How Not to Ruin a Great Idea

The Key to Turning a Great Idea into a Brilliant Product: Execution.

Have you ever noticed how in many organisations there seems to be a gap between ideation and execution resulting in — at best — suboptimal products?

Imagine a number of highly intelligent product managers and strategists locking themselves up in a room. They brainstorm, map customer journeys, do user research and come up with the most amazing ideas on how to achieve much sought-after business success. They have a long list of “MVP” features but a short window to market.

In the room next door you have a number of highly intelligent analysts, developers and testers. They are already stretched and under pressure, focused on delivering the previous product. They have a tight and already revised timeline, have a growing list of bugs to fix and still need to make changes due to feedback from user testing. Despite their best efforts, their product and strategy counterparts are unhappy because the product launch has already been delayed.

I am sure many of us recognise this scenario where the dreamers have plenty of ideas but because they are not doers — that is, they lack expertise at execution — none of their inspirations, including the great ones, become realities. In fact according to Kim Perell, author of “The Execution Factor”, nine out of ten business strategies die due to inferior execution. What’s more, this creates an absence of trust, resulting in a lack of collaboration and a morale that is spiralling down. Chances are that this is going to happen all over again when delivering the next product. The end result is a diluted version of the original idea, likely failing to meet the business objectives.

The key to turning a great idea into a brilliant product: execution.

It goes without saying that ideation is a crucial step. The problem is that often too much effort is spent on ideation alone as a “blue sky thinking” exercise, only capturing a moment in time. Ideas, often seen to be the holy grail, are researched during endless workshops, offsite meetings and strategy sessions. However, if you treat execution as an afterthought even the best idea is virtually worthless. You soon hit barriers, such as the reality of technical constraints and the fact that ideas only become valuable when you execute them.

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet solution but the good news is that anyone can learn to execute and get things done. Focusing on these key principles should help you get there:

  1. Collaborate & communicate. As Conway’s Law already identified many years ago, there is a link between organisational structure and the systems (or products) that are created: “Any organization that designs a system (defined more broadly here than just information systems) will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.” It is no surprise that in traditional organisations where ideation and delivery are managed separately, product delivery often fails. In order to succeed it is paramount that there is one product team encompassing both ideation and execution, who collaborate from the start.
  2. Deliver as soon as possible. Design thinking has its value in product strategy and development. Nevertheless even the highest quality prototype will never provide as valuable insights as a developed product. Push yourself to deliver your MVP as soon as possible. This enables you to gather valuable data which you can then iterate upon.
  3. Release little and often. In my experience, several positive behaviours are driven by releasing regular incremental changes. Firstly, it challenges product team members to always put the customer first, pushing them to think of smaller increments that will deliver the most value. Secondly, with a goal to release regularly, any benefits from optimising processes or removing impediments quickly pay off dividends. As a result, the team is encouraged to continuously improve. Thirdly, frequently releasing product updates generates momentum, boosts team morale and creates a strong sense of pride within the team. Last but not least, it also breeds confidence and builds trust with senior stakeholders.

Fascinated by digital transformation, working with agile teams and building great products.