Ideas are not my problem. Execution is.
Working in the world of Tech and startups, I get to meet loads of different people on a daily basis. Some are thinkers, some are doers. Some run multi-million pound companies, others are just getting started out. Its a great mix of ideas and execution.
However for every entrepreneur there are several wantrapreneurs.
Entrepreneurship has become the new investment banking with stories and rumours of multi-billion acquisitions happening seemingly overnight or products going viral as soon as they were launched. Its an enticing story, this rags to riches via entrepreneurship and one that has an almost disney-esqueness to it.
So it doesn’t surprise me when a lot of the people I meet who are interested in starting a start-up aka a business, ask me how to come up with an idea. All they need is that one idea and then they’ll be sorted. That one idea will change their life and (hopefully) make them shamelessly rich. The idea to end all ideas.
But for those of us who are well conversed in this world of startups where execution is paramount, we understand that ideas are cheap and nasty and as common as muck. Ideas get pushed around and dissected by all those involved to the point where a lot of us will dismiss an idea on the words of a couple of people who have no background knowledge about the subject.
No you don’t have a problem with ideas, you have a problem with execution. Most entrepreneurs will gladly admit that they come up with at least 5 new ideas a day. Some, a lot more. They come up with them on their way to the office, in the gym, sometimes just walking down the street. And what do they usually do with these ideas? Either add them to their ideas book to look at, at a later stage or instantly dismiss them for what they are. Ideas.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that ideas are useless. They aren’t. Many companies wouldn’t exist without their founder(s) having a great idea but what I would like to stress is that execution made these companies great. Not the idea.
Which comes back to my point that coming up with an idea is not the problem. Its the execution. The hard work. The late nights wondering whether you’ve made the right decision. The push to just do that extra task on your to do list, just to see if it makes a difference to your social media engagement levels. Its the push to find the right team members and to keep fighting for investment even when the 20th investor has turned you down. Execution is the life blood of startups. Not ideas.
For those who regularly read my posts, you’ll know that for the past year I have been on a programme called the New Entrepreneurship Foundation. Last week, I had to pitch the idea I’d been working on for the last few weeks in front of some pretty prominent members of the London business community. For those that know me well, I hate pitching. In fact, I’m terrified of doing it. But do it, I did. And it went fine. I got some really good feedback and a whole host of referrals, advice and future meet up opportunities to boot.
And that’s when I realised.
It wasn’t the idea that got me those things. It was the execution. Going up there and pitching my idea had earned me access to a range of people that could really drive forward this idea. It had got me further in 20 minutes than the whole 6 weeks I’d been coming up with the idea and preparing for the pitch. It also dawned on me that the “coming up with the idea” stage had been pretty easy and painless. What was to come next i.e actually following up and working on the idea, was going to be the hard bit and the real test of my execution resilience.
I have to say that I’ve impressed myself so far and am really moving forward with the idea, refining it and scheduling meetings with people in the know whose input will be greatly beneficial and connections even more so. People like the idea and what it means for getting more women into tech. The slight problem is that I have put myself out there and now I need to deliver.
However what I have realised is that even by just taking the first step or even breaking it up into tiny little steps, you are still moving forward. You are still achieving what you set out to do. Could you do it faster? Sure you could but maybe executing faster might not always be the best way to do it. Sometimes, just doing the action has a monumental change on your confidence and your ability to get things done.
I will keep pushing forward with my idea because I am incredibly passionate about it and know that it is a problem that needs to be solved sooner rather than later but at the same time understand that I still have problems with execution. I’m hoping that as long as I address this and take small steps each and every day on my idea that these tiny steps of execution will ultimately lead to more women getting into tech.
So what I have I learnt about how to improve your personal execution rate?
- Work on one idea at a time: This will allow you to really focus and avoid going off at a tangent. I find it also reduces my anxiety as I don’t have to worry about validating every idea I have at the same time.
- Follow a process: I really like the process outlined in Ash Mauraya’s book, Running Lean. It gives a really good step by step process to validate your ideas quickly and effectively without missing anything out or accidentally lying to yourself (we’ve all done it, especially on our first start-up)
- Sprint and Iterate: Sprint is the process developed by Google engineers to describe their 5 day idea to product process. Although you won’t exactly be following the process, the idea is to test your idea as quickly as possible to see if there really is something in it. I also find that the momentum of each execution pushes and motivates you to complete the next task. I hate the phrase “fail hard, fail fast” but the idea behind it is to make sure you don’t drag the idea out any longer than is totally necessary. No one wants to be that person still talking about their idea that didn’t take off, six months down the line.
- Keep executing: Never be put off when your brilliant idea didn’t turn out to be that brilliant. If you’ve managed to validate it quickly and effectively then you should pat yourself on the back. You’ve come a lot further than the vast majority of people. Now you can move on to the next idea.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, click the below so other people will see it on Medium. I’d also love to hear what you think of the 4 step process outlined above. Anything else to add or take out? — tell me all about it in a comment on this article.