Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Nobody Likes the “Idea Guy” (riskology.co)
241 points by blackflame7000 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 194 comments



About "idea guys". During World War II, after the defeat at Dunkirk, Britain formed a national government, headed by Winston Churchill. This was not a Conservative government, but rather, was national, in that all parties were invited to participate. A number of MPs suggested that, to increase participation of small parties, Churchill should appoint a few "Ministers Without Portfolio". He absolutely refused. He had previous experience with this and thought it was a disaster. "Ministers Without Portfolio" became "idea guys". In meetings, they made lots of suggestions, and they held up conversations with their ideas, but they were not in charge of anything so they never really had to take responsibility when things went wrong. Perhaps worst of all, in Churchill's view, because such ministers had no real responsibilities, they aggravated everyone else by asking questions about what the ministers with real responsibilities were up to.


" "idea guys". In meetings, they made lots of suggestions, and they held up conversations with their ideas, but they were not in charge of anything so they never really had to take responsibility when things went wrong"

Reminds me of a whole layer of people at corporate headquarters of my company. They send out beautiful newsletters, hold seminars and meetings about all kinds of stuff but as soon as it has been published it fizzles out and nothing comes out of it.


We have similar people at our org. Most of the time the idea is the easiest part. They don't want to be bogged down in the details, compromises or restrictions necessary to bring it to life.

Why stick around for the hard part when you can get the promotion/cred for the idea and move on?


Exactly. I can just push another corporate social network, do a few beautiful videos about all the collaboration, but why bother thinking about why nobody is using it?


Of course Churchill was perhaps one of the biggest idea guys of the lot. He did plenty, but he also interfered and had bad ideas a plenty too. Thankfully, he was mostly open to being told to butt out.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (SOE) was a famous Churchill enthusiasm, yet he had many useless impractical ones, that were a huge distraction, too.


Well put, though he did have the distinct responsibility of communicating leadership decisions. “Ideas” are not a responsibility, but “communicating decisions” certainly is (in organizations scaled beyond the threshold for effective informal interpersonal communication, i.e. bigger-than-tribal).


If you actually try and implement your ideas, or can successfully get other people to do the work of trying them for you, you're not an idea guy.


And sometimes worse than just useless or impractical.

(cough Gallipoli cough)


So Dan Carlin spoke about Gallipoli in his superb podcast "A Blueprint for Armageddon" [1]. It's more complicated than you might think.

Basically, Churchill recognized that the old battleships they had were, well, now useless. Given that, the idea was to use them to try and open up the Dardanelles because they were essentially zero cost to lose. The Admirals, who were quite attached to their ships, viewed this plan differently and rather than striking with no warning (damn the losses), went in and out and gave the Turks time to entrench themselves.

The plan was basically never to land anywhere there, let alone Gallipoli.

Now obviously the buck stops with Churchill being in charge of the Admiralty but there was a confluence of errors that produced that particular clusterfuck.

[1] https://www.dancarlin.com/product/hardcore-history-52-bluepr... (Part 3 of 6, starting at about 2:50:00)


Gallipoli. Norway. Gutting the Royal Navy as chancellor in the 1920s. Those were the truly damaging ones.

Of the impractical, well, he was a great believer in the boffins, so he supported SOE and other secret warfare, Bletchley, tanks etc. Yet he also promoted research into death rays, aerial mines, The Great Panjandrum (a huge 20 foot rocket powered catherine wheel intended to clear minefields. Test footage on YT), Project Habakkuk (An aircraft carrier made of pycrete - ice). I could go on all day. :)

Yet to get the good science, he probably had to let the boffins explore the bad and the silly too, so frankly I'm glad he had some of those seriously oddball thanks to hindsight ideas.


WW2 was an existential struggle for all parties involved. No stone was left unturned in the pursuit of victory. Most wacky ideas never lead to anything. A lot of wacky ideas seem like sure bets in hindsight. In 1939 things like constructing fully welded ships was futuristic delivering meaningful bombs with rockets was science fiction and making bombs by splitting atoms was pure fantasy. By 1945 we had liberty ships, ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.


Quite so, that's rather my point. He backed the really wacky ideas if he saw potential, and saw potential in so much. I don't believe May or Corbyn, or any of the current generation of professional politicians of any nation, could have got close to that role with any amount of advisers or instructions. Churchill was an amateur scientist, and amateur lots of other things. He was interested in the world, a life outside politics, and in technology, in ideas. May would win the war by keeping people on message. Except that's how one gets Panzers in Parliament Square.

Tanks. The clearest example I can give of that Mr Churchill not knowing when to keep his nose out of things that don't concern him. One notable time he would not be told to butt out. They almost certainly would never have arrived in WW1 without him. When would war have ended, 1920, or later? The naval blockade was working, but so very slowly. The Americans, joining in 1917, still duplicated for themselves every mistake of the Allies in 1914 and 1915, except compressed into a far shorter time span. Machine guns without mobility made it inevitable. It needed an idea guy. I hope that doesn't sound too cliched, I'm far from Churchill's biggest apologist.

Churchill adopted tanks as his pet project. As First Lord of the Admiralty, whilst running the Navy, by taking funding from naval things. He formed the Landship Committee, and appointed a naval architect. The Army had thought them pointless. They were initially called land ships because the navy were the only ones who actually did see the point. The Army saw the point after first use. Then wanted lots more of them. The rest, as they say, is history and quite a few tanks have been built since.

Edit: What provokes downvotes here? Surely not for comparing current politicians poorly?


"Most wacky ideas never lead to anything. A lot of wacky ideas seem like sure bets in hindsight."

I was just reading how a French inventor offered one of the first submarines in existence as a gift to Napoleon. He refused it.

Imagine if France had instead started massively supporting submarine research and development instead. They could have had a couple of hundred year lead on the rest of the world in submarines and perhaps dominated the seas from then on.

Of course, even then it wouldn't have been so simple, as there'd likely be technology theft and simple inspiration by others that would make their lead not so great. But the potential to make a great difference was there and it was squandered by an otherwise extraordinary leader.


I generally describe Churchill as an object lesson in how history can decide that getting one big thing right (that Nazi Germany was an existential threat that needed to be taken seriously) outweighs getting basically every other thing wrong.


I'm not nearly as harsh about it. He got some impressively big stuff wrong, and right. Above all he wasn't afraid to act. Above all, that's what was needed right then. He'll always be controversial for his more extreme examples of being wrong. Such is what seems to make a great general or wartime leader.

More he was a wartime YC - he backed all sorts of clearly idiotic ideas, and a few of them turned out to be platinum. Would Lord Halifax, Chamberlain or Atlee (or worse May, Johnson or Corbyn) have poured the equivalent of billions into tanks that were crucial in WW1, or into Bletchley that turned out to be the golden goose, or radar? Nope, almost certainly not, they'd have all have died as unproven too, and we'd probably have lost.

An aircraft carrier made of ice is clearly an absurd idea. Yet if it had closed the Atlantic gap, as intended, millions of tons of shipping would have been saved.


Actually no, not an absurd idea at all: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Habakkuk


Aye, the scale needed killed them. Often held up now, from 70 years on, as one of his especially silly ideas.


They navy messed that up by thinking they could do it all and not waiting for the planed joint operation with the Army.

And they ran into the best Turkish General


IMO, it was shown again and again during WWI that mobility/logistic issues always favored defensive strategies when a determine force was present on both sides.

I doubt there's 1-3 things that would have dramatically altered the outcome.


Wasn’t Gallipoli disaster a result of admirals not providing support Churchill requested? And the plan that was implemented wasn’t something Churchill actually advocated for?


Pretty much, and the Navy wanted to run things differently to the army. Then they ran into far more resistance than expected.

Churchill gets the blame from history. Such is the way of things.


Didn't Napoleon say something about how a general fought the war by fighting his subordinates?


Sending the Black and Tans to Ireland was another one of his ideas...


I'm not sure where this interpretation has come from but it doesn't ring true.

Apart from anything else, Churchill's war ministry did feature a Minister without Portfolio.


Executive body is wrong place for the idea guys.


Like scrum masters, or nonworking spouses?


Scrum masters shouldn't be contributing ideas in terms of implementation or design unless they're also part of the dev team. They're there to facilitate. Product owners are probably more akin to "idea guys".

Edit: Even product owner is a bit of a stretch on my part. They're presenting user stories and requirements, which the dev team can pick and choose from the backlog (which, albeit, is prioritized by the product owner).


I've never understood how those small parties persist. Either they're aligned permanently with one of the two dominant parties, where they can be given positions of trust and power, or they flop around (in which case nobody can make long-term deals with them). They strike me as the "ideas guys" of politics, carping about the way things are done without the risk of having to actually implement their own goals.


Small parties provide opposition. They can change the national conversation on issues[0]. Sometimes they provide confidence in minority parliaments (remember, in our system of government, losing a confidence vote generally means an election).

Small parties also provide a protest vote, and since voting occurs on a riding-by-riding basis, the desire and intent of the protest can vary. Sometimes protests can be so widespread that no government can form a majority. In Canada, we managed to elect three minority governments in a row over a period of seven years (2004 - 2011).

In short, voters use small parties to send a message.

[0] The NDP's first national leader, Tommy Douglas, was never Prime Minister, but is known as "father of Medicare" and is generally well regarded by Canadians decades after his death.


Quite the contrary, small parties focused on a niche goal can be very effective in attaining that goal - if the dominant parties need their support, they pretty much have to give in to the small party's pet peeve, and in return the small party gives them votes for the other issues.

For example, at least a part of current Brexit hassle is because the DUP (with their 1.5% of total MP seats) are needed by May's government, and they got to veto one of possible options of solving the Ireland-North Ireland customs border issue. There are many other examples worldwide, where small parties focused on a particular domain of problems can get an oversized influence in that domain.


The flip side of this is the toxicity of first-past-the-post. You get a choice on once issue and have to take the rest that comes with it. It baffles me that people accept this.


To elaborate on this, in America today it's possible to waste your vote, because you can't represent secondary political opinions, e.g. a vote for the Starbucks CEO doesn't flow down to your second choice.

In some other systems, you can choose multiple options. This makes it possible to represent an opinion like "Starbucks CEO, then Democrats, then Libertarians, then Republicans", and so smaller parties can still get votes without compromising the election of larger aligned parties.


Why not allow people to vote themselves on each issue? The purpose of a single person representing an area is less desirable than ever. Direct democracy would solve a lot and create different issues.


This has been attempted, and generally leads to disaster. When a bill for increased spending is introduced (for say, better roads, more schools, etc), it receives widespread support from the voters, and easily passes. When another bill which raises taxes (in order to pay for the previous purchases) is introduced, it enjoys widespread condemnation, and is soundly defeated. Bankruptcy ensues.


Making mistakes is a crucial part of learning.


The SF mayoral elections work this way and it's quite cool.


Perhaps today. Particularly with our especially unrepresentative first past the post system that can only work for two parties. Going further back UK politics was much less whip-driven, or politics by pager as became the Blairite tendency. Minor parties were a more accepted part of politics, as was a far wider range of views within a party.


I never understood why in a democracy those votes for small parties are allowed to go to waste.

They should be able to give there "dropped" votes to a bigger party for a legislative period, for negotiated terms.

"If you promise to push opticfibre to all homes in these citys, you can have our voters voice for the next 4 years."

This would solve the problem of unheard voices and- allow actual negotiating politicians to be trained and get busy.


Ranked choice voting


They exist as a way of pulling people towards issues and as a release valve if the primary party gets too corrupt.

Take the Green Party in Canada. Without it, the remaining left(ish) parties in Canada only have to go a little better than the Conservatives on the environment to get the environmental vote. With the Greens in, they have to at least meet them half-way or they risk further splitting the centre-left.

They also sometimes hold the balance of power. This puts their issue front and centre.


Why has wanting clean air and water become a left right issue?


Because it's not the goal that's in dispute, it's the difference of ideas about how to achieve it.


The American right doesn't believe that climate change even exists, they aren't offering any ideas on how to combat it.


[flagged]


> I've not heard a single idea from the Right in the last 20 years that would either 1) reduce pollution, ever, or 2) increase the safety of food and water supplies

1) In the USA CO2 emissions are dropping mainly due to natural gas replacing coal. This was possible because of the development of fracking. Democrats are against this, Republicans for.

2) The best carbon-free technology that we currently have, and can deploy at scale, is nuclear power. Republicans for. Democrats against.


The problem is that the right sees another sort of polution- produced by humans - just beeing humans. We consume alot of stuff- and if we dont get that lot of stuff- we blow society up. We are not peacefull. Not never ever. We do not hold back. If we get ten years without economic growth- we go full weimar republic, take me to africa ape-shit.

So its having to choose between two evils. Stability or Poison. Stability will kill you now, poison might kill you tomorrow, or might even be solved.


1) There is a lot more to pollution that CO2. Is your example of reducing pollution really fraking and that alone? Fraking, which specifically makes drinking water unsafe? I can't tell if you're just proving my point or not? You just wrote that Republicans are for a technology that makes drinking water unsafe and also has direct consequences for climate change being made worse?

It sounds like with #1 you are suggesting that Republicans would prefer to poison the water of local communities and refuse to look at better alternatives. And the reason seems like money, from what I read online.

(EDIT: Also, investment in technology like fraking that DO POLLUTE means a longer leadtime before real solutions are offered at the right price. This fraking is done not to reduce climate change effects - it will make things worse - but to make money for oil people.)

You are straight-up ignoring Methane leaking from fraking sites directly making short-term climate change much, much worse. Methane is pollution too, and very bad pollution for our atmosphere right now.

> 2) The best carbon-free technology that we currently have, and can deploy at scale, is nuclear power. Republicans for. Democrats against.

There is a lot more to the world than carbon. I'm in favor of Nuclear energy by the way. I thought most democrats were? Literally 100% of Democrats I know in person are in favor of Nuclear energy. So I'm not sure what you mean here. But anyway,

Nuclear power has a long-lead-time and a huge capital investment, while many renewables are lower cost to start up and produce mostly pollution-free power immediately. I'm more in favor of actual renewables but I'll take nuclear power any day.

I think most democrats would love large-scale nuclear power, to be honest, and I'm quite surprised that you think otherwise. I'll have to look into this.


I used to work on frack wells. Drank the water. It wasn't poisoned. People where the fracking is are pro-fracking. People in far away cities that aren't affected are against.


Your anecdotes are not data. Here's the EPA saying fraking can contaminate water. https://www.ecowatch.com/epa-fracking-water-contamination-21...

> People where the fracking is are pro-fracking. People in far away cities that aren't affected are against.

We are all affected. This is one world, one planet. We are all on it together.

And anyway, why would it matter if opinions are divided on this topic based on where we live? That speaks more to the education, opportunity, circumstance, political mood, etc, than it does to the issue at hand. It's a logical fallacy to argue that fraking is good for the environment (or good at all?) because people close by support it and people far away don't.


You said:

> Republicans would prefer to poison the water of local communities and refuse to look at better alternatives.

The report says:

> EPA found scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances. The report identifies certain conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe:

Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;

Spills during the handling of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;

Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;

Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;

Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water; and

Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.

Data gaps and uncertainties limited EPA’s ability to fully assess the potential impacts on drinking water resources locally and nationally. Because of these data gaps and uncertainties, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.

I don't disagree with the report. I disagree with you.


I think you’re correct.

If people disagree, please post some counterexamples!


I can't prove it, but I'm convinced it's due to lobbyists.


In the past it was the right who owned this issue. Conservationist was the term. Now it's environmentist and seen as a left value.


What are some examples of the old conservationists? Theodore Roosevelt?


Pretending that your position is the center, and everyone who disagrees with you is an extremist doesnt work very well.

The right doesnt oppose clean air, it opposes giving Al Gore's carbon credit company a blank check.

The right (in the US) could just as easily ask why has boarder security become a left right issue.


> The right (in the US) could just as easily ask why has boarder security become a left right issue.

That's because the right made it a partisan issue.


Bill Clinton was tougher on immigration than Donald Trump is. The Left made it a partisan issue, not the right. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RzlviQH4FhQ

https://www.fairus.org/issue/legal-immigration/us-commission... The bipartisan Jordan Commission recommended cutting legal immigration in half and punishing employers for hirin illegals. The democrats made this a partisan issue.


[flagged]


Weak response. The left contains many poor and uneducated citizens and many of them minorities.

Comments like the one above shows we have a lot of work to do. Treating those citizens as second class does not valid your point.


His point was not about left being more educated on average, but more of about ideology and propaganda (both sides have propaganda) being explicitly opposed to science and education. Plenty of people who argue against those are educated themselves.

You may disagree with that point, but it is not the same point as judging average education of this or that voter.


They only really persist if there aren't long term dominant parties. Or as opposition parties.


I used to be the idea guy no one likes. I always had these Grand ideas that I would rattle off to friends and colleagues. We would go and white board them out. We would eat lunch over them and discuss them, point by point by point.

In the end, nothing. Nothing would materialize, we would start some work then realize how much effort these grand schemes were and get completely discouraged.

Then I forced myself to stop rattling off these crazy ideas, instead just whisper the big vision to myself and break it down to its smallest viable parts for building (aka MVP) and go off try to build that. After trying about 3 different ones so far and failing to get any traction on those 3 I have the pain of having spent my nights and weekends trying to make ideas work.

I no longer rattle off crazy ideas to people because I’ve come to understand what it actually means to go off and build them.

As a little self promotion, my latest idea (I know right) is actually kind of working but it took a ton of effort and I am afraid to even talk about the grand vision but non the less have been chipping away at it on the weekends.

I built an app that lets you listen to any Article on the go so you can maximize that dead time on your commute or when biking. The app is cross platform and uses some beautiful sounding AI ML models to convert Text to Audio.

You can try it here if you have the time, but just know it took a ton of effort and discipline to go from Idea to App.

https://articulu.com


> ... I no longer rattle off crazy ideas to people because I’ve come to understand ...

From Baltasar Gracián, "The Art of Worldly Wisdom"[1]:

  Keep Matters for a Time in Suspense.
  Admiration at their novelty heightens the value
  of your achievements, It is both useless and
  insipid to play with the cards on the table. If you
  do not declare yourself immediately, you arouse
  expectation, especially when the importance of
  your position makes you the object of general
  attention. Mix a little mystery with everything,
  and the very mystery arouses veneration. And
  when you explain, be not too explicit, just as you
  do not expose your inmost thoughts in ordinary
  intercourse. Cautious silence is the holy of holies
  of worldly wisdom. A resolution declared is never
  highly thought of; it only leaves room for
  criticism. And if it happens to fail, you are doubly
  unfortunate. Besides you imitate the Divine way
  when you cause men to wonder and watch.
[1] https://archive.org/download/artworldlywisdo00jacogoog/artwo...


Just an anecdotal data point - on your landing page, you may want to consider adding a small demo of what the playback sounds like. I like the idea of articulu, but I'm not going to download and install an app without hearing what it sounds like first.


If anyone's interested in this space/solution, we've been running Narro (https://www.narro.co) along the same lines (with a TON of integrations now) for years. It also supports dozens of languages/voices, PDFs, ebooks, videos, publisher analytics, yadda yadda yadda


Last year I spent close to 5 months making a Grand idea come to fruition. It's given me a greater appreciation for product management and UX design, because it sure ain't easy.


I have wanted this app since I first start preferring using mobile devices as audio-only rather than screen-first. Unfortunately, iOS and Android both seem to be further away from supporting that use-case OOTB than they were in 2013. Anyway, thanks for making this.


Downloaded it to give it a try and compare against an app I’ve been using called Speechify (heard about that one on a podcast). Congrats on getting an idea to materialize, you’re right in that’s the hardest part!


Good step. Next step is learn to sell your ideas before building anything!


Hey! I love the idea for your app. I've looked for something like this several times.

Quick suggestion.. you should put a sample of the voice quality on your website so people can hear it before installing it.


Hey, thanks for sharing that app link. Checking it out on my iPhone now and it's pretty impressive!


How does this compare to the text-to-speech feature in an app like Pocket?


Just a small point: you have 7 (seven!) play buttons on that splash page, but none of them work! Also, there is an "Add article" button, and it doesn't work either ...


Are you using Wavenet for text to speech?


By "Idea guy" the author actually means "Idea guy that has no skills, cannot execute his idea, and does not want to take responsibility guy".

Yes we all hate that guy.

But there are plenty of idea guys&girls who are busy executing ideas, competent, have skills, and still might come up with a useful idea that would help your project.

Should we hate these guys too?


I was a part of a gaming community where we decided we could make our own game. We ended up with 95% of interested participants being "Idea Guys" and the remaining 5% being able to communicate a relevant skill. Needless to say, the project never got past its first bikeshed.


Another problem with an 'ideas guy' is that they are rarely involved in the execution.

I attempted to start businesses with a few friends of this type when I was younger.

The result was mostly the same: I would spend weeks/months working on the product/idea, idea guy would either get bored because they are just sitting there waiting for the launch and move onto something new or attempt to become my defacto manager.

Some people like the idea of running a business and seem to think it only involves telling other people what to do and waiting for results (as if that's the hardest part).

The other concern is that what happens to this person in the next phase of the business?

Many ideas people will realize they don't have the skills and will try to push for ideas that aren't necessarily better, but that they can attach their name to...causing havoc.

Ideas are easy. I have tons of good ideas and the skills to execute. Now, I will only consider parterning with someone if they have money to invest or a relevant business network+some other skill.


Excellent observations!


> idea guys&girls who are busy executing

No, because those aren't 'idea people'. The phrase is meant for people who only come up with ideas and nothing else, it's not meant to describe anyone who has ideas.


There are also professional idea makers. I mean, look at the creative thinking industry, Edward de Bono writings etc.


The 'creative thinking industry'. :-) That sounds suspicious.

I once bought a book called Ideas Generation. I think it was this one.[0] A couple of years later one of the authors was in the news for plagiarism. Whoops!

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Ideas-Generation-Constantly-Creative-...


Edward de Bono is an author, not an idea person.


I don't mind "idea guys" all that much, as long as they're okay with me giving them an "oh hell no". I'm useless at the ideas side of things. Just not visionary at all. But I can take an idea and merrily drive it to execution.


Good point @udev, I'll just add a few extra points.

'Idea guys' can come in different shapes and sizes, people on average need to be able to understand the areas in which an 'idea guy' is a net positive or a net negative. Since a large part of comments are pushing the negative experiences I will list a few positives. I have seen cases where an idea guy creates synergy around coders that are heavy on execution,'idea guys' helping teams go through certain design thinking phases or helping them understand how design thinking benefits them, 'idea guys' helping a team tackle their hurdles throughout the implementation.

Most of all, I think it is worth noting that most 'idea guys' are likely adding value in other ways too, since most jobs are not dependent on only one variable you bring. It is also more likely for a person to only see a small % of the value someone may bring to the business

Oddly enough, just saying that people should see things in a different perspective is an idea or recommendation. Does that mean I will now be labelled as an 'idea guy' with a negative connotation?


No, we should not


Occasionally a resume crosses my inbox from someone claiming to be "the idea guy". Sometimes it's that stark, "I'm an idea guy" or "People came to me for ideas." Sometimes you have to read between the lines and work out that they didn't actually /do/ anything. Sometimes you get entire product pitches (these are usually hilarious -- bonus points if the pitch is for a product utterly unrelated to your company's industry). Invariably these folks are ill-equipped to actually execute and build a product, their sole skill set appears to be to emit an Idea and then have some other poor schmuck implement it.

[Pop quiz: If an "idea" works out, guess who gets credit? If it fails, guess who gets blamed?]

There are few things worse than an Idea Guy yelling "Charge!" from the rear. I flush these resumes quickly.



Something I always mentor those that ask about an idea: “Any good idea you have, 100 other people have already had it. Any GREAT idea you have, 1000 people have already had it. The difference is how well you execute it.”

This is usually in the context of whether they should “share” their specific idea. What I always recommend is spread it broadly, and try to get help executing. Very few things these days can be done in isolation. What is most important is to “get going”, get a team and prove you can deliver.

Edit: minor fix for grammar


I always use the pool table analogy. You’ll never win a game of pool by having better ideas, unless you have the execution to back them up. Meanwhile, the guy with a solid execution of a really basic strategy is nigh unbeatable.


For sure.

I think people can spend a lot of energy trying to protect their idea, and almost no energy in establishing if there is any prior work. I think this comes from two main places:

1) A desire to believe we are special in our insight into the problem.

2) (lesser) A lack of general awareness that knowing the prior work in a domain is insanely useful.

3) A lack of search knowhow when it comes to finding similar ideas to one's own. This of course is aided when you have a good general understanding of the domains your idea touches, because you have the power of a search vocabulary.

If you can stand on someone else's failures and efforts, and reap the benefits of their (explicit or just effectively) research, why would you not spend the short amount of time digesting that, before reinventing the wheel?

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders [sic] of Giants." - Isaac Newton


> Something I always mentor those that ask about an idea: “Any good idea you have, 100 other people have already had it. Any GREAT idea you have, 1000 people have already had it. The difference is how well you execute it.”

What does that say about patents, and the patent system?


Well, patents aren't really about ideas like an "idea guy" would provide - an idea of "it'd be nice to have a thingy that does X" is unpatentable; but you can get a patent for its execution, for actually finding a particular solution that implements that idea. And even then only that particular solution is patented - if somebody else can take your idea and develop a better solution that achieves the same result more effectively with a different method and apparatus, then the patent system allows them to capture the value of that execution.


Patents are not (supposed to be) on ideas, but instead on executions of them.


This is why I'm always working on making sure my default mode is execute. By executing over and over, people get better at...executing.

I personally think people can see this within themselves. We have ideas that we should eat better and exercise, but knowing and doing are very different things.


A million times this. I usually phrase it as "ideas are a dime a dozen. The thing that is of actual value is the hard work of execution."


If this is true, why do startups run in stealth mode and corporations have super secret labs?

The "idea of" hotmail was amazing and easily communicated. The value immediate. There are clearly ideas that are not a dime a dozen.

I have also solved seemingly intractable problems that groups had worked on for weeks with a single sentence. Every good idea has first thinker. I understand the stance that execution trumps the brilliance of the idea, but it overly devalues ideas themselves and encourages toil over elegance.

Could you explain?


I guess the simplest way to say it is the following: Yes, there truly are new ideas that no one has thought of. But for any new idea to truly be valuable, it has to be “worked”.

This is true (IMHO) of anything, whether it is a way of viewing our would (physics), an insight into a new market (startup idea), or even a brand new way of doing something (pure invention).

In every case, unless you put work in, at best it is effectively a hypothesis. It is the energy to ‘validate’ that idea that makes the idea ‘real’.

In general, this is what I believe most stealth startups/labs are really trying to protect, the validation of a specific idea, and the specific method of executing that idea.

All that said, I would argue that truly novel insights are exceptionally rare. If you indeed manage to get one, you should question yourself extensively to validate it truly is new, and if it is, double check that perhaps the reason it isn’t done is because it is not feasible to execute. Even if you pass all those gates, I would argue that unless you can do the necessary execution, the idea, no matter how spectacular, is only marginally valuable.


Great insight.

A few question:

1. So if an ideas guy does some basic prototyping and shows that the idea works, does it make the idea "real" ?

Or does it really require 100% execution to be considered a serious contributor ?

2. >> what I believe most stealth startups/labs are really trying to protect, the validation of a specific idea,

Could you please expand on that ?

3. What about doing serious research - finding in-depth and reliable knowledge, to show why the idea is likely to work ? Or similarly doing research to find cheap/easy ways to test the idea ?

I'm asking as someone who is strong in research skills, but relatively weak in executing.


To address your last comment first: For any business to succeed, you have to match yourself with someone that complements your skills. If you recognize you are week at executing, you need to find someone that is good at executing, at least if you want to start a business around one of your ideas.

However, if you go this route, PLEASE have realistic expectations on what you are contributing vs what they are contributing.

A great executer with a poor initial idea will still succeed. A poor executer with even the greatest idea in the world will not (with the caveat that luck always plays in things like this).

Therefore, it will not be an equal partnership, not by a long shot. Hypothetical experiment: you get person X to join you, and they do a amazing job, building the company and it is wildly successful. You can argue that X person would not have even looked here if it wasn’t for me. Yes, you would be right, but that is a very small percentage of why it was successful.

To answer your questions directly: 1. I think that in your founding teams you Gould always look at two things: 1. What someone is immediately bringing to the table (effectively capital), and 2. What you expect them to bring over time (and you can choose your time horizon for that second piece). If you only are going to be giving the idea, and not be the one developing it to make it real, you need to understand that is a capital investment. Whereas the person(s) executing are going to be providing value over time. It is important that a cap table reflects the relative value of these things, and that people agree on that value (and there are mechanisms to reallocate as needed). Otherwise things can go bad fast.

2. Expand on stealth startups/labs While I don’t have direct experience with this one (I never did a stealth startup). What I have observed in stealth startups is that generally they have a “reason” to keep quiet, and it is rarely the idea itself per se. Usually it is because they want to do one of the following:

- build up hype/exclusivity (Segway, Magic Leap) - try to “find market fit” before doing significant publicity - in very rare cases, they are trying to protect the idea because it is “so obvious” and easy to copy, and therefore they are trying to give themselves as much of a head start as possible

3. Finally for your last question, I would argue that you aren’t 100% idea at that point, you have done some execution. The question would be how people would value it. But just to give some perspective, there is a reason very few startups are valued particularly high at the onset. Even the greatest startups rarely exceed the low single digit millions for initial valuations, and those are the ones that have already done a fair amount of work. So use that to be realistic about how much an idea is “worth”, even if it is a fantastic one.

Hopefully I am not putting too much cold water out there, but given the rates of startup failure, I would rather you have a realistic view of the world than waste time/resources otherwise.


I think of the out-of-shape guy in the recliner watching Monday Night Football, beer in one hand, loudly proclaiming what play the "idiot coach" should have run, or which receiver the quarterback should have thrown it to. That spectator is an "idea guy." Doesn't mean he should be on the field.


The comedian Dylan Moran had a great bit about sports-people, that went something like "Are they happy? No! Who's happy? You! Sitting on your couch with a beer, roaring advice at the best athletes in the world"


I mean, they even have a term for that: Monday Morning Quarterback

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/monday-morning-quarterback


I used to be an "idea guy", I mean I'm still am constantly overflowing with ideas, but over the years I've learned that the greatness and originality of an idea is not so valuable. You can have great businesses with boring ideas.

There is a lot of survivor bias in original ideas. We see Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc, and for some reason tend to think those companies are successful because of great ideas.

An idea is just a seed. Nutrients, water, climate, care, etc. All those contribute to growing a full tree.


One stark example is the iPhone. I saw a 1984 Steve Jobs interview about the launch of the Mac where he was asked about the next big thing, and he described mobile computing and the iPhone to a T. 23 years later, the iPhone launched.

In between the two Apple fired Jobs, took a swing and a miss at the mobile market, an entire generation of companies grew up to take a swing and a miss at the mobile market, NeXT reverse acquired Apple, and only then did the vision come to fruition even though it had a guy of the caliber and resources of Steve Jobs pushing the entire time, not to mention a dozen other companies with competing similar visions and all their dependencies.

Execution is hard.


...and yet the iPhone still would not have happened without that freak coincidence called iPod paving its way.

Looking back from the smartphone age, the original "spinning rust" iPod seems rather unspectacular, but at the time it was unprecedentedly expensive for a piece of portable recreational electronics. I entertain this theory that it would have stayed an exotic luxury item if it had not coincided with the "Napster revolution". MP3 piracy spread from the nerd niche to mainstream just in time for the iPod (edit: and, more importantly, from the tech nerd niche to the music nerd niche), providing potential iPod buyers not only with a music library big enough to justify the expensive HDD, but also freeing up funds which would have spent on CDs otherwise. Note that the ITMS wasn't introduced until the third generation iPod. The US CD market dropped billions in those years. The typical music collector buying an early iPod wasn't exactly a rich career person, more the scrappy urbanite type who spends their nights alternating between the tender and the patron side of a bar, playing in a band or dreaming of maybe becoming a music critic or a DJ one day.


>> One stark example is the iPhone. I saw a 1984 Steve Jobs interview about the launch of the Mac where he was asked about the next big thing, and he described mobile computing and the iPhone to a T. 23 years later, the iPhone launched.

>> and resources of Steve Jobs pushing the entire time

Um. But did even Steve Jobs push for it the entire time?

Y'know, every time someone comes to me with a revolutionary idea - I answer to them with a long paragraph about the next big thing: it's called "teleportation".

Imagine how the world will change with us being able to teleport? Isn't that great? Y'see, I am not that smart - would you like to help me with this awesome idea?


There is a famous apple Newton commercial that talks about all the things it can do and will do.

Fifteen years later they reshot the same commercial and simply changed the name to “ipad” - fantastic proof of foresight.


Sometimes you have to just give the idea guy a pat on the head and wait for the technology to catch up.

This is one reason I really hate the "do it on a computer" patents. Someone writes down the same idea everybody has that isn't quite feasible yet with today's technology and basically sits on it. Then when the technology matures to the point where it's practical they start suing everybody who is actually implementing it.


Wow, I wasn't aware of this future tech patent-sitting thing. It's awful to think that this is possible. Does it really happen? Do you have any examples?

How far can you take this? Does a patent have to be based in something that is vaguely implementable or can it literally just be a theoretical idea without concrete, detailed implementation specifics?

I.e. could one patent things like the 'holodeck' idea today, and just wait around 50 years for it to get made, then cash in, or would that just be too ridiculous?


Doing email on a phone[1] is the first example that comes to mind. Wasn't really possible with AMPS but they patented it anyway.

The problem of course is that even after pulling all of the tricks to extend the life of your patent (extensions during filing, submarine patents, etc...), there is a hard time limit that you run into. If you're too ambitious the patents expire before the technology catches up and you get nothing.

[1] https://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/gadgets/the-s...


The lawsuit about Bluetooth comes to mind: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/06/broadcom_csr_blueto...


Would like to watch that interview if you can share the link


"Ditto" - I learned the hard way while growing up that having the idea isn't the hard or valuable part -- bringing into practice a useful and profitable idea is!

Took a loooong time to really come to grips with that notion, but once I did, the world started making a lot more sense to me


The sad part is that there are so many who haven't had the same realization.


Running a nonprofit, the expression that most gets my hackles up is "What you ought to do is..." I'm not lacking for things to do. I'm lacking for hours in the day to do them.


Ha. Came here to say exactly this. In fact, I used to be an "idea guy" until I started running an arts organization and was suddenly inundated with people telling me what I "ought to do." Most of their ideas are terrible or out of keeping with our mission, but even the brilliant ones, I don't have the time and resources to execute them. My standard response now (to good ideas), is "Sounds great. Can I put you in charge of that?"


Ever worked for an "idea guy" CEO? New idea every day/week/weekend.


Yes! My solution is to only join/consider a company where the CEO has sufficient skin in the game -- either the company was funded with the CEO's own money and/or they are working full time on the company with typical startup pay -- no side gigs.

To me, idea guys is a symptom of insufficient skin in the game. When the CEO has skin in the game, time is valuable, and they really quick start focusing on execution and the value of time.


Oh, yes. He saw himself as Steve Jobs and kept coming to our office every day interrupting our scheduled work and overloading us with more work on his "revolutionary" ideas he picks up from reading SV news and wanted a prototype "next week" to show to shareholders.


In the 1980's, the CTO I worked for (indirectly) met with me a couple of times on the high priority project I was leading. The second time, as I left his office, I saw the cover of an IT magazine, featuring the approach (maybe OO programming?) the CTO had just pitched to me, out of the blue.

Terrifying.


OOP is terrifying


Yep happened at my last job. Ended up pissing away all the companies money on ill defined projects that were started but never finished. I was happy to be laid off from that job.


Yeah I've seen this, and had the experience of working for a few. While its fine for them to be the idea guy, they also need to be the execution guy. Having the disciple to actually execute and be decisive is rare. I've seen this happen a few times where the CEO becomes paralyzed with decision because ALL of their ideas are so good!


I had exactly the opposite experience, the founder/CEO was a former airline pilot. As a pilot you learn to make decisions quickly with the data at hand, because delay can be fatal. Best CEO I've worked for, but unfortunately he wanted to retire and sold the company.


Every new idea takes priority over the previous ideas meaning if anything is actually done it is poorly done. I've seen lower branches pick ideas they think will most benefit the business and work those but the lack of sync between the highest level and the rest of the business causes a lot of problems.


Early in my career someone taught me a useful technique for dealing with this situation.

After each "new" idea, spend about half an hour working on the idea. Best to do this on paper and target producing some good looking notes. Then file it away close at hand. If the "idea guy" ever follows up and asks you about their idea, pull out your notes and say "ahh yes, I've been working on that and I have a few things to discuss with you." You now appear as a hard working and enthusiastic underling. For the majority of cases where they never follow up, you have limited your wasted effort.


Wouldn't this risk the idea guy latching onto you as being the first person who has shown interest (or, in the idea guy's mind, the first person who sees the real potential of my genius)?


I hear stories about the founder of the company I'm at now, gone before I started. He'd have an idea and implement about 10% of it, then hand it off and say "I've got it half done, now you finish it."


Yeah. New idea every day/week/weekend is tolerable if the exec just drops them in a backlog where they can be forgotten. The real wtf is when your priorities change constantly.


It's not the worst thing if the CEO eventually brings actual customers and POs. Product market is really hard, for devs and engineers (IMO). The hard part is if the CEO can't bring customers or if middle management doesn't appreciate that the thrash can be a killer.


Ever had a new CTO come in with "ideas" that have already been explored 10 times over by the current staff (that has 50 more years combined experience in the industry) that won't take no for an answer? Instant motivation deflation.


The attempt and failure of an idea doesn't mean the idea won't work in your current setting. It usually means the implementation was off.


Or the implementation of an actual new and good idea was interrupted by the arrival of a new CTO that stops the presses and convinces the funding company their "new direction" is the way to go, leaving the better plan on in the trash, unlikely to be resurrected until the CTO's plan fails, years from now, or the knowledgeable staff goes off and starts their own company.


This is the heart of it. Anyone can come up with an idea, few can execute it.


Bonus points if that person thinks they are the next "Steve Jobs" building the next "Google" ;-)


Absolutely excruciating.


The article links to this, though it's buried so I figured I'd resurface it here. How ideas affect value:

https://sivers.org/multiply


Looks funny in light of Lyft's upcoming IPO.


An idea guy is only good as a partner if he/she can take over the business responsibilities of a new business. In addition to the idea, he would generally be expected to bring execution skills for stuff like market entry, business development and raising money, ideally by having done it before.


Yes. My longstanding business partner thinks of himself as an "idea guy", but I don't think of him that way.

He does come up with most of the ideas we execute -- but he bases them on his knowledge of the market and what would sell, and he takes care of all of the non-technical aspects of execution: business, marketing, management, etc.

In other words, he puts as much effort into execution as I do, and that's why I don't consider him an idea guy. He's much more valuable than that.


I have a test I run before wasting time talking about ideas: have I spent at least as much time trying to implement this idea as I've spent talking about it? If not, and if the idea's any good, then it's time to shut the fuck up and sit down and start coding. That gives me much more time to talk about ideas I've already implemented.

I'm not saying you shouldn't talk or write about ideas, but that you should try to strike a balance, like tacking a sailboat against the wind. You learn some things from talking with other people and writing to organize your thoughts, then you learn other things from shutting the fuck up, writing code, and using what you built.

33 years ago I was lucky enough to come up with a good enough idea to shut the fuck up and implement, which proved it was good enough to talk and write more about, which led to many more rounds of implementation, changes, talking and writing. Now I'm learning how to program Blender in Python, to do yet another round, by learning from and building on top of other people's work!

https://medium.com/@donhopkins/pie-menu-timeline-21bec9b2162...


Strangely enough, pie menus in blender was the first time I ever sat down and took a (programming) idea to full completion. Before that all I really was doing was hunt-and-peck at bugs and adding small functionality where it was missing.

Had to learn me some vector math, fix bugs in the python openGL wrappers, figure out how the openGL state machine actually works and then get it all put together in a reasonable way. Turned out pretty well and other people took that implementation and made it into a complex addon that eventually ended up being widely used.

It might have changed in the years since I did any blender programming but I had to do a lot of bug hunting and adding functionality to get python scripts working -- which was fine since most of the stuff I worked on was specifically to get the python API able to do whatever random thing I (or, more likely, someone else) needed.


Cool -- thank you for keeping the pie rolling!

I love the way the new Blender 2.80 interface (which is a whole new ball game) integrates pie menu layout as a first class citizen, so you can nest any other kinds of user interface stuff inside of pie menus, and everything just works.

Have you seen the astounding Pie Menu Editor extension? It's getting seriously into HyperCard territory!

https://blendermarket.com/products/pie-menu-editor?ref=2

It's SO much more than just just a pie menu editor: you can edit all kinds of blender user interfaces widgets, linear menus, dialogs, panels, key bindings, macros, modal operators and properties. You can make custom control panels and put them into pie menus, as well as copying existing parts of the Blender user interface into your own pie menus and panels! And of course you can script and customize everything with Python.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY-kU2IrTxk

It's really hard to convey everything it does, and the documentation and demos are pretty sparse, but here is a playlist with lots of examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTAsqEyZnEs&index=1&list=PLs...

Defining your own modal operators (interactive modes for live editing with visual feedback, temporary key and mouse bindings, etc) is particularly mind blowing! And those are great for invoking from pie menus, enabling a very fluid live direct-manipulation editing style.

https://archive.blender.org/wiki/index.php/User:Raa/Addons/P...


> Cool -- thank you for keeping the pie rolling!

Chances are pretty high I found some of your code laying around on the interwebs and used that to figure out how it all works so you probably deserve most of the credit;) Matt Ebb did a C prototype way back when and gave me his code but it was too complicated to help out with the python one I ended up writing.

Honestly I haven't been keeping up with what blender is doing since I can't even open the new version due to my videocard being too old. I'd be nice to get back to blender hacking (have some ideas on compiling down the node trees using partial evaluation) but can't see a new computer happening anytime in the near future.


If the idea guy isn't the developer they have to be the sales and marketing person. So if they have great ideas and can sell them and get money in the door then I'm happy to work with them.


In my experience, it's often still kind of a nightmare to work with them.

1. "Idea guy" comes up with ideas faster than any human being, or team of human beings, could implement them.

2. "Idea guy" gets frustrated because it takes team so long "just to add a button or two" or whatever, and the relationship often sours. Of course, this responsibility may fall on engineers as well, because they fail to realize that communicating engineering issues to non-engineers is an essential part of their job... or they're simply bad at it.

Coming up with ideas is easy.

Understanding end-users and coming up with (non-incremental) ideas to genuinely help them is difficult and is a fairly rare talent.

Coming up with such ideas in harmony with the engineering+logistical aspects of bringing those ideas to market is unicorn territory, and those people are super valuable.


Well put.

10 years ago, I was the "idea guy" managing a team of non-developers. I grew frustrated with the pace of bug fixes and (what I considered) small improvements out of the development team. I got so frustrated that I started developing my own applications for my team, which greatly increased their productivity. Eventually that led to my career as a software developer. Years later as a CIO, I am frequently asked by the idea guys, "Can't you just build this one little thing?" and I get to be the guy who says "well that's probably a 3-6 month project." Invariably the idea guy starts to think that you're intentionally sandbagging him and sours the relationship. That and some other things ended up driving my predecessor to burn out, which is how I became the CIO.


I think it's a fallacy to assume that because ideas that connect people to engineers to economics are rare, people who are capable of it are rare. I think it's much more likely that many people can get lucky with a few great ideas, but overall most ideas are bad.


Most of my contact with "Idea Guys" was when I would attend hackathons. Without fail, about half the people there would be marketers or business people that would have an idea, and offer to write up the business proposal for the hackathon project, but offer nothing in the way of actually building stuff. When I would work at hackathons I got pretty good at identifying these people and ensuring that prizes went to the people who _actually_ did work past the first 20 minutes of ideation.


Heh, my strategy for winning hackathons is the opposite: assign one or two people to a flashy presentation, the rest just go have fun eating and drinking and having some fun playing with a technology you've been eyeing. Prototypes don't win the hackathons I've been to anyway, so might as well let the idea guy do their thing and have some fun yourself.


In my experience that only works if the judges aren't engineers, which granted, is more common than it should be.

When I worked a booth at a hackathon a few years ago, we had 5 Drones to give out to the 5 best uses of our API. We had a few takers, but all but one made a bullshit project using as many apis of other companies to hedge their bets and increase the prizes they could get, and a lot actually didn't really use our api (they made up data and said it came from ours). None of them had a deployed application, or much more than slides.

One team not only focused solely on our API, but bought a domain and deployed a working product. Using our actual data.

We ended up giving that team of 4 entry level engineers all 5 drones, because they're the only ones that deserved them. Helps that all our judges were engineers.



Many MBA programs are “Idea Guy” factories.

Luckily Mr Facebook scared them away from us evil programmers.


Ivory tower software architects are a great example of terrible idea guys/gals.


The whole idea of separating architecture and implementation is crap. You do need to plan, but in a much more fluid way.


I have never seen an "architect" that didn't code anymore but still was useful.


I work in a very multidisciplinary team, so all of us end up being "idea guys" at one point or another. I think it is fine for people to throw out ideas that they can't execute, as long as they don't have the power to demand their implementation. Extra perspectives and ideas only hurt when the implementation of them is forced, rather than considered and decided on by people doing the implementing.

I think it is easy to discount people who throw out ideas but don't implement them, and I get that the people talked about in the article are the extreme end of the spectrum, but it also doesn't take much time to say "we've thought of that and it doesn't work" or "what we have right now is working". The benefits of getting an idea you wouldn't have thought of can outweigh the minor inconveniences.


> I think it is fine for people to throw out ideas that they can't execute, as long as they don't have the power to demand their implementation.

It is -- that's called "brainstorming," and it's a valuable activity. But that's different from being an "idea guy".


‘Idea Guys(and gals)’ are fine if they have ‘ideas’ that translate into successful business and have skills to execute them. We generally call these people ‘serial entrepreneurs’.

The difficulty is that it’s not hard to identify that people would like flying cars, it’s much harder to wield physics to make that practical.


A 'serial entrepreneur' executes, and does it multiple times. It's the execution that matters. Everyone has ideas.


That is not an ‘idea guy’, because their man contribution isn’t the idea, it is those other skills. The definition of an ‘idea guy’ is someone whose ONLY contribution is the idea.


I think if you enjoy this article you would enjoy Taleb's Skin in the Game book.


In my experience, people are only interested in your ideas when you present them after already doing enough work to show it's possible or when you're asked for them.

I'm lucky enough i've got enough autonomy at my job that if I do get any 'great ideas' to change things up or anything, I can usually do a bit of work and at least see if it'll be feasible before I ever need to say anything.


There is a class of great accomplishments that have two features: a novel idea, and cutting edge technical execution. Finding the marriage between the best possible idea that can be executed with a constrained resources and time is what attracted me to the start up "scene" after I left academia. There must be room for good ideas, but its in the execution that makes them great.


I think the main problem is not having many ideas, many of which you never end up fulfilling. The main issue is simply not actually doing anything at all. When I start on a project, I like to keep a really open mind since the most expensive kind of mistake is a failure of design and having keeping an open mind can help avoid that.


I might like the idea guy (I can think of two) but I have a hard time taking "idea guy" seriously professionally.


Website seems to be having issues, here is an archive link https://web.archive.org/web/20190301181528/https://www.risko...


In the context of a startup, a pure "idea guy" (someone who took part in coming up with a business/product idea, but doesn't materially contribute to the execution/iterations) is very much like a patent troll.

p.s. I didn't read the article.. it's 504ing.


Good thing this article isn't about me... apparently idea gals are okay. Seriously, though; it's 2019, are we still assuming that every human is a man?

I'm one of those people who has a serious profusion of ideas -- I don't have enough time to follow up on all the good ones, because I tend to focus on delivering projects I'm already working on. On the rare occasion that I'm invited to meetings, I generally stay quiet and listen to my coworkers talk through issues that they're having. Often, I'll perk up at some point and ask a simple question that seems obvious "what if we... / why aren't we..." -- but nobody was looking at the problem like I am, so my "obvious" solution saves the day.

The real value of ideas people is that we don't get hung up on the details. We find "out of the box" solutions to problems that can trip up linear thinkers, and we're better at finding the nearest feasible pivot when that's necessary. We rely on experts to fill in mundane details, and if we can't play ball when they get stuck on the inevitable gaps in our ideas... then we've led our experts down a rabbit hole.

Good ideas people will have a specialty that they can fall back on. Your team only needs a few ideas a month, and you need something else to occupy your time -- because no matter how valuable your solutions are, yesterday's problem doesn't cost a dime once you've solved it. And the value of an idea is ephemeral -- once it's in the air and people start working on it, they build credit and it quickly becomes "theirs." Nobody else will/should see the hundreds of similar-shaped ideas that you rejected along the way -- your process isn't "work" to them. So apply yourself to a measurable quantity that technical folks can understand, keep your brainstorms at 20%, and only discuss the wild ideas with people who can meaningfully engage in creative processes.


> Good thing this article isn't about me... apparently idea gals are okay.

In my part of the US, "guy" is a gender-neutral term.


“Guy” is also gender-neutral for me. When approaching other girls, my normal greeting is “hey guys!” Saying “hey gals!” is...an off-putting notion.

“Gal” instantly conveys a long-gone era of disempowered women to me. In an era of non-binary genders, I think reclaiming it would only serve to further exclude. Rather than try and force the world to use a new gender-neutral word (“zer”?) just let “guy” be the gender-neutral word it has been used as for decades. It doesn’t have the gender connotations of he/she/him/her and needs no correcting.


As I mentioned, "guy" wasn't the problem. But while everybody's so torqued about the word "guy" I'll take the opportunity for a gedankenexperiment. A poll among straight men, where the questions "is the word 'guy' gender neutral" and "how many guys have you slept with" are asked in random order, followed by "how many men have you slept with."

Because for all people pounce to excuse "guy" as gender neutral, this article only composes that with "he/him," which actually aren't gender neutral pronouns. Counterexamples to the "gender neutral" claim are far to easy to come by.


Well articulated. I’m sold. I retract my prior argument. “Guy” is not gender neutral. My apologies for encultured shallow thinking.


Wow thanks gender neutral guy... but actually I was referring to the language of the article.

> We all know an “Idea Guy.” He’s the one that seems unbelievably intelligent and creative. He has an endless list of interesting ideas, but he waves his hand and says “minor details” when you ask him how any of them might actually work.


When you write on the internet, you have to be cognizant of the fact that your words will reach a wider audience than the people in your state, and write accordingly, or be criticized for it.


When you read on the internet, you need to be aware that the meaning of "guys" is the least of the cultural barriers to understanding you'll encounter, and further that it's important to carefully pick your fights to avoid sparking useless flame wars. Can we please just lean toward charitable interpretations of our fellow humans' words, and debate substance instead?


When you write on the internet, you're going to be criticized no matter what.


I used to do that. I eventually learned that having good ideas is not hard or valuable. The hard, valuable part is how to design the implementation of a good idea so that it can actually come into existence without breaking everything.


I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I get this a lot simply because people know I can code. A lot of idea guys now think they just need to tell their idea to the right dev who will build it for them and make them rich.


Ideas guys are only any use where there are "doer" guys and for every Steve Jobs or Elon Musk there is always a team of enthusiastic engineers who have to interpret all this shit and make it real.


Yeah. interpreting wtf your 'guy' is trying to convey is half the battle. We dont do sprint planning. We listen to a madman rant for a couple hours about shit and then try to come up with some semblance of a sprint plan lol.

After a while of that I stopped caring. Just work on what they tell you , who cares if it's a sinking ship. After you try to right the ship for 5 years you stop caring as much. As long as you still get that $$ twice a month :p


I am an "idea guy", I still see my "inventions" on the PR pictures of a company I stayed at for only 6 months. But I think the trick is that I know how to get some stuff done.


To deal with the 504 Gateway Timeout: https://beta.trimread.com/articles/207


What if you're supposed to come up with ideas, but not given the ability to meet with developers to discuss them nor system access to pursue them on your own?


The idea that ideas don't matter is an item of faith on HN. It needs to be taken round the back of the chemical sheds and shot.


It's always humbling how much effort it takes to implement things. People with "great ideas" really are a dime a dozen. What's rarer is a person with the ability and discipline to carry an idea from conception to completion. "Idea Guys" are in the same space as dead beat dads. Go tend to your children and grow them into something marvelous. Don't neglect them while you continue to copulate elsewhere.


If you can cut a pilot version, but never ship quality code, are you (am I) the idea guy?


Hello, fellow product owner!

We truly understand the product and the effort needed to get there but we're inherently not detail oriented and once we've "solved the problem" with that 40% pilot/MVP we tend to get bored with the implementation details and we certainly become "idea guys" if we don't at least keep piloting new features and being honest with ourselves about the externalities our ideas create.

Anyway as long as you're being thoughtful about the relationship between your idea, the actual code, and the actual user experience, you can avoid being just an idea guy.


Hello fellow human! I think you have the right of it: the inability to cut code for long-term dependency doesn't mean you can't play a role, it's just that you have to be clear what the role is. I suspect what somebody else would say in a specification, I find easier to explain by example.

So far, the real code warriors seem ok with this.


Since when do Idea Guys give a shit about being liked?


Title is misleading. Was hoping for more dislike.


This could probably use a (2018) in the title.


"504 Gateway Time-out"

This person had an idea about a blog but not the skills to keep it up?



The good-old kiss of death from HN :)


I'm an idea guy, but the difference between someone who thinks they're highly intelligent and creative versus someone who is, is the person who filters out actual bad ideas. Which is the majority for any idea guy. Half-witted thoughts sprawled on a napkin was never how I did it. Unfortunately a big filter is that a lot of viable ideas require more capital or business connections than what's readily available to the average person.




Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: