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IDEA VS. EXECUTION

December 6th, 2022

 

Novel ventures require two things: an idea, and an ability to execute. Much is made about both, but how do they relate?

 

Does an amazing idea make up for lackluster execution?

 

Can outstanding execution make a bad idea successful?

 

Examining these in a lopsided way provides some clues. Zero ability to execute will leave even the most brilliant idea to be a thing of fantasy. The opposite asymmetry points at a crucial aspect of the way they relate. It seems more plausible that outstanding execution could potentially make something actually happen with a bad idea. It might not be ideal - it’s certainly quite far from being ideal, but it’s likely more effective than a great idea that has no execution whatsoever…

 

Comparing these heavy asymmetries highlights something a few people have already pointed out: being smart or innovative or talented is not nearly as important as simply being hardworking and relentless. Relentless execution simply gets places, whereas ideas are just that - ideas; unless of course they are brought to life with execution.

 

This dichotomy extends to simple planning. Given any idea good or bad, what is better: having a perfect plan for achieving that idea, or just simply getting started? Again, execution - just doing something proves far more powerful. 

 

Rumination over the perfect plan often holds back many from ever getting started. All the while the magic lies in approaching it in reverse: just get started and the plan will fine tune itself as progress is made. 

 

The obvious ratio seems like it’s a balance: good idea + good execution. But balance is like that perfect plan: it’s a fantasy. Life is often more lopsided, so given the practical urge to simply eschew the ideal, and accept an imbalance, which way should we lean?

 

Despite how much great ideas are lauded, it seems more and more that leaning on better execution is safer and stronger.

 

So why do we hold ideas up with such hallowed valor? 

 

It’s simple: it’s easier. 

 

We can’t even really control what ideas we do or don’t have. They just come to us. Much like the next thought we never know we’re about to have. Certainly ideas can be honed and fine-tuned, but at their core ideas just… happen. They require virtually no effort. It’s more like an instance of luck more than anything else. Especially when compared to execution which is everything but easy.

 

Unpacking why we as a species concentrate on one thing more than another - and often to our own determent- is often a simple equation of incentives: are we incentivized to think the easier answer is the correct answer? Certainly.

 

It’s just easier!

 

But our mistake is that we always fail to question whether easier means better. Rarely is it the case.


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