Sure, the world's best idea, with no execution, is worthless. And sure lots of people have "great ideas" that are just pie in the sky fairytales that aren't implementable. But look at the flip-side... how many hackers are there in the world, who - in 2003/2004 or so - were talented enough to build, say, Facebook? I'd venture the number is on the order of "a metric shit-ton." Now how many had the idea of building something like Facebook? And then the flip-side to the flip-side is to ask "how many had the idea and the talent, but not the initiative?" And we could keep going back and forth... the point being, you need both the idea and the execution.
And executing a bad idea well isn't necessarily going to lead you to any success. What if I invented the world's most amazingly advanced and mondo righteous new model of buggy-whip, tomorrow? I could setup a factory, produce them, source the components at a great price, use six sigma and all sorts of fancy statistical process control and empower my employees and use the kaizen approach and churn out a constant supply of really high-quality (but inexpensive!), super advanced mondo righteous buggy-whips... which would all promptly collect dust until my factory went out of business, I went bankrupt, and I had to burn them as firewood.
Idea and execution are 2 parts of the same thing. Start with idea, then you execute, you get stuck after which you tweak the idea and then your back to execution.
You can also start with execution: do consulting for a bunch of companies in the same space. Figure out a common problem to all(ie idea) and then you execute a solution.
Idea Is Execution.
In this sense, I'd say an idea for a piece of software would be much like an idea for a novel. The idea is formed through the act of writing.
But if I were in their place i'd rather go out and build something and get known for it than be remembered as someone who kept suing a person just because that guy stole an idea of mine , especially when the guy's already paid me 65 mil.
Consider what would be necessary to fully detail an idea so completely as to make it difficult to screw up the execution. You would need to provide a lot of material to fill in all the details, thousands of words perhaps.
Consider an example of this: the adaptation of books to movies. Books are ideas that are enormously thoroughly detailed, far more detailed than the vast majority of ideas in business. And yet, what is the success rate of the translation of good ideas (in book form) to good movies? It's pretty spotty, and utterly dependent on good execution. How many excellent books have been executed as mediocre or horrible movies?
Good ideas can help (some of the best movies ever have come from books, for example), but they can just as easily be a length of rope from which to hang oneself.
This idea circulates every now and then, often as a result of a VC post somewhere. Look: VCs sit on the other side of the table from the founders. It is their job to convince the founders that their ideas have little value and that the value lies in what they bring to the table. Your are a fool if you believe them. One rather notable startup invester has gone so far as to state that if you tell him your idea it is perfectly acceptable for him to give your idea to another group of founders to execute. It's not stealing, because the idea is of no value.
See how that works?
He has apparently executed on this threat, too.
But if you start negotiating for serious money (valuations of tens of millions or more), you need a strong barrier to entry for the competition. Often, very often, that is a patentable (or patented) idea or technology.
On the flip side, maybe you can think of products whose initial execution wasn't so great but whose idea was so compelling that the product was a success anyway. I won't list what comes to my mind because I don't want to start a fanboi flamewar here, but you may be able to think of a few.
Believe the "execution is everything" myth at your own risk. Ideas are very important. Ideas are what change the direction of how we think about ourselves and how we live in the world. In fact, I would say that some ideas compel their execution. So, in my view, the moral is: if you have a good idea you better be able to execute it, because if you can't somebody else will.
Please cite a name so we can be sure not to go to such a clown.