The business idea revisited

“Your idea is worth nothing” is the headline of Forbes post discussing the Snapchat lawsuit. Similarly a post in the Entrepreneur states that “Your ideas have no value”. Is that the same as that your business idea is of no importance anymore?

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Over the last decade there’s been a shift emphasizing the business model rather than the business idea. In many aspects this makes sense, but do we push it too far? Business modeling helps us developing a rough idea into something that may be executed. In line with the lean startup approach a resource efficient method is applied, increasing our chances to eventually achieve a good product market fit. This is all true, but choosing the business idea more carefully may create a far better starting point for a business modeling exercise. There are a number of things to consider before moving into modeling, which may improve the chances of creating significant value. Not all business ideas are worth wasting time and resources on. A business idea with a limited potential can seldom be saved be an extensive business modeling effort. It may be a better strategy to go for existing well established business ideas. Business model innovation applied to well established business ideas may create substantial new opportunities. Most recent successes are not based on new business ideas. Starting with the right business idea is rather to start within the right area where the action may be and develop from there. Then business modeling and execution can do wonders, but that is not the same as that business modeling and execution can create value out of any idea. An idea in itself may not have any value, as the two posts above state. It’s all about execution and what you do with an idea. That the idea in itself does not hold any value is not the same as that it is of no importance, but rather the opposite. Choosing the right idea to work with is still a cornerstone when building business, like in the cases refereed to in the two posts above. Given that more or less all ideas have been tested or formulated, coming up with a business idea is to excel in extracting the winners out of existing ideas, rather than making up your own.

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29 responses to “The business idea revisited

  1. I agree with the fact that the main value lies in business execution, and not in the initial business idea. But without that initial idea nothing would have ever happened, so I personally think the two articles diminishes its value slightly too much.

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  2. Are all ideas worthless? I don’t think so. However, I think the important thing that is also mentioned in the two articles is that business modeling and execution might be were the actual value is created. As Colao writes in his article, a useful skill is the ability to spot inefficiencies and trends, and then turn them into actionable business ideas, but this bears no resemblance to building a company. Nevertheless, the idea is not useless in this process, since value can’t be created from any idea. The idea needs to have the right timing and market and the right executors. People willing to sacrifice time and resources to make this idea work.

    This is an interesting thing that I think many people forget, that the idea is not that much worth without the management behind it and that you shouldn’t be too scared to share ideas since they often are not that innovative (which I think everyone reading this course can agree on – it is hard to think of something no one have ever thought of. The thing that can differentiate you is that you create value from this idea in a different way).

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  3. I believe that are different types of innovations and I am not ready to give up the importance of ideas just yet. For the “easy solutions” like facebook, snapchat and spotify I certainly agree that the idea in it self is not that important but rather the business case. However, for more technical solutions, like a new implementation of a bacterial enzyme, I still believe that the idea in it self is highly valuable. This when not every school kid can come up with the same idea. The technical ideas often require long education and access to “hard to get” information.

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  4. I tend to agree to the headings of the articles that “your idea is [almost] worth nothing”. I follow the opinion that simply creating a business idea is much easier eventually you might get them by simply looking close to things you might feel not very comfortable with to say it in a easy way. There is always something to improve and visionaries exist a lot. But strategists which bring an idea into the necessary shape and structure having the necessary skills, experience, engagement and understanding of the integrated whole, are rare. Latter also decides whether your business idea will ever be successful.
    So movers and shakers of creating the model out of the idea deserve to call it their own.

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  5. I agree that a business idea is not worth much if someone can not execute it well. Therefor the value is more in the execution and how the idea is handled and transformed into a product, than in the idea itself. The idea might be good, but the timing is not. Though without the idea, no new business model would be possible. In my opinion, the execution is also part of the idea. I mean, in the Google case they had an idea (that was old) of making a search engine but also ideas of how to execute it leading to success! Nevertheless, people using other people’s ideas and hard work to earn money for themselves cannot be a new problem which is how it is presented in the articles…

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  6. The articles have a good point and I agree that you need to be able to combine a good business idea with a good business model to be successful. I like that it is the execution and hard work that is valuable. However, I do believe that the idea have some value, without the idea nothing would have happened. In the Snapchat incident I think that Brown deserves a compensation. Not because it was his idea, rather due to the fact that he was included and worked for the company from the start. He contributed to the brand when he envisioned the logo and that work is valuable.

    A problem with the view is how you will motivate yourself and/or your employees to come up with new ideas if you feel that it does not mean anything. On the other hand the pressure to come up with new innovative ideas is less stressful for companies and employees if they realise they can take existing ideas and make them successful with a valuable business model. Another problem that can arise is that investors take advantage of the situation if they claim that the idea is not worth anything without their money.

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  7. To some extent I agree with the two articles. An idea is not worth protecting but the execution of it is. However, it can be hard to differentiate between ideas and executions. I mean, to execute an idea in a certain way is in by itself an idea of how to execute. Is then the idea of how to execute the original idea worth protecting? The concept gets very convoluted. Hence, I feel that the truth behind idea-theft is not as straight forward as the articles might suggest.

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  8. The main concepts discussed of “Business Idea” and “Business Model” is making me think of the setting of a dinner.

    Somehow you have an idea of what you want to serve, who is coming and what you have to do to make the evening a success. The main purpose of having a dinner may be fulfilled in however way you decide to do the preparations, but how you do it will effect the end result.

    Without defining a clear vision of what you want to achieve it will be hard to define what needs to be done to produce the best result possible. In the case where the idea is bad, the preparation work may be done in the right way, but for the wrong purpose. The resulting product ends up being created by an inefficient process where the result just tastes bad.

    However, even if you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, this will not decide the end result. The way you do all the preparations, the action plan, usually varies: Food, tableware, selection of people to invite etc. This in which every action taken to create the event will inevitably affect the end result, something done sloppy will be noted and drag the whole dinner down. The resulting product will end up being the same disappointing case as the previous one.

    With that said, if we compare this dinner case with the terms of “Business Idea” and “Business Model”, we can see that the components of having an idea(vision) and a model(action plan) is both of importance and not something that are standalone components for success. They depend on each other to achieve the best results possible.

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  9. I strongly agree with the authors that there is a great missconception regarding the value of “ideas”. Ideas in themselves is in itself a peculiarity, as they may not be outspoken, or they may be outspoken when another person with the “same” idea develops a product to market. And that ideas themselves would have an value for a such person, sitting there in the back of their heads, is even more peculiar. So in summary I agree that the execution of ideas are the true value, and the idea itself is just a seed that may have the potential to produce such value.

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  10. Without execution the idea is worthless, but without an idea you can’t execute anything. I think that the articles are simplifying the problem a bit to much and might be stating the extreme in order to start a discussion. The idea itself is the generates a potential worth which the execution might reach if done perfectly, otherwise a loss of worth is generated.

    I would also say that it depends on the idea and how you differentiate between idea and execution. An idea that is based on advanced technology which is unique should be worth more than the idea of improving an existing product. However if the idea is based on advance technology you can patent and copyright the final product.

    What neither of the articles take into account is that some ideas are created through hard work and effort. If a person would spend weeks coming up with an idea and do a bit of research shouldn’t that time be worth anything?

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  11. I agree that you shouldn’t be too afraid to share your ideas, most of the time we just hoard a lot of great thoughts without ever executing them anyway. I think we also are too afraid to involve people in our projects, scared of loosing shares to the “possible product”. However usually the problem is the lack of spirit to get shit done and having more people around you could help you push each other forward. By sharing your ideas more frequent with people around you, you might actually end up doing the project if you find people who can help you. I think everyone will benefit if people start to accept the fact that Ideas are more or less useless if not executed and start sharing their thoughts.

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  12. A good business idea is where you find your spark. I don’t think that many entrepreneurs wake up in the morning all exited about their business model. The business idea is what you as an entrepreneur bring to the world, what you add. If the business model is wrong you won’t reach as many and you won’t make as much money but you will still add something. This matters and therefore I belive that a realisation of a great business idea is worth a lot.

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  13. I think this is of great importance when trying to develop an idea. My impression is that there are sadly not enough focus on the core of new ideas, but rather the great potential they might carry. However, if all ideas where constrained by factors related to the business models, one might miss out on innovative or complex business proposals just because they needed refining or more effort to become feasible.

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  14. To be able to create a successful business idea a lot of different components are need, a creative business idea, a well-executed business model and good management to name a few. In the article they suggests that the execution is more important than the initial idea that without a good execution the idea is worth noting. I agree with this statement, that the value is created in the execution, but I also think that no matter how good the execution or management is you can only come so far without a good idea. Therefore it is important not to neglect the entrepreneurs behind the innovative idea.

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  15. Well, a good idea is not worthless in my opinion, but it does not get interesting until you also have a good business idea. Almost everyone can brainstorm and come up with good ideas, but is not everyone that can turn a good idea into a good business. For me the case of “stealing” an idea is more morally than right or wrong. As ideas come and goes people might not do anything with them, but if they are involved in the creation I think it is morally wrong to just shut them out. But creating something from someone else’s idea is okay I believe. New and existing companies take each other’s ideas all the time and make them their own or just straight out copy them. The question is how you run your company. That is my opinion anyway.

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  16. I think ideas are often seen as these once-in-a-lifetime, enlightenment-like experiences that all of a sudden drops down into the knees of soon-to-be successful entrepreneurs. In my opinion, there are few things farther separated from the truth.

    If we start with the basic notion of innovation, definitions have been argued but one thing is generally agreed upon. An innovation is supposed to solve a problem in a new (even if only slightly new) way. Based on this definition we can define the concept of ideation as the identification of problems / issues to which we can find solutions. This is backed up by tons of entrepreneurship literature (more recently Reis, Fried).

    Oftentimes, innovations that garner attention (take Facebook, Snapchat or LinkedIn) haven’t identified problems that no-one else has, far from it. The difference lies in how much time and effort they’ve spent in refining the solution to their respective problem.

    I think that the work that is put into the solutions are what holds the actual value. The idea in itself (on a very conceptual level) doesn’t have any value until someone gathers a great around it and starts working to make that idea a reality.

    I think this is in line with what both of the articles are saying.

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  17. I don’t agree with the statement that ideas aren’t valuable. Just like the articles argue that an idea is invaluable without a great time that successfully can execute the idea, a great team is rather useless if they don’t have any ideas to act upon. I’m however willing to agree that the business idea might have little value if the process of reaching an idea is much less difficult in comparison to the challenges of the execution phase. There are however ideas that are results of years of research. And another interesting aspect is where to draw the line between idea and execution? Is Coca Cola’s business idea to sell a softdrink or the specific recipe? And if it’s the latter – why would it be kept secret if it had no value?

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  18. Ideas have value potential while the execution determines whether that potential is reached or not. Thus, the idea and execution live in symbiosis. This implies that to talk about whether an idea has value or not is irrelevant.

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  19. I lean towards the camp of “Ideas are not worth anything”. Mainly because the gap between an idea and an actual business is so huge. And of course the gap increases for ambitious ideas.

    There’s a lot of examples of successful companies who started out with bad ideas and pivoted (Instagram, Pinterest etc). But it’s even more common to hear about peoples great ideas that never got started.

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  20. I agree that only having an idea does not make you successful. Obviously it is very hard to sell an idea, so packing that idea into an attractive product is what defines whether one will succeed or not, in my opinion. However without a good idea it is hard to make an attractive product. So there is a relationship between the two and I cannot agree that ideas have no values, like one of the articles states.

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  21. A business idea’s sucess depends on a good business model. But without an idea, a business cannot exists. Furthermore, there can be a discussion however a great model or idea is the most important part. But one of them can not generate value without the other.

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  22. I agree that the idea isn’t the most important thing, especially not the one you start with. More often than not you change your idea, more or less radically, during the process when you develop the actual business model. Similary, the person behind the idea is at least as important as the idea itself. One person can do wonders with an idea that others couldn’t do anything with, you need an idea that you can create value with based on your skills.

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  23. I agree that the actual execution is more important for creating value but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that ideas are worthless as the articles states. A better idea has the potential to generate more value in the end and vice versa. They are clearly dependent on each other. However trying to value an idea once it’s been successfully implemented is clearly tricky and varies from case to case. The ones who do the hard work and takes the risks are the ones that should be rewarded most in the end in my opinion.

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  24. I would like to object to the supposed dichotomy between business model and business ideas. The article is largely correct in my view to focus on the execution, on how to make something out of an idea – rather than the ideas themselves. But if you leave the development of new ideas completely to others, and then focus on reverse engineering them and create splendid business models from there – you are conceding ground to competitors for no good reason. As such, I don’t think there is any real dichotomy between the two. You need to develop both for long term growth, but you will likely need to focus on one or the other depending on what role and what phase your company is currently at.

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  25. In my opinion the business idea is where to start and it is important. But anybody can have a good idea, by finding a need to be satisfied – mostly a personal own need.
    But the business model and execution is the actual part that is work. One could see similarities to a patent. There existis a problem, that is to solve in a new innovative way and creating the technology to solve this is being valued. With that you can go to the market and satisfy the needs and actually conduct easily.
    But it has to be taken in consideration that a patent itself needs a business model after all to get succesfully on the market. But the majory work with the productdevelopment technologywise is done. So a easy and short answer is not to be given within this comment as it is depending on the different characteristics of the product.

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  26. I completely agree with the two articles. Ideas are worth nothing without execution. What holds value in my opinion is identifying problems that need to be solved and formulating plans to solve these problems. So instead of trying to come up with a brand new idea that is supposed to hold value on its own, It’s better to find a pain in the market and develop a solution for that specific pain.

    Lastly, I would uphold that to be innovative it is not enough to merely come up with a brand new idea, you have to accompany your idea with a great execution for the idea to be truly innovative and impactful.

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  27. I’ve watched seminars by the famous venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki who basically states that “youthful ‘visionaries’ will need adult supervision”. As I am a computer science student I have heard quite a few “cool app ideas” that are basically buzz words consisting of taking X brand names and mixing them together in Y bunch of ways and creating the “Facebook and Uber of Tinder matched with Spotify and Tesla” idea.

    I don’t think having a lot of ideas is bad though, it is a sign of a innovative society. It just risks attracting too much hype and enablers, which will lead to a scarcity of doers. In order for an idea to have an impact, there needs to be a prototype that has been crafted deliberately for demonstration purposes. An idea that only marginally improves an existing structure, backed by evidence or a strong proof-of-concept, beats a new innovative idea at anytime.

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  28. This is not the first time that I hear that successful entrepreneurs suggests that the idea itself is worthless without a good execution. “-Ideas are nothing, execution is everything”, was almost our motto in another entrepreneurship course, where we put little or practically no effort on the idea generation. However one could probably say that entrepreneurship and idea generation are two separate processes or concepts, wherefore these statements can be seen as provocative declarations of the entrepreneur. Yet I surely agree that a great idea will not be worth anything in terms of money unless an entrepreneur or company picks it up and execute it. Nonetheless an entrepreneur cannot execute a business venture without ideas or thoughts, where some ideas always will be more valuable than others. In the discussion about facebook, the idea was nothing, since the performance relied on the timing and precision of the execution, wherefore I would say that the idea that created the success of facebook was not the platform, it was the idea about the execution…

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  29. The discussion reminds me somewhat of an optimization problem in mathematics. The idea is the starting point from where we iterate and the execution is finding the nearest minima of the function. A great idea might take us to a global minimum and therefore provide us the “platform” from which a great company can be built, but a mediocre one can only take us part of the way – regardless of execution.

    Another aspect is the plasticity of ideas and the malleable nature of companies. Sound leadership, execution and a focus on customer value might transform an idea as the company forges itself through experience. We have seen countless examples of “initial ideas” that, through trial and error, iteration and customer feedback, are nowhere to be seen within successful giant companies. In summary, a starting point is never “worthless” as it provides a economical landscape over which we can traverse through execution, our businesses and professional endevours. It is, however, of secondary importance as it holds no intrinsic value without the context given by the people that make it come alive.

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