Ideas or Execution -- what do YOU think is more important? - THINKERS Notebook

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Ideas or Execution -- what do YOU think is more important?

It's an age-old question.

A debate, really.

On one side of the debate is Steve Jobs, who said:

"To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions."

On the other side of debate is John F. Kennedy, who said: 
"A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death."

So which one wins: the idea, or the execution of the idea?

I know what you're thinking ...

It's both!

Of course you're right. It takes an idea plus execution to create anything successful. 

  • A terrible idea that is well executed has limited potential to actually provide a return on then investment of resources the execution required.
  • On the flip side, even the greatest idea will flounder (if it sees the light of day at all) in the face of incompetent execution.

So let's reframe the discussion into something we can actually debate: which one matters more?

This is where reasonable minds can (and do) disagree.

Now let me throw a wrench into the debate.

What if the answer is ... neither?

What if there is an element of idea creation, refinement, and execution that is more fundamentally important than the idea or the execution?

Well, there is.

At least, that's our hypothesis.

And we tackled it in the latest season of the THINKERS Manifesto podcast.

I told you about the new season of the podcast several weeks ago when it launched.

It's an accessible 7-episode season, with each episode clocking in between 12 and 16 minutes. And we invested a lot in the production to give it a pleasing soundscape that complements the storytelling and lessons about thinking.

We also take you behind the scenes on how the THINKERS Notebook, THINKERS App, and this very newsletter came to be.

Because buried within that story is a lesson about what actually matters more: ideas, their execution, or something even more fundamental.

We invite you to listen so you can learn our answer to this age-old question.

What matters more -- an idea or its execution?

You can either listen episode by episode, or you can listen to the entire season in one compilation episode.

Once you get done listening, we'd love to know what you think. Did we persuade you? Come right back here and reply to this email. 

You can also peruse the links below, which provide additional perspective on this debate.

Now on to this week's links ...

You can't separate an idea from its execution


An idea and its execution are therefore two inseparable factors; like cause and effect. It is not possible for one to solely bank upon the conception of an idea to achieve success. It is in fact the execution of the idea that also puts the feasibility of an excellent idea to test.

Read: Idea or Execution: Which is more important for success? (Bhawna Agarwal)

What if there are two things more important than ideas and execution?


Don’t get me wrong.  Ideas are still important.  They are the spark that starts the fire.  And ideas can be partly created by the luck of being in the right place at the right time, so maybe this whole construct is more of a virtual circle than a hierarchy.  But entrepreneurs need to remember that a spark only gets you so far.  As the old saying goes, I’d rather be lucky than good!

Watch: Ideas Matter Less Than Execution Which Matters Less Than Timing Which Matters Less Than Luck (Only Once)

Strategy means nothing if you don't execute.


Just like “happily ever after” is a romanticized concept, so is the perfect business strategy. A sound strategy should be transformed and enhanced during the implementation process, so if it’s perfect, it’s only because it was shaped by execution.

In fact, some CEOs prefer not to discuss their bold initiatives until they’re well into, or finished with, implementation. Since strategy is guided by execution, they realize that their planning will take on many shapes before it reaches its final, successful form.

Start with execution and subsequently define your strategy. You don’t want to be the leader who overpromises only to under-deliver.

Read: Why Execution Is More Important Than Strategy (Entrepreneur)
Quote of the week

Having a vision for what you want is not enough. Vision without execution is hallucination."

-- Thomas Edison