As with many of these articles, I’m going to write about a misconception I had before I started a business. This one is that a single great idea is worth a lot of money.

Think you have a million dollar idea? You may be right! Just follow this procedure to find out.

  • Step 1, have a great idea
  • Step 2, get off the couch
  • Step 3, risk your life savings
  • Step 4, work 80 hours per week for two years
  • Step 5, a million dollars! Yay!

Most people think the value is in step 1. Good guess, but it’s not. The blood and sweat of implementation is where the value lies.

A single big valuable idea is a myth. There is some value in ideas, but only if there is a steady stream of good ones, not a single brilliant one. You need people who can come up with many new ideas to swerve around the obstacles that the original idea is headed for.

Steve Jobs is a good example of this. Apple’s success was not because of a single simple idea like “make slick fun products.” When Steve was kicked out of Apple it slid into mediocrity. If there was a magic “Apple idea” then the team Steve left behind could have just used that blueprint, but they floundered instead. We experienced it by developing software for Apple computers after he left. It was a nightmare. After Steve returned, Apple technology recovered and now we enjoy developing Apple products.

If an “idea person” tries to join your team then run the other way. You need people who do actual work. They are the ones who test 10 ideas every day in the crucible of real life and slowly build a network of them that work together.

A corollary to this is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up if an idea doesn’t work out. Try many ideas. Expect to fail a lot. Just be scientific. Judge an idea’s value on the objectively measurable results. Mercilessly abandon bad ones and you end up with just the strong ones.