Friday, July 13, 2007

The Myth of the ONE BIG GREAT idea

I know some young entrepreneurs who are building their own companies. What struck me lately is their consistent search for this one BIG Idea, this unique GREAT Idea that would catapult them and their companies straight away into eternal richdom and fame. That is at least what I always hear them talk about. Meanwhile their companies are steadily growing, in normal business environments, in normal circumstances, in normal markets, most of the time just servicing people in IT, media and retail. Isn't this the way that most of the GOOD companies are born ? Just by actually doing a good job, producing and moving down-to-earth products ? Isn't it true that some really BIG companies were actually build on failed ideas instead of mind blowing UNIQUE GREAT ideas ? I could be wrong but didn't Sony start with a rice cooker that didn't cook rice ? Aren't some famous companies the result of just two friends deciding to work together, where the friendship became the carrier to success instead of the products they designed or invented ? I can imagine that the collaboration of Mister Dow and Mister Jones was more important for the creation of DowJones than the little newspaper they brought to the market ? Or Hewlett and Packard, didn't their first products fail heavily in the market ? Of course some companies grew into our collective mind after conceiving and developing a brilliant explosive idea. I think You Tube, or Google or Janssen Pharmaceuticals for that matter after having invented some world renowned medicines. But aren't these the exceptions ? I happen to live at the border near The Netherlands. Due to some government rules in the Netherlands on taxing personal wealth, flocks of Dutch millionaires crossed the border to settle down in the woods around the village where I live (disrupting our commonlifestyle, driving prices of houses, gardening, interior architecture to ridiculous heights). Most of them became millionaire in fairly 'simple' industries, such as supermarkets and retail stores, car exhausts, tires, metal scrap, or even just by being a good football coach. Not one of them is known to be the conceiver of this ONE UNIQUE BIG idea. Also, most of them are of age, retired after a full life of hard, hard work. So why loose time chasing this one everlasting, market disruptive, brilliant idea ? In my mind it's a bit like surfing. It is no use to wait for the biggest wave of the century to have the best ride of your life. At a certain point you have to paddle away from the coast and start riding what is coming at you to have some practice, some fun, and some laughs with the company around you.