Idea vs. Execution: What should you be valuing more?

It’s a debate that always comes up in the startup space. Does execution or the idea itself matter more? Like most binary issues, the best answer is usually somewhere in the middle. Investors want to know that your idea could be valuable to people and different from what’s already out there. But actually taking action, making a change, and knowing how to turn that idea into a product is just as crucial. 

In many ways, the word “idea” doesn’t account for how the process of development actually works. An idea in the startup context should not be understood statically. Ideas are iterative, they change and grow as they are developed further. There’s a school of thought that says that ideas are “a dime a dozen,” gimmicks that can only take you so far. It’s important to embrace and celebrate new ideas that make valuable changes, whether they’re ideas for a new product or new ideas for how to run every little part of your business. Ideas are the lifeblood of startups and what sets them apart. 

So great ideas have incredible value. They disrupt the space and they are the stimulus for solutions that no one could have imagined, but people who value execution argue that it doesn’t stop there. Steve Jobs had two very important things to say about why execution is so important and should never be brushed aside. 

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

The strength of your idea will define the scope of your success, but whether or not you succeed at all is predicated on your ability to execute. An idea doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t sell a lightbulb unless you have the capacity and the resources to package and sell it as something people want.

“You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90 percent of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen. And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product.”


Execution is craftsmanship. Creating a successful product is a lot of hard work and it’s going to take a prolonged and dedicated effort with the right people to make it possible. Maybe this isn’t always true. Maybe you can strike gold with something basic and simple. It’s happened before, but it’s not something to rely on unless you choose to take that risky path. You’re not necessarily wrong in doing so. In many ways, being an entrepreneur is all about taking risks, finding answers no one could have guessed, and unprecedented success stories.

You Decide

It’s up to you to judge your space, see what you require most, and make a decision. If the investors you’re targeting are all about game-changing ideas then you better be prepared to provide some. If they want to see a sound strategy and plan to turn that idea into a scalable business then that’s where your emphasis should be. 

Maybe you’re in a business environment that’s running, but isn’t changing and iterating as the world changes around it. It might be time for some new ideas. Maybe your team is incredibly forward thinking, but doesn’t have the resources to turn dreams into reality. It’s all about identifying deficiencies. That’s the key to a successful business in any context. 

– ZK


Ed Lynes13p51 Comment