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Ideas are not enough

Ideas are not enough

Ideas are awesome.

I love nothing better than being inspired a multitude of earth rocking ideas about the world, my products, books, blog posts, what customers want, what makes people tick, why James Joyce wrote Ulysses and what it’s about, what the next big thing is, or what I fervently believe the government should do right now. I am a lover of ideas.

But they are not enough.

For too long I have been a believer in ideas, in a brainstorming session, in a wall covered with sticky notes with everyones brain drops about solving quite sticky problems.

There are two problems with ideas.

One is that without action, they are just sticky notes on a wall, slowly yellowing and fading into oblivion.The glue soon loses its stickiness and one day your great idea will sadly float down to the floor, forgotten and abandoned. Action, execution, heat are everything. This turns your Frankenstein of an idea into something that lives and breathes and is either beautiful or monstrous or both.

Steve Jobs knew what mattered.

“Picasso had a saying: good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas, and I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world”

Ideas are important, but it doesn’t matter where they come from, what matters is what you do with them. Steal and make them yours.

The second problem is that ideas based on customer needs are just guesses no matter how smart. As Steve Blank says, “The dumbest person with a fact trumps anyone with an opinion”.  Without talking to customers, ideas about what customers may want that are based on opinions are doomed to fail-fast over and over again. The only ones who know for sure are the customers.

Listen to their ideas.

None of this doesn’t mean ideas are bad, it just means that ideas are the start of the journey, they are the seed from which the crop grows. If you’re short on ideas here are some tips.

  1. There are no good ideas or bad ideas.
  2. Go for a walk in nature.
  3. Turn off the television.
  4. Try listening, truly listening.
  5.  Be still and observe the world around you.
  6. Spend some time wth someone you disagree with. Listen to them.
  7. Read a book.
  8. If it seems stupid, it’s probably brilliant.
  9. Look at what’s obvious, taken for granted. Most likely it is broken.
  10. Get some sleep.
  11. Go for a run.
  12. Be selfless and generous.
  13. Write everything down, and celebrate it with the world.


The picture was taken last week while I was relaxing on the beach, dreaming up tonnes of great ideas.

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