In Defence of Ideas
An insightful blog post1 the other day railed against having lots of ideas and emphasised the need to stay on track, to concentrate on execution of The Big Idea. Here’s the other side of that argument.
There are many economic activities in which the rapid generation of ideas is a must have – take trading as one example. This is purely the game of projecting your ideas for where the market is going onto what is happening in reality. And just as you must see both sides of the trade as they say, so too do you need to foresee multiple scenarios ahead in order to understand all potential market movement. Because how it gets to the projected end result is just as important as when/if it gets there. Multiple & even contradictory ideas are the lifeblood then on which trading activity is based.
Sure, unlike startups it may be argued watching a single number make various shapes on computer screens is an inherently transitive activity. Execution is simply clicking a button. Perhaps, but the two are not binary opposites – far from it. What links the two, and thus supports the premise that lots of ideas can have a greater value than just one, is leverage. Traders piggy back on the economic activity of others just as startups can utilise the web services & APIs of others in order to create immense value with relatively little effort.
Take the likes of Zynga. Yes Zynga makes something. They churn out what has become mass media entertainment. But there’s plenty of developers doing that in Flash and still only getting a commission per title (if at all). Zynga on the other hand leveraged. They didn’t even create their first social game, YoVille, they just bought the thing inheriting it’s facebook userbase & social hooks and combined it with an offers service for monetization. This simple use of leverage provided the holy grail of a monetization channel for the social graph. It didn’t require enormously original or hi-tech games it just required leveraging services that were already available on the web. The idea – the route to market – was the important bit while the actual end-product was not i.e. the games are crap!
So just like the trader playing the trend, so too it’s worthwhile for startups to consider the prevalent mood and dare I say it go with the path of least resistance. Instead of seeking to single-mindedly disrupt it armed with The One Big Idea and seeking to create a platform from the outset, maybe being swift, nimble and able to jump on at the right time can also be the key to success. And for that you’re going to need a lot of ideas.
1. “The Problem With Ideas”