Don’t confuse Great Ideas with Great Vision.
Look at ChangeThis.com this month and read Trevor Ginn’s manifesto called “The Fallacy of the Great Idea.” If you’ve ever played with the idea of launching a start up, this is a wonderfully empowering read.
Many entrepreneurs feel that they cannot start a business without a great idea. They believe it will be impossible to succeed without a completely new concept, as the market will already have been cornered by established businesses. Only by venturing into uncharted territory can they achieve their dreams. This is the fallacy of the great idea.
In truth, most “great ideas” will never make their investors a penny… The simple truth is that it is quite possible to create a thriving business without a big idea. In fact, starting up with a tried and tested concept is very sensible. The real key to success is focus and brilliant execution. Yes, the world needs people with grand ideas who are willing to take big risks to further progress, but the world also needs small businesses creating jobs, and entrepreneurs should not be embarrassed about not having a claim on originality.
This is the difference between great ideas and great vision. The great idea is, as Trevor suggests, the crowd pleaser, the idea that makes everyone sit up straight and utter the proverbial “wow” as the idea takes root in each listener’s mind. Great ideas are often (not always) given the leeway of so-so execution – after all, don’t early adopters give new ideas a little wiggle room, understanding that the company will “get it right” after a few iterations? – because they are revolutionary. And as long as the revolution is underway, we’re all allowed to get caught up in its emotional current.
Great vision is another thing.
Look at a few great visions like The Boston Beer Company, whose founder, Jim Koch, set out to change how America thought about beer. In the process, he spawned – or at least gave great visibility to – an entire culture of micro-breweries.
Look at Method, who created a complex and interesting brand out of the dual gravitational pulls of sustainability and user aesthetics.
How about Geoff Ross and 42 Below vodka, who successfully entered – and exited, courtesy of an acquisition by Bacardi – the crowded premium vodka business with a super-high quality product and a brand steeped in its own unique “New Zealandishness.”
Or how about Burt’s Bees, another low tech / no tech brand grown from independent distribution roots? What did it end up selling for, over $100 million? Apparently, it ain’t always about cold fusion.
How do we apply this to our work today?
“Give them what they want, just not how the expect it.” A paraphrasing of a previous conversation with screenwriter Robert McKee that holds true to this conversation: deliver what they expect, just not in the same old way. Give them the unexpected twist, the gift of a unique experience.
How you execute depends on who you are – and who you aren’t. Think back to the Eigen Value discussion – This Sentence Has 5ive Words – and recall that once we’ve defined our brands and made the hard choices of what we are and aren’t, execution relies on the discipline of creating self-defining truisms. Everything we do becomes an act of self-definition. This doesn’t mean simple, two-dimensional or flat. If your brand has tension and contains seemingly contradictory elements that together bring interest and complexity, then your self-definition will also have texture to it.
Ask “what next”? Execution is the art of finishing well, of not ever leaving the conversation with the sentiment, stated or unstated, that “the rest will take care of itself.” Finish well.
As my brother attributed to Hollywood film producer Arthur Freed, “It is not important to be different. Being good is different enough.” Give Trevor’s manifesto a read.