Thursday, July 16, 2015

There Are No New Ideas

You stole your latest idea.

I'm not saying someone told you the idea and you then claimed it as your own. I'm not claiming that you even subconsciously took something that belonged to someone else. Rather, your latest idea is the product of your experience, and in business, it likely originated from watching similar activity and similar results to the ones you are hoping to achieve (I hope). If you are stealing ideas that had poor results, then perhaps we should be having a different conversation.

I thought about this the other day as I learned about a new methodology, which happened to be an existing methodology that I was already familiar with spun up with a couple of innovative, yet derivative tools. To me, it was nothing particularly new or different, though through a different filter or perspective, it could have been groundbreaking.

Business operates on a limited set of rules. Deliver the product your customer wants at a price they agree to pay (and is profitable to you) as quickly as you can with a good customer experience in mind. Repeat. If you can do this over and over again, you'll make money. No level of innovation and new ideas are going to change that set of rules. As a result, those areas of fact have been pored over for decades, on how to deliver faster (Lean Manufacturing) on a product the customer wants (Market Research) at a profit (using IRR and ROI, etc., where investment is involved). The ideas are all used up.

What's not used up is the application of those ideas to the situation. The idea that you should deliver faster has been around since Henry Ford, but that doesn't mean you are delivering as fast as you can. Profit concepts have been around for millennia, but that doesn't mean your margin is set perfectly.

Mystery novels (and romance novels and thrillers and movies and television shows) all follow a formula. In fact, so many movies follow a similar formula that it has been extracted and superimposed on their plots, called Save the Cat. Just because it follows a formula does not make it the same. The difference in Jurassic World, Jaws, Birdman, Whiplash and Avengers: Age of Ultron isn't in the idea. In fact, on the front page of the Save the Cat site, there are beat sheets for all of them showing they follow the same formula. What's different is the execution. Each one is executed differently to take the formula that works and manipulate it to their own end.

The same is true of business operations. The idea isn't revolutionary. The methodology is a new take, perhaps, on the same ways of looking at things. But your execution could be so close to perfect and so unique to the situation that you excel. Make yourself look different by executing better.

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Image by funnytools on Pixabay