Is the Value in the Idea or the Implementation?

(or Do you believe in God?)

For the past few weeks I have been involved in a dialogue of sorts on the TEDtalks LinkedIn Group about whether the value of an idea is in the idea itself or rather in the implementation.

This led to a pithy, but profound exchange between myself and Wan Chi Lau. To spare you the details of the other parts of the conversation, I have excerpted just the relevant threads of the conversation. Thanks, Wan for the permission to reprint your comments.


Without an idea, you have nothing to implement.


Actually I would disagree…the evidence is all around us. The entire Universe is one big implementation without any "idea." We are of the Nike mantra…."Just Do It."


Only if you are an atheist. I am not.


Well, clearly I am 🙂

This brief exchange is the whole essence of the argument and I am curious to know if the following hypothesis is true: If you believe the value is in the idea, then you are likely to be theistic; if you believe the value is in the implementation of the idea, then you are likely to be atheistic.


11 thoughts on “Is the Value in the Idea or the Implementation?

  1. This reminds me of the old cartoon of the woman complaining to the bartender about her husband, “My husband invented the Banana Daiquiri, but he never did anything about it.”

    Inventors are not often capable of implementation, which leaves a lot of good ideas unrealized. And unfortunately, a lot of people with resources and motivation to implement an idea don’t always choose the best ones. Remember the story of my would-be client who developed the “Personal Tornado Detector”?

    I think the value of an idea is equal parts idea and implementation, with a twist of lemon.

  2. Thanks, all, but I don’t think this is a chicken/egg situation. Take Amy’s potential customer with the “Personal Tornado Detector.” This is simply a bad idea and even phenomenal implementation will not make it good.

    I heard a long time ago that, “Nothing kills a bad product faster than great marketing.” The converse does not hold – a great product with poor marketing still has potential.

    Are both idea and implementation necessary for the idea to become accepted? Yes. Take germ theory, it was rejected by the medical establishment for nearly 100 years, but it is still the right idea.

  3. Ed, I hate to complicate the issue (or DO I?) 🙂

    I don’t see it as black and white. I don’t believe ALL the value is in the idea nor do I believe ALL the value is in the implementation. I would purport that in business, the majority of the value “most” of the time is in the idea and I would purport that in art “most” of the time the value is in the implementation (or execution).

    That said, just as in all things, at all times, value is subjective and I believe the “heavier” value swings based on need, timing, and relevance to the beholder.

    BTW, I’m a pantheist…

    Very thought-provoking…I may be back with more…

  4. I think this is similar to asking, “Which is more important, the Income Statement or the Balance Sheet?” How about “the gas pedal or the brake pedal?”
    Edison’s definition of genius, “1% inspiration and 99% persperation,” is worth considering here.
    One final thought. Think about the large IT integration projects that go awry. Was it because bad ideas poorly implemented, or the reverse?
    As a Recovering Engineer, I’ve come to the conclusion that success in projects more often comes from smart and diligent execution than anything else. It is hard to do. Smart people too often find it boring, so the “others” too often are left to it. And the people skills needed to get everybody (vendor and client) to actually pay attention during the final 10% of completion are rare to find.
    Finally, I also think clients get more excited about the value of a great idea (think, “flashy demo”), than the value of a cautious, 3-phase implementation plan with benchmarks. So it’s easier to get clients to pay more for the wrong thing …

  5. Thanks, all, for your comments.
    My point on this is not that there is no value in the implementation, but rather, that without the idea, you have nothing to implement. Therefore, the value (or potential value) is in the idea not the implementation.
    Jerry, you make the point about “bad ideas poorly implemented,” but what about a bad idea well implemented? Is there a valuable (good) way to implement communism, or is it just a bad idea? The holocaust?

  6. This quote from Neil Gaiman reminded me of this post:

    “I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

    It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.”

    It was from a speech he gave recently.

    The point being, the idea is more valuable than the doing.

    Full speech:

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