If you are a young entrepreneur, you have no doubt heard the saying, “ideas are a dime a dozen; what matters is execution”, more times than you care to remember.
There is a morsel of truth in this but be careful you don’t fall for the notion entirely, because in a certain perspective it is quite fallacious.
‘Single ideas’ are indeed almost always worthless.
What really matters are ‘idea clusters’. Great ideas need dozens and dozens of other small ideas to ‘flesh them out’. I like to call this fact of life: ‘serial microinnovation’.
When you hear of a great idea executed flawlessly, it is virtually always because of several supporting ideas that guided the core idea into practice. And those ideas taken together form the ‘idea cluster’.
Don’t get it twisted. Idea-clusters are critical for execution.
When Apple writes that: “Apple’s innovation is embodied in its Intellectual Property, including Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights”, they know what they are talking about. That’s why they spend billions defending the cluster of ideas that constitute their market advantage. As does any company worth their salt.
Empirical research has actually shown that for the S&P 500 companies, intangible assets (aka ‘ideas’) constitute a crazy 84% of their market capitalisation!
The problem therefore is not that ideas are worthless, but that single ideas are worthless. When ideas are too few, they are worth less and less.
Several ideas organised into a definite structure however reinforce each other; are harder to copy because the permutations of configuration increase dramatically; become indispensable to sound execution; and are critical for business success.