Everyone has Ideas, How You Execute them is What Matters

By Brian Ling February 25, 2008

Image by: Jane

Fellow designer blogger KK has uncovered a great representation on the value of ideas in relation to a success of a business. Derek Sivers, in his post for O’Reilly, conceptualises an idea vs. execution formula, which I have reproduced here. Sivers writes:

It’s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an NDA to tell me the simplest idea.)

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.



SO-SO- EXECUTION = $10,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.
The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas.
I’m not interested until I see their execution.

I have always believed that this is the big difference between a designer and non-designer, or an artist and a non-artist. Perhaps even an amateur versus a professional, you see it all comes down to execution.

People always point out a piece of modern art to me and say “well even I could do this”. I would then politely point out, “no you can’t, you don’t have the means or the know how to do it”.

The same with products. “God why can’t everyone be like Apple?” and my answer is “well we can’t because we either don’t have the means or the know how to do it”. Most of the time it is really the lack of the “means” or the unwillingness to put in the “means”.

Being in the design business for quite a few years now, I am surprised how many people (designers and non-designers alike) are so afraid to share their ideas. The point here is that ideas are dime a dozen, and like T-shirts, most of the people in world have them. What you do with them is the key.

The rest is all talk and talk is cheap.

For designers don’t let yourself fall into this same trap as great ideas are the name of our game. Look at it this way, having lots of ideas are like planting saplings. It is the bouncing, sharing and interaction of these ideas that turn them into strong trees.

So what have you shared today?

. . . .

Brian Ling

Brian is the Founder and Design Director at Design Sojourn, a Design Led Innovation Consultancy. He is a multi-award winning design leader, and specialises in strategic design and innovation programs that drive successful organisations. Brian’s 20-year career in design, driven through a deep understanding of human behavior, spans over multiple domains such as consumer electronics, government, healthcare, non-profit agencies, hospitality, F&B, retail, online solutions and best in class service experiences.

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7 Comments on "Everyone has Ideas, How You Execute them is What Matters"

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[…] Design Sojourn | Strategic Industrial Design Blog » Everyone has Ideas, How You Execute them is Wha… I have always believed that this is the big difference between a designer and non-designer, or an artist and a non-artist. Perhaps even an amateur versus a professional, you see it all comes down to execution. […]


Once again…you have given me great food for thought…

From a student’s point of view…I find that this is happening as we get closer to our final year, exhibition and hopefully, graduation…a lot of students are getting paranoid in disclosing ideas. But this paranoia has some form of speculated groundings to it as we have suspicions on a few students playing the replication game…

Personally though…I do agree strongly with the execution. An idea is nothing until executed properly and I think that it is our each and every individual sense of style that dictates this caliber of execution…

Jim Rait

… and another thing… I live in an area of market gardeners… they tell me that they nurture each and every shoot for a while, then pinch out those that are not doing so well… they have criteria to weed them out… and they start planting the next seeds long before the first have matured.. in order to have a pipeline… and they try varieties to keep the buyers’ interest and totally new to understand how to do more radical stuff especially as the seasons are changing…. hey it sounds like innovation!

Jim Rait
2 quotes come to mind: “The only valid test of an idea, concept or theory is what it enables you to do.” -MG Taylor DesignShop(TM) Axiom. and secondly: “[The G4 Cube] was not a failure of design,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “It was a failure of concept. We targeted the Cube at a professional audience. We thought they would rather have something small on the desk than expandability and we were wrong. It was a wrong concept “fabulously implemented.” One thing I have seen groups do is to evaluate ideas on whether they will work today rather than whether… Read more »
Mario Vellandi

While execution is of course the final straw, I’d like to throw in idea screening and feasibility review; while this may be covered your ‘worth’ equation, the process itself is just as important since “Idea -> Act, Idea -> Act” leads to wasteful spending for one.


Hi DT, good points, fear about sharing ideas probably starting in between students, classmates. instead of to helping and learn from each other while they can test their abilities during the studies.

Good platforms to share idea are some community sites as behance.net where you can get instant feed back on your project.

Other way is what you do here at DS with your projects.

Anyway how is it going with your mp3 project?


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