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Innovation vs implementation

One of the virtues which is highly regarded in the startup ecosystem is innovation and creativity. Everyone looks up to original thinkers , and we want our students to come up with brilliant new ideas , so that they can translate them into successful businesses.

Even our PM exhorts our youth to “think out of the box”. Yes, this is a cool aspiration, which is why Steve Jobs is an icon who continues to inspire the next generation. These are the success stories which we talk about in our classrooms and this is why books which teach you how to be more creative sell like hot cakes on Amazon.

However, young entrepreneurs in India complain that seed-stage investors are old-fashioned and stodgy. The refuse to fund their innovative ideas, and are only happy to back safe, boring “me-too” models.

The truth is that innovation by itself means nothing – implementing it is much harder. Execution is hard work, because you have to get your hands dirty. You need to be willing to slog, and put up with the daily grind of having to sell to everyone you meet.

You need to overcome objections and criticism; stay ahead of competitors; bounce back from failure; raise money; convince skeptics ; and keep on pushing , until you can actually see your idea come to fruition. This is the boring stuff which entrepreneurs do day in and day out , but because it’s not fun or exciting, it’s something we don’t talk about enough.

This is a shame, because students fail to appreciate how important flawless execution is. They end up building castles in the air, but don’t know how to put foundations under them.

This is one of the reasons why fast followers often do so much better than first movers. While innovators may think of an idea first, if you can’t convince the rest of world that it has merits, your originality does not translate into anything useful or concrete – either for you , or for the world at large.

Rather than debate which of the two skills – innovation and implementation – is more important, we need to understand that we need both . One without the other is incomplete. Innovation and implementation set up a positive virtuous cycle which feed off each other . This is why it’s so important to have a team , where one person can be passionate , and the other one can be perseverant. It’s this combination which creates the magic sauce which spells the difference between a startup which does

It’s this combination which creates the magic sauce which spells the difference between a startup which does well , and one which goes down the tubes. It’s very unusual to find one single person who has both these skill-sets, which is why finding the right co-founder is so important.