Ideas Are Not As Important As Execution

In my view, the current Shark Tank entrepreneurship culture over-glamorizes ideas.

People place this great weight on coming up with an idea, but in my experience, I have found that ideas are really a very small part of creating anything great. In fact, I would say the idea is 5% or less of the value. 

If someone says they have a great idea, I say, ‘How much do you want for this idea of yours? Maybe $3, $4, $5?’ You can have a great idea with terrible execution and fail miserably, but you can have an okay idea with great execution and be incredibly successful. 

When I was in middle school, I had this idea for a type of athletic clothing that could wick sweat from your body and allow you to be a better athlete and perform better, because I found that wearing the typical cotton shirts would weigh you down. 

But the team over at Under Armour did an amazing job of executing on this idea and built this incredible company. My idea was worth very little, and I was not probably the only person with that idea. I had zero execution behind it. It was just an idea. 

A traditional type of entrepreneur is a visionary who probably has ideas for days — hundreds or thousands of ideas (not all of them good ideas). How often have you been paid for an idea? How often has the market paid you for an idea? 

To my understanding, we’re always paid for our execution. 

To foster the type of environment within our organization that values execution, one of our core values is Results Driven and another core value is Solution Focused

Also, we run the organization from a data-driven standpoint when we do any sort of value-sharing. Team members have base salaries, but they also gain incentives, incentives are tied to actual drivers and moving the needle in the business. 

In fact, our theme for the year for the organization is called Drivers Only. It’s all around moving the needle and turning the dial. We wanted to emphasize us all being individual drivers and not passengers — not simply breathing the air, consuming the food, just existing in the room and blending in with the furniture, but more importantly being true drivers of creating critical results within the organization. 

We reward people for that. That is what is incentivized. 

I’m a big believer in that incentives really drive people’s behaviors, so that’s one aspect of fostering an environment that values execution over ideas.

The other thing is that you as a leader must not place an overreliance or overemphasis on ideas themselves. 

Ideas are great, but that’s a very small part of any initiative. Whenever we have any sort of campaign that we run, any initiative, any expansion of the business, there is perhaps a meeting about the ideas and fleshing out the scope of something, but then 95% or more of the focus is all on execution and the quality of execution and proper deliverability. 

Again, ideas themselves are nice, but you’re not the only person who can have a great idea, and in fact, sometimes we see great collaborative processes where a lot of great ideas come together to form something that could be even better. 

But on its own, it’s worth very little. The market pays for execution.

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