How to turn a great idea into a successful business

Great ideas are worthless until someone has successfully implemented them. It is here that companies succeed or fail. How should you move forward to deliver your ideas?

When Microsoft announced in 1983 that it would be releasing its Windows 1.0 software, it was before many of us had ever heard of a PC, let alone glimpsed a user interface. The rest, of course, is history.

But it is rarely remembered that it took Microsoft a full two years to bring the product to market, that rival VisiCorp actually beat it to the stores with a windowing interface guided by a mouse – and that in those heady, early days of the digital revolution a further three providers offering programs using screen “windows” nearly edged Microsoft out.

The fact that it is Microsoft we know and love today is because they were the most successful in implementing their innovation. It has nothing to do with them being first or having the most original idea.

The recorded history of Microsoft’s close shave, and the complex array of factors that enabled it to steal a march on its rivals, shows that the tech company’s success was as much down to the approach rivals took to implementation as to any particular genius on the part of Microsoft itself.

The moral of this tale? Ideas in themselves are worth little.

If implementation is poor, brilliant ideas that offer first-mover advantage can be squandered and originality becomes meaningless.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

For the entrepreneur the challenge, then, is not coming up with killer ideas but coming up with effective ways to implement them – that is, to translate brilliant ideas into products and services in a way that achieves customers before the money runs out.

From the outset, moving from idea to action requires them to confront common myths:

Ivory tower syndrome

Many creative people share a belief that “I’m the creative genius, it’s up to others to implement my dazzling ideas”. It is hard to identify where this attitude originates, but recognising it can overcome a key psychological obstacle to progress. One way to do that is to admit that originality is greatly overstated – in fact, most people have

good ideas. We convince ourselves that ours are somehow more original, innovative and, well, special, as much out of vanity as anything else.

Someone might steal my idea

All too often innovators keep their ideas close to their chests, fearing that if they reveal them to someone else they will be stolen. But feedback will enhance an idea, and it is essential from the earliest stages to share it with others in order to gain validation and find mentors.

The truth is, people may like your idea, but won’t want to shoulder the burden of implementing it. If you minimise the risk to your intellectual property by only sharing your idea with a select band of people whom you trust, you can sleep easy.

Once these myths have been confronted, a leap of faith is then required to initiate implementation. Some lively minds will, of course, relish the ideas phase itself – it can be very easy to lose oneself in an endless thought-process in the search for an optimal solution to a problem. It is therefore important to move as fast as possible to implementation by side-lining the fear of failure and of making mistakes.

The real test of innovation – and the only way the contribution it makes to our shared prosperity can ever be measured –  is the extent to which ideas are brought to fruition.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024