Your Idea Doesn’t Matter
I’ve said recently that your opinion doesn’t matter and now I’m going to add insult to injury. Not only does your opinion not matter but your ideas don’t matter either. If you think that you’re just one great idea away from becoming a tech-legend, think again. There are two reason for my statements. The first is simultaneous discovery and the second is non-disclosure agreements.
As I’ve written before about simultaneous discovery, it happens all the time. Perhaps the earliest example is farming. Sometime around the Neolithic Age (New Stone Age) about 10,000 years ago, humans separately invented farming at least three times and possibly as many as seven times. Different civilizations from Eastern Mediterranean to China to Mexico all came up with the idea of farming, presumably without sharing this knowledge in any way. More recent examples include, in 1611 the discovery of sun spots at least four different times, in 1869 both Cros and du Hauron invented color photography, and Bell, Gray, and la Cour just to name a few invented the phone at nearly the exact same time. The list of simultaneous discoveries or inventions is so extensive that William F. Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas documented over 148 of them in 1922. The likely cause of this is that inventions are built on top of other inventions which makes them “ripe” for discovery by anyone with that combination of information.
Regarding non-disclosure agreements and how they prove that your idea doesn’t matter. If you’ve ever pitched your idea to a VC you know that they don’t sign NDAs before they hear your idea. There are several reasons for this, many documented well in this post. I would sum it up into three major reasons. The first is that they are likely to hear the same (or similar) idea from several teams. Second, VC’s know that the idea doesn’t matter nearly as much as the execution of the idea. And, the third reason is that no idea stands the test of interaction with the customer, meaning if your company succeeds it is likely going to be with some offshoot idea and not the original one.
So, if your idea doesn’t matter and your opinion doesn’t matter…what does? Execution matters. That you can build a great team, provide them leadership, establish a culture of learning and deliver products to customers all matter. Don’t wait for the perfect idea. Pick an interesting problem that needs to be solved and get the solution into the hands of your customers quickly in order to learn.