In response to the previous article in this series, one of the comments made was: "The idea as is was considered almost valueless in our company; the real value lies in the execution".
This is quite a common sentiment and, for the most part, correct, which I'd like to discuss further.
For a very long time, probably 10-15 years, I was stuck at the idea obsession stage. It manifested itself in the fact that I was constantly inventing something, discussing it with friends, writing it down, and fantasizing how these groundbreaking ideas would transform my life.
One way or another, I did absolutely nothing to make them a reality, and what's more, I was doubtful that I had the skills and talents necessary to execute these ideas 🤔
It wasn't until I joined into Facebook and got bored amidst the coronavirus pandemic, that I decided to cast aside my doubts and take action. During this time, I built Quiken, an English dictionary with pronunciation, the Cost of Living Calculator, started and finished my website with articles. A bit earlier, while studying and having fun in the US, I had built a small spending tracker app.
✅ Valuable Insights During the "I have to know how to build it" Stage
Being able to execute is indeed vital. There is a vast difference between reading a book about distributed systems and getting your hands dirty, diving into the intricate details of using clouds, servers, databases, frameworks, and libraries.
We learn best through hands-on experience, a fundamentally significant observation! And although I "knew" this for many, many years, I only recently learned to act this way 🤯
The act of doing triggers the feedback loop: cool ideas for projects and features are more often born during the actual execution than while thinking about them.
Doing is fun, interesting, and useful, if you are a tinkerer like me (that is, you like practical tasks and learning through trial and error).
In my opinion, the only working trigger for learning something new is to roll up your sleeves and dive right in. At first, you won't succeed, then something will work out, but for some unknown reason. Then the reasons, the structure of reality, and the initially obscure connections become more obvious. The learning cycle (by David A. Kolb) will complete itself.
A month ago, I had only a vague idea about what LLMs (Large Language Models) were and how to use them. Now, I'm working on various projects involving LLMs and actively reading the latest research on the effective usage of language models. The newfound knowledge I'm gaining is stimulating!
This knowledge, however, would have remained elusive had I not made the first steps. And it's possible it could have even deterred me; everything can seem overwhelmingly complex at first. Excessive knowledge and endless preparation only paralyze.
👎 The Downsides of the Stage
When engrossed in the technical nitty-gritty every day, it is easy to lose sight of the most pressing questions.
The execution stage can also be an endless loop, which is quite easy to get lost in forever. This is a peril we programmers and creators face in particular.
Even a product built with love and passion != commercially successful business. We must consider our customers and their actual problems (or "jobs" in JTBD, Jobs-to-be-Done), devise a strategy, and plan experiments with marketing channels; we must assess its financial viability and sustainability.
Think about pricing and sales methods, consider competitive advantages. Pay attention to important mechanics: funnels and conversions, the first session, user activation, and retention.
Indefinite learning and the joy derived from it can be quite addictive. It indeed is productive and enriching, but there will always be something left to learn. So I would suggest understanding your strengths, setting your objectives, and avoiding self-deception: building a business is not the same as working on side projects for fun.
Finally, both start-ups and side projects need users. And users will only appear when your product begins actually solving their real problems. You have to make sure that potential customers can discover your product and make it easily accessible (with minimal transactional costs), enabling them to quickly experience its benefits and spark some joy.