They started as a mining company

How much is a business idea worth? I have met a lot of people who mean that no business idea has a value in itself – it’s all about execution. (Read more here at Disruptive.nu, in Swedish) I can agree that execution is very important, but if you succeed, what have you actually accomplished if not the business idea? I think we have all seen how strong ideas can change the world so I do not think you can take just any random business idea and succeed through mere execution. And in that case, various ideas have different value.

What’s important is of course to have a good balance between on one hand vision/goal/concept and, on the other hand, dynamics in market/customers/users and other surrounding influences. To have a strong long term vision may even make it easier to be flexible short term if you don’t let it make you rigid, don’t you think?

A refreshing new perspective is Ashkan Pouya’s essay on phantom innovations, which I read about at my friend Gustav Gorecki’s blog at Developers Club. (Read it here in Swedish) Pouya says that innovations often end up in a completely different product than what was intended from the beginning. And in a way he also means that other things than the idea itself is the road to success.

My own reflection on this is that perhaps it’s more important – given that the team has the right spirit – that the initial idea is engaging and inspiring so that the enterprise gets started at all, rather than being 100% ”correct”. Once started, long term success is about open-mindedness and balancing long term and short term perspectives, as above.

3M Scotch Magic tape - one of thousands of 3M innovations

This reminds me of 3M, which started as a mining company that would make emery cloth from a specific mineral. Then, when they started mining it turned out that it was the wrong kind of mineral. What to do? They had already built a community with their families around the mine. Well, they started to visit the surrounding businesses, asking them what kind of consumables, lubrications, detergents, glues that they needed. This started a journey of hundred years of successful, customer oriented, innovation. So, they won from being open-minded and flexible, but where would they have been without the initial business idea?

Finally, while we are experimenting back and forth with these concepts: how many companies should be much better off – given their current set of competencies, contacts and resources – if they radically changed their business idea? And what would that idea be worth?

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