If you were following this column closely, I had broached this topic two days ago and I got my fair share of responses. However I am not done yet. While I assert that Ideas may rule the world, the people who rule the world are the ones who take action in implementing the ideas. Ideas aren’t worth a dime and you can’t claim ownership (sorry!); they are almost overrated. Different waves of thoughts are engaging peoples’ minds and are being used to advance personal and business practice every day. In fact, the same ideas are received by more people than you can imagine. Have you got some thoughts playing in your head for a while only to find someone else living the thoughts, adding value and reaping the fruits of your idea? I have felt the same.
However you shouldn’t be angry with someone for doing what I’ve been only day-dreaming about? Ideas are as powerful as seeds scattered on a farming field; the power of an idea is in the creation of value and the creation of value is in the expression and ‘fixation’ of that idea. The value of an idea follows execution. If you have a brilliant idea, it’s high time you got to work.
Let’s Talk about Facebook
Okay talking about movies again. If you skipped David Fincher’s The Social Network because it was too wordy, it’s time to check it out again. It is a video account of how Facebook started. After thinking about the idea of creating a web community for Harvard students and its alumni (Harvard Connect, later renamed ConnectU) in 2003, the Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron, along with their partner Narendra, hired Mark Zuckerberg to manage the technical side of the website, after their original programmer had backed out. Zuckerberg later abandoned the Harvard Connect project and shortly afterwards released “The Facebook” (later named Facebook). The Winklevoss twins and Narendra had claimed that Zuckerberg deliberately stalled the Harvard Connect project, partly because he had used their code as the backbone to developing Facebook, and partly to get a head start ahead of them. However, Zuckerberg claims that Harvard Connect site was flawed, and Facebook was just a better idea that took precedence. However the brothers later took Mark and Facebook to court insisting that Facebook will not exist if not for them.
While the courts conceded some amount to them as damages, they have not stopped being bitter about someone else giving life to and succeeding with ‘their’ idea. However in my own analysis, I think social networking in their hands might not have gone this far. My opinion is that they had stayed too long in the idea mode and they were not street-smart; Mark not only executed but continuously improved on it as well.
Experience, Skill and Competence
Experience garnered over time within an industry can open up ideas ripe to grow a business upon. Identifying opportunities of improvement in your industry can yield viable business ideas in any field or industry especially when you have been in the industry for a while. I remember one of my mentors mentioning a tailor’s shop in Thailand that delivers your design orders in 24hrs – yes, 24! If you live in my part of the world (Africa), tailors are more reputable for delayed jobs than excellent workmanship. Once one is able to identify a profitable weakness within an industry, you can build on it as your competitive advantage and you are in business.
Law, Policy and Pronouncements
Whenever there is a change of policy; some people are affected and some others benefit. Just as the importation of motorcycles and commercial motorcycles hit an all-time high in Nigeria, the rate of accidents involving motorcycles had hit alarming proportions. The Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) decided to be proactive in dealing with these problems and announced that in addition to securing a license to drive motorcycles in Nigeria, all drivers and passengers must wear protective helmets when in transition. This threw up a lot of reactions of people: complaints, grumbles, opportunities. It however threw up an opportunity – production and sale of protective helmets. On the other hand Oyo and Ogun state benefited through the influx of motorcycles. New laws present new problems or new business ideas? Which do you see?
Social and Cultural Trends
Businesses are increasingly impacted by local and cultural trends; people who understand consumer psychographics will quickly agree with me. Trend hunters are always quick to throw up ideas on how businesses or market share will shift based on the response of the public to cultural and other external stimuli.
New Technology/ Cloning
Can traditional business processes be made simpler and more comfortable? Great ideas, businesses and internet startups are springing up because the technology required to effect execution are being simplified. Technology is bringing an end to the bureaucracy of tradition. Technology is making business processes easier, faster and cheaper thus opening new doors, releasing tremendous opportunities for businesses. As the digital revolution is sweeping through industries, business ideas are generated by cloning, adapting or adopting technologies in more advanced economies.
Digital technology has a way of disrupting industries thereby freeing up space for new entrants and creating uncertainty for traditional power blocks. Consider the rise of online job publishing websites which challenged the traditional roles of Human Resource Consulting firms, Recruitment agencies and Newspaper publishing houses.
The factors that create an opportunity for idea stimulation are not usually within our grasp. It is a combination of innate and environmental factors that open up possibilities to everyone who can perceive it.