“Focus on execution because ideas are a dime a dozen,” said the entrepreneur. While this statement is rooted in truth, it’s important that we give ideas the respect they deserve. After all, the most well-built house in the world - if built on an unstable foundation - is little more than a crumbling house.
So, what is a great idea?
In a business context, a great idea needs to be more than simply interesting. It needs to meet a slew of prerequisite criteria:
- It can be realized in the form of a product or service
- The initial product or service can be created with minimal resources
- It fulfills an actual need
- There is a market of people willing to pay to have this need fulfilled
- You can define the initial version of this market in a way that’s narrow enough for a company of your size to rapidly acquire customers
- You can prove that acquiring those customers costs you much less than their annual value to you
- Over time, you can define a new version of that market that’s big enough for your growing company to, well, grow up with
And this is just the tip of the iceberg given your unique industry and context.
I can’t overstate how often I hear the same post-failure regret: “I wish I had put more time into understanding product-market fit.” The reason is obvious: With so much cultural emphasis on action-based execution, it’s easy to skip over the vetting phase and as a result, de-value the idea itself. We all too often want to jump straight into building and selling without formally exploring whether such an endeavor is worth it in the first place.
Because most product-market fits end up being poor, it turns out that great ideas are not a dime a dozen; they’re extremely rare. And because the best execution of a really bad idea isn’t going to build a worthwhile long-term business, it’s time we start treating product-market exploration as one of the most important art forms in which a modern entrepreneur can engage.