While many of us enjoy the old adage “fortune favors the bold” - something has occurred to me as I come across more and more case studies, articles, and corporate innovations - while many had an “industry changing” idea, those who were able to truly execute on their bold ideas, ended up the most fortunate of the lot.
The intention is not to turn this into an idea vs. execution debate - but I think Jeff Atwood said it best, “I wouldn’t call ideas worthless, per se, but it’s clear that ideas alone are a hollow sort of currency. Success is rarely determined by the quality of your ideas. But it is frequently determined by the quality of your execution. So instead of worrying about whether the Next Big Idea you’re all working on is sufficiently brilliant, worry about how well you’re executing. The ability to execute isn’t simply a multiplier. It’s far more powerful. How your team executes has the power to transform your idea from lead into gold, or from gold into lead.”
Here’s what’s exciting; whether it be new startups, the middle market, or large corporations - nobody gets a pass on execution. Don’t believe me? Apple - recognized as the world’s most valuable brand in 2015 (Forbes) is currently restructuring their iTunes Radio service, a direct response to competitors who are executing at a higher level than them. If you don’t build something useful, or in Apple’s case, try to lean on your brand alone, the world will eventually just shrug its collective shoulders and move along to more useful things (see Spotify & Pandora).
What’s the result of great execution? I’ll maintain continuity and look at Apple again. Even though they were not the first company to bring a digital music player to market - during key years of the iPod/iTunes’ growth (02-07), their market cap skyrocketed from ~3B to ~$130B. What was the reason behind this? I’m choosing not to take the easy route and credit genius design matched with genius marketing - I’d like to dive a little deeper. Apple’s true genius was the execution of wrapping great technology in a great business model. Apple realized that if it made it easy and convenient to download music to the iPod, it would fuel demand for its very high priced music player. The result was offering a low margin consumable (iTunes Music) with the purchase of the high margin product (the iPod).
Whether it be a startup, middle market, or enterprise organization, there’s no reason to fear “big ideas” or a venture into white space opportunities - if you can execute. A decision to never go down these paths is to accept that your company will walk away from many of the opportunities they contain. You’ll miss opportunity to transform existing markets, create new ones, or otherwise change the game in a powerful way to address disruptors or competitors.
While working towards generating the next great idea internally, be sure to put the same focus on cultivating great teams. Knowing that cultivating a great team is much easier said than done and a gradual process, look to bridge the execution gap quicker by cultivating great strategic partners. The right strategic partner can become a catalyst for high quality execution, and fortune favors those who can execute.