Asking laptop owners in hipster startup cafés (like the Sankt Oberholz in Berlin) what they are missing, the answer will probably be: „I just need a cool idea.“ Just the opposite seems to be true for established companies in need of growth, where other statements are typical like: “If there is one thing not missing, it is ideas.”
The meaning behind the term idea in this context is a concrete picture of a product that needs to be built. Whether startup or established company, both statements above have the underlying assumption that just the right idea needs to be chosen and then executed and everything is going to be amazing: The startup will be successful and sold for several hundred million Euro; the company reinvents itself and exceeds all growth targets. Or, in other words: Those who are not successful just do not have the right idea and/or do not build it.
In better cases an idea is already linked to a concrete customer need and not only to an abstract revenue number. Then statements like this can be postulated: “If we build A, then B will change and customers are better off.” This, by the way, explains why startuppers have fewer ideas than established companies. By nature, the latter have great experience in a special business area and customer feedback channels are full with wishes and suggestions for improvement leading to ideas – the employees just need to listen. (Do they, though?)
But even the implementation of an idea that tackles a very concrete customer need is not enough to establish a new, successful business model. Reality looks different.
The underlying problem is the sad fact that every idea and the corresponding plan for execution will not survive a first contact with customers (see also the highly recommended book „Founders at Work“ by Jessica Livingston). The customers either have no interest in B changing or they are not willing to pay the targeted price or A does not have an impact on B at all. This has an unfavorable result: Those with only one idea will be stripped naked after seeing customers. Those with more than one will then typically execute the next idea – with the very same result. Following this path, the startup will become a shutdown and the established company will just extend the collection of more or less used features around the still successful product core. The targeted growth will not materialize.
Therefore, an idea is nothing without a corresponding vision. A vision has a deeper purpose and builds on fundamental customer needs – independent from the idea that later on brings the vision to customers. If now an idea is not successful, one can still fall back to the higher purpose and try the next matching ideas, bringing the vision finally live step by step. A vision ensures that ideas will not be pushed out randomly, but with a clear focus and direction. So, in principle, you should believe in and follow your vision and try out which implementation and manifestation of that vision will be successful.
But vision and idea are again nothing without a team that has the required skills and method that brings them to live with an excellent execution. If you want to know how that works in practice, take a look at our solutions and seminars.