All Ideas are Brilliant Before They Are Executed.

“No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth von Moltke.

Playground Obstacle CourseSimilarly, all business ideas are brilliant before they are executed. Ideas have to run through an obstacle course of hard realities before they are really opportunities. Few ideas make it.

Everybody has ideas, Millions of business ideas are floating around everywhere. Every problem anybody encounters is a solution waiting to be unwrapped. Every time somebody follows the comment “there should be a better way” by suggesting a better way, that’s a business idea.

An opportunity is way more important than an idea. The difference between idea and opportunity is huge. An opportunity is an idea somebody can execute. An opportunity is an idea you can execute on because the technology and product development will succeed, people want to pay for it, there is a team with the capability to execute, the needed resources are available, and the economics will work. Ideas have no value because nobody owns them and there are billions floating around every day. Opportunities are the beginning of something that can gain value.

That idea you have, the one you think will make millions? If it’s any good at all, you’re not the only one to have it. You’re right now in a race with somebody else to execute on it. What’s more likely, however, is that it won’t make it through the gauntlet of execution. It’s really hard to get from idea to opportunity.

  • Most ideas have huge fatal flaws that would be obvious to somebody with the right experience, but aren’t obvious to somebody who hasn’t tried to build on them.
  • As you get into the reality of developing a prototype, fleshing it out, making a minimum viable product out of it, you’ll discover why it won’t work. Trying to design and code a software or web product quite often leads to the discovery of why it won’t work as conceived.
  • As you get into the reality of user testing, initial marketing, you’ll discover that nobody wanted it. Or they wanted something different. Trying to get early users, customers, distributors, allies, or channels often leads to discovery of the hidden flaws.

Why am I sharing this discouraging word?

  • First, because I see so much noise and distraction related to ideas, sadly unrealistic suggestions, people asking experts how they can sell an idea. People want to know where to sell their ideas. That’s all wasted effort.
  • Second, because an idea somebody has about how to improve an existing product owned by somebody else (such as ideas to improve Facebook, or autos, etc.) is even more likely to have a fatal flaw in it. The companies who own that product probably know why your idea won’t work, even if you don’t.

So what do you do with an idea?

You gather a team, you develop early versions or minimum viable versions, prototypes, get on kickstarter, get traction, and so forth. You execute on the idea. And if you can’t find people who want to join you, get a clue.

(Image: courtesy of



  • rich zn says:

    Hi Tim, can I inbox you about an idea, and you can give me some advice?

  • kevinvvn . says:

    hello Mr. Berry,
    I have an idea to generate energy from ocean waves with very low initial investment. Siemens(from Germany) seems interested in my idea. they wanted to see claims but I put them on hold since my patent is about to get approved. whats the best way to find multiple partners around the globe and license my invention ?

    • Tim Berry says:

      Kevin, I left you question unanswered for 3 weeks because I kept putting it off since it is such a big question. And I’ve decided it is too big for a response to a comment. The answer is basically what this whole site is about, building a business. There are so many options, decisions, and paths. You have lots of choices to make. Tim

  • Jennifer Epstein says:

    Great post indeed! Underscores the importance of piloting, testing and optimizing before you fully launch an idea. Of course, before developing an idea, intimately understanding and segmenting your market is crucial to its success. Thanks for the post.

  • Farouke Kilimanjaro says:

    execution is the differentiators between success and failure of a startup

  • Stephen Lahey says:

    Knowing a market intimately. Knowing that they want what you’re selling. Hands-on marketing research and testing seems to be a lost art. Great post!

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