Ideas or Execution?

PeerCulture, November 1, 2016
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Which is more important: A great idea or a great execution? Of course the best answer is both, but we did not interview Captain Obvious for this piece. Throughout the corporate world this is an important debate with strong positions on each side. A company’s culture is often built on one of these positions, so it is critical that employees buy into whatever side of the debate their company takes.

Companies that celebrate big ideas believe that ideas are the lifeblood of innovation and change. They believe that without the right idea, the execution will do little to help. On the other hand, process-driven companies believe that a well executed plan is the foundation to their success. They believe that an idea is merely a hypothetical without strong execution. What do you think?

We caught up with Entrepreneur and Game Designer, Luke Joseph, to get his POV. Luke is founder of Vamo Games, a soccer strategy game publisher. While one would assume that inventing games is all about the idea, Luke’s experience might surprise you.
So Luke, which is more important: The idea or the execution?

I’m a game designer not only by profession but at heart. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a creative breakthrough. It’s like seeing fireworks for the first time. And if the question was, “Which is more EXCITING: A great idea or a great execution?” I’d choose a great idea in a heartbeat!

However, when it comes to business, execution reigns supreme. Was the iPhone a great idea? Well, smart phones were a great idea, but Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t dream them up. They just executed so much better than the competition. There are plenty of examples: Google was not the first search engine; Facebook was not the first social network; and Uber was not the first ride-sharing service. They all executed brilliantly, and therefore most people assume those companies came up with the ideas. 

The first games I designed were for my students learning English. It was February of my first year teaching, and I could sense the students getting ornery. The clues were obvious: students complaining, students staring into space, little triggers setting off big fires. Spring break was still 6 weeks away and we had to do something different, or we were all going to be miserable for a long time. Luckily, it was an Olympic year, and The Games were an inspiration!

Our Olympic Games were both mental and physical: grammar golf, verb tense tennis, vocabulary pole vault, and several more activities based primarily on alliteration. It became clear early on that the initial inspiration was solid, but the execution was not. That’s something you learn as a first year teacher: great ideas aren’t easily executed with a classroom full of teenagers. I wasn’t dissuaded though. I knew games were critical to learning and building community. It was the execution that needed an overhaul.