Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Nurturing the Great Idea

One of my great-grandfathers apparently obtained a patent once for an idea he had for a "dishwasher". Back in the era when washing dishes was still assumed to always be done by hand, there was still the matter of making the most of the water that had to be heated - and often hauled - to do dishes and his invention centered around conserving as much hot water as possible during the dish-washing process. I saw the patent once before my grandfather's house burned down, so I can verify its existence though I have yet to uncover it in any of my searching of the online databases. Perhaps it is simply too old to be part of the digital record.

In any case, having done plenty of dishes by hand myself, I could appreciate what a clever design it was and I know that it could still be useful today in certain applications. Unfortunately, the fact that it was a great idea is not the point. The sad truth is that the world is full of great ideas and simply having a great idea is not good enough.

Apparently this is a truth that my great-grandfather learned with at least some disappointment. In uncovering the patent, we also uncovered letters that made it clear that he had attempted to sell his great idea to somebody else he hoped would build and then market his hot water-conserving system for washing dishes so that he could make money off of his idea without having to do any of the work to bring it to reality.

It is also clear from the letters that manufacturing did not work that way - at least back then. If I were a betting man, I'd say that the manufacturing world probably STILL does not work that way - disappointing news, I'm sure, if you just spent money on one of those many Inventor's Kits I see advertised on television these days.

No, the point is, that great businesses are built less on great ideas than they are built on great execution. So as much as I stress strategic planning that includes some unique way you plan to deliver some unique product or service (the great idea - or even a good one will do), I like to be sure that people aren't forgetting the realistic steps it takes to achieve the visions we set out for ourselves. I also like to offer this reminder - those performance evaluations we hate doing so much are the only consistent way I know to build a solid bridge between the strategic and the tactical.

What hassles do you have around performance evaluations, strategic planning or implementing the tactical pieces of your plan? Send them to techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com and let's explore some answers.

Executing our Great Ideas shouldn't be about killing them.