Ideas Are Cheap, Action is What Counts.

I have heard quite a few business ideas in my time and I have had more than my fair share. Through it all I have realized one thing. Ideas are cheap.

In fact they are a dime a dozen. Everyone has ideas and I would even say at various points everyone has some pretty darn good ideas.

The thing is without executing the idea, it’s pretty worthless. Ideas are cheap, action is expensive.

The odd thing is oftentimes people are overly protective of their ideas or seem to think that having an idea for a business is the hard part out of the way.

For example on more than a few occasions people have said to me something along the lines of: “I have a fantastic idea, you execute it and we’ll be partners”.

This sort of thinking is so upside down. I have yet to hear an idea where such a scenario would have been even remotely worthwhile.

One of my favorite books, which I highly recommend you read isGetting Real by 37Signals and it’s available online to read for free. In it they quote various people and my absolute favorite quote is this one from Derek Sivers, president and programmer, CD Baby and HostBaby:

It’s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an NDA to tell me the simplest idea.)

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.


  • Awful idea = -1
  • Weak idea = 1
  • So-so idea = 5
  • Good idea = 10
  • Great idea = 15
  • Brilliant idea = 20
  • No execution = $1
  • Weak execution = $1000
  • So-so execution = $10,000
  • Good execution = $100,000
  • Great execution = $1,000,000
  • Brilliant execution = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.
—Derek Sivers, president and programmer, CD Baby and HostBaby in Getting Real

Derek sums up perfectly my point. Action is everything, how you execute development, marketing, branding, PR and the myriad other aspects of business are the main determinants of success, not a single idea – no matter how barn stormingly good it is.

The Idea Factory – How to Enable Your Creativity

Every business, every project, every solution begins with an idea; a seedling in your mind that you bring to reality.

Ideas and creativity are essential tools for success in every field from the sciences to the arts to business.

At some points everyone has experienced the thrill of a great idea and its power to inspire, create, change and solve.

Yet given such an extraordinary process, rarely do we consider how to stimulate, optimize or characterize it.

What follows are six steps that I take to be more creative. I hope they will help you in your pursuits, whether it is in the context of business ideas or perhaps some other activity.

1. Encourage Randomness

I do not believe ideas come out of nowhere. Given a certain set of events, experiences and stimulus your brain arranges and rearranges the information to produce beliefs, knowledge and ideas.

It follows then that the more new events, occurrences, people and ideas you are exposed to, the more material your brain has to work with and the greater the chances that you will come up with new ideas.

So when creativity is your goal, it makes sense to expose yourself to as much external stimulus as possible. The best way to do this is to introduce as much chance and randomness into your life as possible.

For example you might take a different route to work, talk to new people, watch a different channel, eat in a new restaurant or just mix up your routine.

By randomizing your daily activities you increase the newness of what your brain experiences and increase the chance of new thoughts and ideas.

2. Look for Connections

An idea is often the result of a connection between a few different thoughts. As an example:“People like watching movies”, “People like a big selection”, “Working online means you can offer a big selection with no storage space” … “An online service for movies could offer a much greater selection and therefore be more popular than an offline one.”

Searching for connections then is a good way of stimulating ideas. When I am looking for ideas relating to a certain problem I will try making connections between things I see, things I hear and thoughts I have and the problem I am trying to solve.

It doesn’t matter how odd or incongruous things seem, linking two random thoughts can generate unexpected and often original and creative results.

Another thing I do is find ways to connect old ideas with new ones. Recycling inspiration I’ve had before or finding ways to reuse an idea that might not have been appropriate has served me well.

Similarly ideas I reject today I keep on the back burner as they might be useful later. So for example I walked into a book store 2 years ago and couldn’t find a good book about online business, months ago when I thought to start a blog I remembered that I had thought about that book and came up with the idea to write a blog to companion a book that I would produce over the course of a year.

3. Be Ready to Receive

There is nothing worse than forgetting a great idea. When inspiration strikes you want to be ready.

If you find you have ideas at night then keep a notebook next to your bed, if they happen in the car, get a voice recorder, if you often have nothing nearby learn some memory techniques to help you hold on to those precious ideas. Whatever the case, be ready…

4. Be Proactive

Many people have a place or an activity which helps them think and which they have a history of ideas with. Whether it is the shower, the kitchen, running or lying in bed, you want to do *more* of that.

If you need to have ideas at work but find that you have the best ones at home in the shower, find what it is that helps trigger ideas about being in the shower and find a way to replicate that in your workspace.

So if it is the solitude of a shower find a place at work where you can experience the same feeling, if you need a monotonous activity, again find a way to replicate it.

Being proactive about idea generation also means thinking as much as possible and as often as possible. It means setting aside time specifically for that task, time during which you are not under pressure or stress.

5. Be open and indiscriminate

If you have ever ‘brainstormed’ for ideas you will know that a key part of the process is to be open to any and all ideas that come your way.

You write them *all* down, no matter how dumb, how far-fetched, how weird or how silly they seem. You can always cull later, but during the generation process letting your mind run free without the worry of staying within artificial safe boundaries is much more important.

Be open to anything your brain spits out, consider every possibility rather than just rejecting some outright. If an idea has obvious inherent problems you can start thinking about ways to fix those problems with other ideas – again finding connections.

If it truly is worthless eventually you can move on knowing that the avenue was explored fully.

6. Give yourself Time

In my experience pressure and stress are not particularly conducive to the creative thought process. The only times they help are when you have difficulty concentrating without them.

For most people however having ample amounts of time to explore different possibilities is optimum. So relax and don’t try to hurry the process.

Often sleeping on a problem or taking your mind off it for a while gives your subconscious time to chew on it and deliver a result at the most unexpected moment.

So there you have it, a few of the ways I like to get creativity happening. Tomorrow I’ll be looking more specifically at how to generate business ideas and then how to investigate a business idea.