This Gladwell article got me thinking.
The making of the classic Rolling Stones album “Exile on Main Street” was an ordeal, Keith Richards writes in his new memoir, because the band had too many ideas. It had to fight from under an avalanche of mediocrity
Richards goes on to marvel, “It’s unbelievable how prolific he was.” Then he writes, “Sometimes you’d wonder how to turn the fucking tap off. The odd times he would come out with so many lyrics, you’re crowding the airwaves, boy.”
[Richards] came to understand that one of the hardest and most crucial parts of his job was to “turn the fucking tap off,” to rein in Mick Jagger’s incredible creative energy.
The typical and terribly wrong view of innovation is that education and intelligence and creativity are scarce resources and our education systems need to address this.
My view of innovation is that all ideas start out stupid. The scarce resources are filters that eliminate the most egregious wheel-spinners and execution that elevates the remainder.
We focus on guys like Jagger, ablaze in a creative frenzy, and think: “wow, if only I could write that much music, I’d definitely have a hit eventually”. But the real genius here is probably Richards. How do you figure out what to hammer into a song? What if you choose wrong?
The wrong insight you might take away is that the best music ever written is probably languishing in a trashbin somewhere because nobody was able to polish it up. The real answer is that there is no such thing as the best music in a trashbin, because EVERY SINGLE Keith Richards is successful, but the VAST MAJORITY of Mick Jaggers aren’t.
Execution is hardest. Execution is what happens when you realize your original idea is stupid. Execution is identifying the redeeming quality and figuring out how to exploit it.
Let’s take technology companies, who control an enormous share of execution talent for innovative ideas: they have all the best engineers. What makes the difference between Amazon and, say, Pets.com? Execution.
But are Amazon’s engineers THAT much smarter than Pets.com’s? Probably not.*
What probably happens at Pets.com is that the filter doesn’t wipe out the bad ideas and whoever is in the Keith Richards role isn’t seeing the diamond in the rough.
And read the title to find out who sits atop the technology execution pantheon.
*By the way, I have no idea about any of this, obviously. I’m just picking companies out of thin air.