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The web and business periodicals are always telling us where great ideas come from and how to generate them. There’s value in that, of course. But despite conventional wisdom, a great idea is not necessary for business success. It’s all execution.
We take it for granted that a successful business starts with a great idea, but it isn’t true. There are a million people out there with great ideas, but most of them are inventors or dreamers, not entrepreneurs.
On the other hand, some of the world’s great successes are the product of a mundane or common idea executed with strategic and tactical brilliance. Even when your product or service isn’t original or unique, you can excel in your market by out-executing the other guy.
Consider the following examples:
McDonald’s. Basically a burger joint. McDonald’s excelled in the early years by realizing that atmosphere counts and that people appreciate a predictable and consistent experience in all locations. Latterly, their core strength has been exceptional cost containment through operational efficiencies. Not the world’s best burger. Definitely the world’s best burger business.
Google Search. It wasn’t the first web search engine, but it was the best. It still is. There were and are countless search engines out there but Google continues to own the market by focusing on speed and an ever-improving heuristic algorithm. Not unique. Just better.
Apple iPod. Apple was late to the MP3 party with the iPod. It’s easy to forget that now, since there has never been another MP3 player that can touch it. It just plain works better, like most things from Apple. The product was designed by people who get design and not by engineers, and it showed. Compared to the iPod, other MP3 players look like the work of a less intelligent species.
Wal-Mart. A general store, made into a behemoth through enormous purchasing power and logistical mastery of all areas of the operation. Nothing new here. Just world-beating implementation.
Southwest Airlines. Operational efficiency is the overriding strategy at Southwest, and the company gets employee engagement. Together that’s enough to keep things rosy while the rest of the industry drowns in red ink.
There are many other examples of companies that took an old idea and did it better with remarkable results. The next time you see an entrepreneur agonizing over perfecting an idea or a business leader focusing on idea development rather than implementation excellence, ask them what’s so darn brilliant about a burger joint.