What’s your idea worth? Probably not much

I had this post idea sitting in the queue for a while, but now seems like a good time for it. It feels like either the end of the year, or the looming beginning of the next, brings out the dreamers. I tend to come across many more idea people around the holidays than I do throughout the rest of the year. Even for myself, I typically take a good portion of December for mid-term planning that covers the next 3-5yrs. I guess it’s just a good time to think. The sad part is that for all the ideas I hear, I see VERY few actually turn into something. It’s like they get hyped up in Dec/Jan and then by February they’re hibernating until the following December.

I’m bringing this up because after talking to a number of idea people it seems like they all share a common theme. Fear. They’re excited, they think they’re really going to do it this time, they feel like their idea is tantamount to curing cancer (I’ve heard this twice in the last month… stop it). The problem is they’re too damn scared to discuss the idea with anyone. This fear instantly strips out the most valuable part of belonging to a community: collaboration. By not collaborating they’re putting an instant stop to the process of building a company. They don’t have someone saying “that’s a cool idea but what if…” That “what if…” part is where good ideas get legs. It’s how you work through all the hard parts of building something.

Ideas are just a multiplier of execution – Derek Sivers

That great cancer-curing idea that you insist I sign an NDA to hear, assuming it’s legit, is worth about $20. Please, let that sink in. You need to fully grasp that the idea portion of a business is damn near worthless. It’s what you do with that idea that matter.

If you’re afraid that someone will take your idea then I’ve got some bad news for you, welcome to business. Large companies constantly rip off others ideas (the latest being Microsoft’s copy of Slack) but you rarely see copycat products doing better than the originals and they don’t do it until the original company sees some serious traction. Those with the resources to out-execute you just don’t care about your idea. It took Microsoft 3 years to release a product that copied Slack and that was only after Slack saw tremendous growth.

In NEO you have to be scrappy if you want to make it. Your first idea won’t work, funding won’t come through, a partner will bail, and you need to adjust on the fly. You’ll be able to adjust 1000x faster if you have a group to talk things through with. Shutting down collaboration so early in the ideation stage makes it’s damn near impossible to begin actually building. No one is going to try to steal your idea until you’re already kicking so much ass that you’ll take it as a compliment. So stop leading with your NDA and start building. You’ll find a whole world willing to help if you let them. Insert shameless plug for Launch League – go join it!

  • Rachel Wilkins Patel

    Good motivation. I’m a fan of forming the 1 year vision and setting sail to find partners from there. That’s what I’m hoping to do. Leading with the vision allows the big idea to be shaped by the market.

    • Nicholas Petroski

      “Leading with the vision allows the big idea to be shaped by the market.”

      Love that line!