If you have been reading my daily essays for some time now, then you may find the title highly contradictory and hypocritical. I have written, several times in the past, about how “ideas are overrated” and that “ideas are cheap.” This post – as the title suggests – is an argument for the underrated value of great ideas.

Previously, I have said things to the extent of  “the world is full of ideas. The internet…literally stuffed with people sharing ideas and never executing on them. All you have to do is start, learn quickly, and keep iterating.”

I actually still stand by the first part of that statement. I do believe that there is an infinite supply of ideas in the world. Ideating, brainstorming, etc. is not the real challenge in any sort of thought experiment.

Though, I think I have come around on the latter half of that statement. I do not believe that “all you have to do is start.” This is an absolute, and I really do not buy into it anymore because I do think starting down the wrong idea, even if you are a fast learner, is generally not the correct path. 

Rather, and as the title of this essay points out, I think that finding the right “great idea” is really really hard and should not be under-prioritized. Working on something “great” is very different from something mediocre. And finding yourself working on a boring idea happens often…why? Because most ideas are not great. Most ideas suck. And most ideas are just out there floating on the internet not doing anything.

This essay basically adds this type of addendum to my previous statement: “Yes, ideas are everywhere. But great ideas are really rare. Most ideas are trite and not valuable…so when you find the right one, pour gasoline on it.”

I still think most startups fail…not because of their ideas but because of the people running them. 

So it is really valuable to be a great person/founder and practice being that – agnostic to any particular idea that you are working on.

But the idea does carry immense value…it is a different muscle “picking out the right idea” than simply launching something random. 

I say this…motivated by experience…that the “right idea” is critical. I’d actually like to clarify – when I say idea, I do not mean like a solution necessarily. What I often rather mean is the right idea of a problem to be working on. A compass you are following. 

Start with problems, still, and then inject your clever insights! 


Also published on Medium.