Idea vs execution

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Idea vs execution

 

Startup ideas are fascinating. Most of the time. Whenever people talk about a startup, the idea mostly becomes the focal point of discussion: I once overheard two people talking about how a new app being developed in Nepal would allow its users to conveniently call someone for any handyman work, like plumbing, that needed to get done around the house. “This is going to be big,” one of them said; and I thought the idea was great too—solving problems for people who had no idea whom to call when things broke down in their homes. But I also thought about the conversation itself, and how the two people assumed so conveniently that just because an idea is unique, bright, or targets a mass market, it’s going to make it big.

There are, after all, companies who are doing extremely well, even though their startup idea did not seem at all captivating. What they focused on was executing the idea. A perfect example of flawless execution would be how De Beers got everyone to cherish diamonds: the company’s ‘Diamonds are forever’ campaign, which was pushed relentlessly, changed how jewellery could be marketed, and in fact, created a whole new market for diamonds. Before that marketing campaign, diamonds were considered worthless. De Beers shifted the narrative and turned diamonds into a symbol of love.

Most entrepreneurs have to wrestle with the following question: what is more important for your company’s success—the idea or the execution?

 

The seeds

 

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The idea is the seed. “It is the mother of all things,” says Bijay Gautam, CEO and Creative Director at Be Labels. An idea gives direction to a business, and it is on the basis of that idea that plans and objectives are built. Gautam says that it is possible for a startup idea to succeed if one plans with a 360 degree vision, covering all ideal situations and expected challenges. “Nothing is fool-proof; but if an idea is constructed after you have conducted a thorough study and long-term analysis, then it will definitely pave the way to success,” he says, adding that innovative, customer-focused ideas must follow standard operating procedures, and that one must also have a plan B to overcome all possible hurdles.

"Nothing is fool-proof; but if an idea is constructed after you have conducted a thorough study and long-term analysis, then it will definitely pave the way to success,” Bijay Gautam says.

 

Imagination vs reality

 

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The problem is, ideas are but figments of imagination. “When you start executing the idea that you thought would be the next big thing, reality hits you,” says Suresh Thapa, Head of Business Development at Firelight Studio, and a serial entrepreneur. “I have so many ideas that might actually work,” he says. “But without the execution, an idea is nothing but wishful thinking.” Even management experts, such as Karl Moore, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Management at McGill University, wonders if ideas have intrinsic value in themselves. He calls them “hallucinations.” “If you are going to bring really great, innovative ideas to the table, but you have no experience executing those ideas, what is the use of having them?” says Thapa.

 

A hard rain’s a-gonna fall

 

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Making an idea work is a daunting challenge for entrepreneurs. “Having an idea—very easy; finding the solution—easy; making your solution work?—tough,” says Bipin Gaire, Director of Pro-Tools: Centre for Engineers. Suresh Thapa says that it is even harder for aspiring entrepreneurs, who have to run with the idea while also keeping in mind the logistics of operations, project management, finances, legalities, business development and growth. Perhaps that is why Amun Thapa, founder and CEO of Sasto Deal, once famously said, “Millions of people have millions of ideas, but there are only a few who execute them.”

"Having an idea—very easy; finding the solution—easy; making your solution work?—tough,” says Bipin Gaire

 

The past defines the present

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History shows that how successful an idea is depends on how it has been executed. Microsoft, for example, came up with the idea of the Zune media player, tablets and smartphones long before Apple came up with its iPods, iPhone and iPads. It was not Steve Jobs’s innovation, but his smooth execution of his idea that led to the success of Apple’s products. Tech-experts once claimed that Windows Tablets were inherently flawed, which is why they were never successful; but now that narrative has changed, and they have realised that it was the execution that was flawed, after witnessing how Jobs produced the iPad.

"Millions of people have millions of ideas, but there are only a few who execute them,” says Amun Thapa

Another famous example of a flawed execution of a great idea has to do with the Tata Nano. In terms of engineering and efficiency, the Nano ranks pretty high, and it was also produced at very low cost. However, the problem lay with its marketing campaign, which marketed the Tata Nano as a “cheap” product. People did not want to associate themselves with a “cheap” car. The Nano’s pricing strategy also alienated its market: it was too expensive for the middle class, and it was too shabby for the upper middle class.

 

Two sides to a coin

 

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Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, writes: “Ideas are just a multiplier of execution,” explaining that if you have a brilliant idea that is executed badly, the value of the idea itself is diminished. To create lasting value, brilliant ideas require great execution.

This debate will not throw up answers rendered in stark black and white. Reality shows that the answers usually shade over areas in the regions of grey: Ideas are just as important as execution. Your product begins as an idea, and you need a thorough execution plan, keeping in mind the contingencies and the plan Bs. Of course, you will not have thought of every possible scenario as you begin to execute your plan, but it is during the execution process that you refine your idea. For a startup, planning and execution must go hand in hand.

  *First published in M&S VMAG

 

 

 

 

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Guest Thursday, 26 May 2022