Great Ideas Are Underrated

The thinking behind this essay is an ironic example of a time I wrote something that I now fundamentally disagree with. Two ish years ago, I published a bold essay titled “an idea is worthless.” The theme of the essay was effectively that ideas are meaningless without execution. I do not reject that claim today, but I do now believe that great ideas are incredibly rare and valuable. 

I think there is this notion in the technology community that ideas do not really mean much…that all ideas are created equal. I do not believe this to be true. 

I think you can move fast and iterate and learn from customers…but if you are marching in the wrong direction you may never find your fit. 

A better lens, in my opinion, is to recognize that truly clever and interesting and informed ideas are rare and immensely important. I do not think most people have great ideas. I do not think most startups will succeed, either.

I think a big reason startups fail is really because they are built upon fundamentally bad ideas. 

One hard thing to recognize about this topic is that great ideas do not always seem like great ideas in the moment. They make take a second or third or fourth thought before recognizing their brilliance. 

This is an important nuance because many great ideas only seem great in hindsight. This essay is not a note to give up on trying…it is an optimistic take to keep digging and keep doing. 

Now…from a more macro lens…I think it probably makes sense to de-emphasize ideas and more emphasize the act of people trying lots of things. 

I think we should encourage people to be bold and fight for legendary…but I do not think we should underpin the true value of a noble, bold idea. 

Also published on Medium.