Ideas. Ideas. Ideas.
When most people talk about innovation, ideas take center stage and grab most of the attention:
Why is that? Why do we put ideas on a pedestal and shine the spotlight on them? They are not a rare commodity – everyone has ideas, there's a virtually infinite supply of them. Give me a minute and I will come up with a billion-dollar idea, but what would the idea itself be worth? Probably nothing. Ideas are grossly overrated and overvalued.
If you have any doubt about the business value of ideas, try going to any venture capitalist and telling them: "I have a great idea that could be turned into a multi-billion $ business. I am not going to implement it, but if you give me a mere $10,000 I'll give you my idea and it's yours to do whatever you want with it."
Allright, $10,000 might be asking a bit too much. How about $10 per idea? Just for fun, I created an ad peddling my services as an Ideator and posted it on Craigslist:
I am still waiting for a serious reply.
Innovators. Innovators. Innovators.
The key ingredient for great innovation is not great ideas but great innovators. And what makes a great innovator is a rare combination of passion, skills, tenacity and fortitude needed to slog through the process of prototyping, testing, refining and rejecting ideas until they hit on a combination that works.
Since lightbulbs are often used to symbolize ideas and "Eureka moments", let's use the invention of the lightbulb to illustrate our point.
Most people associate the invention of the lightbulb with Thomas Edison. Edison, however, was not the first person to come up with the basic idea (i.e., passing electricity through a material to heat it up to the point where it becomes incandescent). Edison wasn't even the the first to think of, patent or implement the idea of using a bulb and a vacuum to prevent the filament material from catching on fire. But Edison, and his team, through a legendary tour-de-force of prototyping, testing and rejecting hundreds of materials and combinations, were the first who first succeeded in turning the idea into a practical, economical and world-changing innovation.
Because the number of ideas is practically infinite while the number of innovators is very finite, the innovators to ideas ratio is – for all practical purposes – close to zero. That makes innovators incredibly valuable.
For the above reasons, Innovators beat Ideas stands alone as the first and foremost precept in our manifesto. If your organization wants to be more innovative, don't start by looking for great ideas (lightbulbs), start by looking for great innovators (Thomas Edisons).
Based on an article written by Alberto for Google's Engineering Newsletter