What’s Your Great Idea Worth? Probably Zilch.

I don’t normally copy other articles but this is a great one I found on www.bnet.com, written by Geoffrey James. I think it says what a lot of entrepreneurs need to hear, but be warned, it’s not at all warm and fuzzy! If you think you might be ok with a big dose of reality, read on….

Earlier today, I posted “12 Cool Gadgets that Didn’t Change the World” — a rogue’s gallery of hot products that were terminal cool, with the emphasis on terminal.  They died the death for a variety of reasons, none of which had to with the product itself.

Looking at these fascinating failures got me thinking about about the innovation process and how even ideas that reach fruition in a prototype or even an actual released product, often fall flat.  Even so, many people in the business world think they’ve got a sure-fire idea that could make millions.

The truth is that great ideas are a dime-a-dozen.  And almost NO ideas are original.  In fact, the ideas that truly ARE original — in the sense that they come like bolt out of the blue — are almost never successful, even when they’re implemented. (The 12 Gadgets post shows a few example of this.)

I feel like laughing whenever I hear somebody complain that their idea got “stolen” — as if it were something that “belonged” to them.  In almost EVERY case, the idea is just a variation (if that) of something that’s been floating around for years.

I’ve been following the case of the Harvard seniors who continue to insist that Facebook CEO Zuckerberg stole their idea.  What a crock.  Facebook isn’t an original idea; the idea of a social network had been around for almost a decade.  Zuckerberg did a better job of implementing the idea, that’s all.

Here’s the truth of the matter: ideas are pretty much worth zilch.  What IS valuable is the ability to implement an idea, turn it into a product, and then sell that product in the marketplace and make money.  That’s the real work, and the real reward should go to the people who do that, not the fools who pretend that they should be rewarded for the product of their divine creativity.

Now, it’s perfectly true that ideas can be patented.  But their still worth zilch until somebody does the HARD work of turning them into a product that can be sold.  So your idea, no matter how brilliant you think it is, isn’t worth bragging about.

As Thomas Edison put it: “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Click here to read Geoffrey’s other article, “12 Cool Gadgets that Didn’t Change the World“, on the BNet website.

Biography: Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James has sold and written hundreds of features, articles and columns for national publications including Wired, Men’s Health, Business 2.0, SellingPower, Brand World, Computer Gaming World, CIO, The New York Times and BNET. He is the author of seven books, including Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite and The Tao of Programming. He has given seminars and keynotes at numerous corporations, including Rackspace, Gartner, Lucent and Houston Industries.


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