Friday, June 30, 2017

9 Reasons Why Execution Trumps Thinking In Business

idea-vs-executionIn my role as an advisor to entrepreneurs and new businesses, I often get asked to critique an idea, but rarely get asked to comment on an implementation plan, or execution actions to date. For the record, my experience tells me that success in a new business has very little to do with the idea, and everything to do with execution. Execution trumps everything in a new business.

I’ve seen too many innovative ideas go down in flames, due to poor execution, and conversely, some mundane ideas implemented to great success, In fact, if you think about it, some of the biggest current business successes were based on ideas were not unique, including Google (search the Internet), Facebook (talk to friends), and Amazon (electronic shopping).

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, the future is largely unpredictable, so heavy thinking doesn’t provide the same insights as executing some “experiments.” The advantages of approaching your new business as a well-planned experiment include the following:

  1. Find if you like the business side of the equation. People rarely achieve success at something they really don’t like doing, or don’t know anything about. For example, many technologists love to invent things, but can’t stand the realities of running a business. Unless they find a partner who loves the business side, most inventions languish unsold.

  2. Thinking without action leads to lost opportunities. Time is money in business. While you are still thinking, your competition will be stealing your market or the opportunity itself may go away or evolve. Patents and other intellectual property go to the first person who files, rather than the first person with the idea. Ideas are very fragile.

  3. If you act now, you won’t spend your life wondering “What if . . .?” If all you ever do is think, you can gain tons of theoretical knowledge, but none from the real world. Creating a specific business plan, and executing it, is the only way to answer the real question of how much value your idea brings to customers, as well as yourself.

  4. As you act on a plan, you test the commitment of your followers. I often hear something like “All my friends and followers love my idea.” Most new business founders find there is a big gap between them loving the idea, and buying the product or service. Potential partners and investors may be interested, but unwilling to commit real money.

  5. Building business relationships takes action and mistakes. Running a business is not rocket science. It’s more a function of good people and good relationships, than a scientific algorithm. Deep thinking doesn’t build people relationships. In fact, most entrepreneurs tell me they learned more from people mistakes than successes.

  6. You find out definitively what works and what doesn’t. Every honest entrepreneur will tell you about the many surprises they found on the road to success, no matter how certain they were of their idea initially. Changes in startups are so common they are called “pivots.” Great solutions are almost never obvious before the fact.

  7. If you never act, you will never know if you are right or wrong. You may think you know the result, but you won’t be able to point to anything concrete to prove you are right. The problem with that, as Mark Twain pointed out, is: “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that just ain’t so.”

  8. Action leads to a market reaction, which may spark another new idea. Action produces evidence of business viability, which becomes fodder for new thinking. You act, therefore something changes, and in observing that reaction you gain market knowledge. A great business is not just one idea, but a never-ending stream of innovative solutions.

  9. Experiments lead to faster, cheaper, and better results. Or you may conclude that the idea is not implementable at this time. Thought experiments alone won’t identify all the issues. Thomas Edison tested 10,000 lightbulb filament ideas before he found one that worked. He then went on to build a fabulous business, with more than a lightbulb idea.

I’m not suggesting that you act before thinking, only that you not get stuck too long in the thinking stage. For example, I discount entrepreneurs who tell me they have been thinking about a great idea for several years, working to perfect it, but have never moved to the execution stage.

Success in business requires that you move forward one small step at a time, with a few steps backward along the way. Great entrepreneurs find the satisfaction and the learning in making those steps, rather than merely thinking about them.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on on 06/15/2017 ***




  1. Small steps and remembering the moments that carry each step.

    Thanks Martin

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  3. Regret is more of what we did not do compared to what we did do. Do more, try more, have a go and stop waiting for the right time "as there is none".