Web 2.0: Are you in the top 5-10%?

Why does it seem that — regardless of the endeavor, employee base, or community — such a small percentage of people seize opportunity?  A buddy of mine once said (horribly twisting a crass old adage) that “ideas are like a#&holes…everyone’s got one.”  Though this is a sweeping generalization, my experience has been that roughly 5-10% of any body of people will actually DO something about their ideas and the other 90-95% will come up with a million excuses as to why they cannot.

Macro-level excuses include “everyone is doing it” or “there are probably patents out there already.”  Carl Jung, the eminent psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, was a proponent of the collective unconscious which, “refers to that part of a person’s unconscious which is common to all human beings. It contains archetypes, which are forms or symbols that are manifested by all people in all cultures. They are said to exist prior to experience, and are in this sense instinctual.”  It’s been one explanation as to why ideas seem to popup simultaneously…sometimes in different parts of the world causing great consternation amongst venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

Some are worried about the land-grab occurring in intellectual capital and use that as an excuse not to move forward on their idea. I’ve written about the acceleration in intellectual property capture by Intellectual Ventures (post here) and how even an exchange traded fund, Ocean Tomo, (post here) has recognized this momentum and is trading on it. Google is obviously taking steps to capitalize on this global trend too (post here). The kicker? It’s easier than ever before to discover patents, applications and prior art of spontaneous and simultaneous ideas from those who’ve seen them early on and find your entry point that’s relatively safe and secure.

So who is in the 5-10% of Web 2.0, what are they building and what should you do?

In this whole Web 2.0 space I’ve found that there are A LOT of people doing and the marketplace will dictate who is and is not successful. A blogger I follow, Brian Oberkirch at Like It Matters had a great post today entitled, “nda = not doing anything?” which made me chuckle as he talked about people asking for him to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) in order to protect their idea:

And while I don’t mind signing an NDA (I have a standard confidentiality line in my work agreements), it doesn’t send the right signal to me when you think your idea has to be cloaked with an NDA before we talk about it.

Because your idea doesn’t matter.

We all have ideas. If you came over tonight and we threw something on the smoker and sat up all night and drank and chewed the fat, we’d end up with a half-dozen good Web-based business ideas by daylight. Thinking it up is easy. (Buy me a beer in SF this week and I’ll give you a free business idea. They are like candy.)

Doing it well is what counts.

Halleujiah Brian…love your sentiment (especially the doing it well part!). The one area that Brian didn’t cover is the really tough part in “just doing it” and “doing it well” and taking  those ideas all the way to actual delivery…it is making damn sure that you perform the requisite due diligence before embarking or investing. I’ve been involved with two clients that were already months into coding when it was discovered there were patents in force which would’ve crushed them within moments after they delivered. After their “Oh Sh*t!” moment, each re-grouped and salvaged most of their work by morphing the original idea while also realizing it could’ve been easily avoided at the outset.

Finding that sweet spot between just doing it, doing it well and doing something unique is key. If you’re someone that has a great idea and still sees the macro-level, strategic issues that really need a dotting of the “i’s” and crossing of the “t’s” before moving forward, just make sure you have team members with you that have a built-in sense of urgency (“let’s just do it dammit!”), others with a design or artistic sense to do it well (“it’s not yet close enough to functional and beautiful”) and investors, advisors or coaches that’ll keep you on track and honest. Toss in others that are strong where you’re weak (e.g., finance, technical architecture, customer service, human resources) that every growing concern requires as they scale and no, they don’t have to be employees or stakeholders since you can partner for many of these activities.

In my experience, when it comes to new companies, it’s a blend of the above that takes an idea from concept to creation to a manifestion when it ships. So “just doing it” is different depending upon the size, scope, and scale of your idea. But the secret is aligning your idea with your passion, values and purpose.

  • If you don’t give a crap about project management, never have and aren’t terribly interested in it but think, “Hey…I can build a new, hot project management application in Ajax“…how successful will it be?
  • If all you care about is, say, finding a way for people to easily send huge digital files to one another without learning the arcane art of FTP, maybe you’d build the next, great app like YouSendIt and others have done.

If you’d like to discover what your passion, values and purpose is, you can do so here at Entrevis (disclosure: Entrevis is a partner of my firm and I’ve gone through their program to great success). One of the reasons why most people don’t act upon ideas like Brian described above or that you may kick yourself about (“Geez…I had that SAME idea for ________ and they made millions from it!”) is that the idea doesn’t match your passion, values and purpose! No wonder people are frustrated in their jobs and don’t act upon ideas…they’re not aligned with who they are and thus you don’t move toward the idea and make it work no matter what.

If you look at those who just do it and reside in that 5-10% of people that come up with ideas and make them work (and work well), every time you’ll see that what they’re doing perfectly aligns with what they care about, are interested in, and what puts a spring in their step.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.