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Idea or execution? What is more important?

“Ideas are worthless, execution is everything” is a quote I’ve heard multiple times over the last few years. And up until recently I used to agree completely. Anyone can have a great idea, but only those great at executing on these ideas will eventually make profitable companies out of them. It only makes sense, right?

That was until I read this Twitter thread on how founders with a supportive network and a great drive can run into “false positives”. This happens when a founders’ execution is so on point that they can make relatively okay businesses out of any idea. Even if it’s a bad one. In these cases business growth is severely limited, because there’s only so much you can do to compensate for a bad idea.

Let me know in the comments what you think is more important, a good idea or proper execution? How do you deal with the fact that you need luck to have a successful idea?

The whole story in 60 seconds

Since you all were so nice about my first YouTube short last week, I made a new short about this topic:
Idea or execution? What's more important for an Indie Hacker?

Execution is trainable

One reason to love the “execution is everything” part of the quote is that you can train your execution. You can train your execution by building your product and just by doing in general. Whether it’s design, programming or marketing, you’ll get better at these skills over time.

Good ideas need luck

Good ideas you can’t really train for. Sometimes an idea has the best team behind it, allows for a great business model and secures enough funding, and still it fails because of timing. Even if you assume there isn’t any luck involved in the other factors (there definitely is), you still need luck to get the timing right. That means you basically need the stars to align for your idea to work out well.

Solution: train your execution on small ideas

So given that execution is trainable and that you need the odds to be in your favor for a successful idea, it makes sense to train your execution by working on smaller ideas.

If it doesn’t take more than a few weeks to create an MVP and a landing page for your idea, you minimize the odds of spending a huge amount of time and effort on something that doesn’t work.

At the same time, if you try out many small ideas, you drastically increase the odds of one of these ideas working out well. Once you notice one of your ideas taking off, you can allocate more time and resources to grow it further. This is not just a risk-free way to maximize your odds of success, it’s also a great way to train your execution.

What’s next

I'm thinking of making a 10-15 min YouTube video where I work on a small idea like this from scratch. Let me know if you’d watch a video like that!

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Top comments (1)

keppla profile image
Benjamin Köppchen • Edited

This happens when a founders’ execution is so on point that they can
make relatively okay businesses out of any idea

Having an "ok business" is a success. How can this beeing framed as a negative?
Having a business "not beeing able to grow" is just a niche business, which is totally OK too. It's ok to be Figureskating, you don't improve by trying to be more like Football.
If you absolutely, definitively need to grow, focus on "scaling down" (ie, achieve your case with little effort), and use the freed time for the next business.

IMHO, another data point for Ideas beeing irrelevant - if execution is trainable, but ideas are not, that means they are an post hoc explanation for, not an inherent quality of, the success.