton

      Thanks Francisco. I hope they like it!

  2. Alex Bruton

    Just read this post tonight by my colleague and friend Doan Winkel: http://www.doanwinkel.com/blog/2013/01/17/business-model-vs-business-plan/ In hindsight I would have referenced it especially in this post!

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