Focus On Execution, Not Ideation

Episode 35

In this episode of the Stretch Goals Podcast, Scott and I are gonna be talking about focusing on the execution and not the ideation.

Find us on Twitter @The_Scott_Davis or @RobDickersonJr


Robert: In this episode of the Stretch Goals Podcast, Scott and I are gonna be talking about focusing on the execution and not the ideation.

Scott: Right.

Robert: This is the Stretch Goals Podcast, where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned, based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host, Robert Dickerson.

Scott: And I’m Scott Davis.

Robert: So we’re back live with another video this week. So if you haven’t checked it out, go over on YouTube. We got a number of hits from our videos last week, so we appreciate you watching and listening. And you know, send us some feedback on Twitter, and let us know what experiences you’re taking away from these, and maybe some things that you’d be interested in us talking about for future episodes.

Scott: What Rob’s not telling you though is we actually got 5,000 views on one of our videos. Somewhat-

Robert: Obviously not legitimate, but we didn’t have anything to do with that.

Scott: Yeah, I mean we’re really popular in Vietnam apparently, with 3,000 views.

Robert: It blew up.

Scott: Worldwide.

Robert: So the episode today, Scott, I wanted to talk about something that I have been experiencing during my career and also within my startups and within my companies, is that it’s a lot of fun to focus on the ideation portion. You know, I’ve been in corporate jobs where we all get together, and we sit around and we think up ideas to solutions. We don’t involve the customers. It’s just kind of an ideation. Where can we go?

While that’s the fun part, that’s maybe such a small percentage of actually growing a business or growing a product or an idea. You know, it comes down to the execution, not so much the ideation. So I thought it would be interesting to talk about that. Have you experienced that in the corporate world or within your job now?

Scott: Yeah, I’ve experience it all the time. I mean, corporate, startups, everything. I mean, even like if you go back to college, you have a college project. It’s all about this grandiose idea. Then you find out it’s harder to implement than you thought, and then you just kinda backpedal down. But yeah. I know. I mean, it happens every day in every facet of industry.

Robert: I mean, the ideation part is so much fine right? Because you’re-

Scott: Yeah.

Robert: I think as, you know, if you’re a designer, if you’re an engineer, if you’re a creative, you could kinda get the juices flowing right? You have a blank slate to design, to build, to envision kinda the solution that you want to, without begin encumbered by customers or competitors or other things, right? And so it can be really useful to sit down and think about your idea and really think through things. But you really need to focus on the execution.

And so I wanna talk today about some ways that you can do that after you’ve gone through the ideation, some ways that you can focus on actually getting things done, right? And one of the ways I started out by doing that is just kinda creating an outline of, from the idea, what are the next steps that I need to execute on? And for me, I really enjoy having kinda that outline, because it kinda provides me a list of tasks that I can go out and execute. I mean, after you think of a new idea for an app or you’re kinda brainstorming with clients, what’s that next step that you take to start down the execution path?

Scott: Well, I think, you know, let’s go back an episode where we were talking about the MVP of the dead. And then let’s go back two episodes where we were talking about how to prioritize your product roadmap. Both of those are directly applicable to what we’re talking about here. And that’s because, like you said, ideation is super fun. And we could throw so many ideas into anything we’re doing, right?

But what happens is, then our idea goes from this very basic, “I’m gonna do this,” to this giant ball of ideas. And so what you have to do is take a step back and go, “Okay, it’s gonna take me a year to develop all of those ideas. But what can I do in pieces to get to something more achievable and attainable in the short term, right?” So identify what your MVP is or your riskiest assumption tests are, right? That’s step one.

And then start prioritizing your roadmap accordingly. So you know, break it down. Like, maybe you have a phase one, a phase two, and a phase three. Your phase one is your very basic features or whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. Get those done first. Your phase two is, let’s add some bells and whistles to it. And phase three is some of the more elaborate and in-depth ideas. That’s probably what I would do just looking at a large idea, is break it down into phases and make it as simple as possible in the first one to two phases, and then kinda take it from there. What about you?

Robert: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a good place to start. I think if people are interested in this topic, go back and check out our last episode, where we talked about the MVP. And we talked about the product road map, like you said, in the last two episodes. So I think those are good places to start. So after you’ve identified a product road map, after you’ve identified these core features, what are kinda the next steps?

I mean, for me the next step maybe is to figure out, do you have the right team in place to execute on those ideas? Or do you have the right partners in place to go out and to implement those things? I mean, one thing that I’ve been working on lately within map-out is trying to get into the healthcare space. So I’ve talked about this before, about the patient education aspect of it.

And so for me, it’s reaching out and creating partnerships with people in the healthcare community because my background is not in that. So I know for me to build a business in that space, I need to get partners that are gonna help me, because I don’t have that experience. I need to get patients involved in the development of our product for it to be useful to people, right? I don’t wanna do this in a vacuum, right? I don’t wanna sit here and ideate in a vacuum. I wanna involve my customers, which are the patients.

And so if you’re thinking about developing your product, after you come up with those ideas, think about how can you get customers involved? How can you go get that feedback? How can you reach out to partners? And a lot of it’s discovery, right? It’s not building something, which is maybe the fun part, right? But it’s kinda that discovery of what do you need to build? What are the real problems out there? And so if you think about that first, if you kinda, like you said, take your MVP down to the core idea, the core product, then you can go build that piece and actually test it and validate and make sure that it meets the solution to a problem that you’re trying to solve.

Scott: Yeah, you’re right. And I think that the topic of this podcast says it. You know, it’s “Focus on Execution and Not Ideation.” It’s easy to focus on the ideation because they’re ideas, right? So it’s easy to have that in your head all the time. But really, you’ll have to mentally shift yourself. You’ll kinda have to force yourself to do it, to then focus on how to execute those ideas instead of thinking of new ideas to add to the mix. You don’t need more ideas right now. You need to start focusing on execution.

Granted, if you’ve got enough structure in your company, you can task people or yourself with coming up with new ideas for the roadmap down the line. But more often than not, you’re not in a position where you can offload some of that. So you have to focus on the execution and make sure things are getting done right. Otherwise, your very basic proof of concept won’t even hit the target if it’s off-base. So focus on execution.

Robert: Yeah, and a lot of times down the line too, those customer ideas, those customer requests, the feature set, or … they’re gonna kinda come in naturally as you’re working with people. And so while you might have a vision and kind of a road map, I mean, that customer feedback is really gonna drive what you’re trying to build. And so that’s kinda the execution piece, is kind of getting out of your own head and getting out with customers.

And this is not easy, right? It’s something that I struggle with a lot, because I enjoy thinking about new things and kinda creating this vision. But it can go crazy. And like you said, it can grow into this thing that you can’t implement because it has so many features and it’s kinda deviates from the path of the core problem you’re trying to solve.

Scott: Yeah. And we talked about this on 35, “Ways to Tackle Big Ideas.” I mean, you just have to break these things down into manageable chunks and focus on how to get individual pieces done. But the biggest thing is, you know, and this happens all the time especially in the startup world. I don’t know about as much in the enterprise space and the corporate world, but … you know, because in the corporate world when you have an idea, it tends to take forever, right? You have this, “Oh, we’re gonna implement a new product, okay. And it’s gonna take a year-and-a-half to even go to market.”

Startups is exactly the opposite. It’s, “We’ve got an idea. We’re gonna hit the market in two weeks.” Like, “Okay.” So the ideation and the execution piece, it has to happen and you have to plan it in a way that it’s achievable. Otherwise, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. And I don’t know. Like, how do you think … In your opinion, Rob, what could you suggest to somebody to force themselves to create more manageable ideas?

Robert: I mean, the way I do it is kind of … maybe you sit down and you think about, what is your entire vision, right? And then you keep paring back features. Do I really need this piece? Do I really need that piece? You know, is that really trying to execute on the problem that I’m trying to solve? And I think that is where you have to identify what the solution is and what the problem is you’re trying to solve, and maybe what specific customer you’re trying to approach. And if you can do those three things, then you can kinda whittle down into a core feature set, and take away all the fluff and all the different things that you might have.

And just to kind of expand on another area you were just talking about, is when you’re working in the corporate environment, it can be different. And maybe it’s not so different than, you know, a startup. But the things that I always experience if you have to push your ideas through so many levels of management before you actually get buy-in. So there’s this inertia that you have to overcome.

Scott: It’s idea fatigue.

Robert: Yeah, and so you have to keep pitching your idea, pitching your idea. But it’s similar to how you’re doing in a startup, because you’re just pitching it to external, maybe, investors as opposed to internal management that has to buy in, right? So it’s similar, but you still have to keep pushing your idea. And that’s why you have to think about, “Can I whittle it down to the core thing?”

Because you’re gonna have to be explaining to people, in a short amount of time, what your concept is, what your idea is, and why they should buy into you. And if you have this huge, long, drawn-out solution, you’re not gonna have time to explain it to them for them to buy in. You’re just not gonna have that flexibility.

Scott: Well, one thing I think is hard too is when you talk about have passion for a product and for an idea that you’re working on, it sometimes becomes so much a part of you that it’s hard to disembody yourself from the idea, right? It’s hard for you to go, “Okay, yeah, I don’t really need this feature right now. We’ll get to it in Q3 of this year.” You know, it’s hard to become unmarried from that process, right? And sometimes you need an objective opinion from outside. To have somebody come in and slap you around and go, “Look, you’re doing too much.”

But I think if people can just understand that you can still get … we’re not saying you’re not gonna get to your ideas and your big vision. You are. But the best way to do that is to break it down into achievable pieces instead of trying to build a mountain in one day.

Robert: Yeah, it’s that mountain that’s the hard part. Yeah, I mean, I think you need to realize too that there are times when you need to pivot, or maybe when you need to give up on your idea and try something else too. You need to be not so focused and so driven, to a point where you put blinders on, that you’re driving down the wrong path.

And I think your advice to get external feedback is really good. I mean, if you can get that feedback from customers, from partners, from people you trust. I mean, I reach out to you with ideas, and we talk about them. That kind of feedback is really valuable to me, to figure out, “Am I going down the right path?” Because I’d rather someone tell me, prior to me starting down that path, that I’m not going the right way, than me to spend a bunch of time and money going somewhere that … you know, and trying to execute in something that’s not the right fit.

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you and I have both exited companies. We’ve both sold a company. So I think you and I have kinda been through this, where you’ve had this baby that you made with your own hands, and you ideated … ideated? Is that a word? You drove the vision for this product and executed on it. And when you sell it, you’re no longer part of it anymore. And it’s kind of hard to separate from it.

I think your situation was a little bit different than mine. Mine was an acqui-hire where I had to keep working on what my product ultimately got ingested into, and I saw it get ripped apart. So that was a little bit tough. But what it taught me is that, you know, you need thick skin when you’re going through creating a product. And it especially is applicable to people who are coming up with new ideas right now in the startup world.

You’ve got to be able to take advice, number one. You’ve gotta be able to be realistic about what’s achievable, which is why we’re talking about this today. You have to be able to say, “You know what? I don’t need this feature. This feature’s gonna take three months. I can go to market next month if I drop that feature, get some valuable feedback, and then pivot if needed, and make my product even better.”

Robert: Yeah. I mean, I think those are all really good points. So just to kinda wrap up, remember that while the ideation is the fun part, it really comes down to the execution. And that’s what’s gonna take the longest, and that’s why we’re all in this for the long haul, is the execution piece. So really take a listen to our other episodes where we talked about kinda breaking down your product road map and your MVP. And then focus on how you can build a tea, how you can get that feedback to start building your product and start executing on the business that you wanna create.

Scott: Thanks, you guys. Come check us out on YouTube as well. Check us out on Twitter, on our website. We’ve got everything linked up that we talk about. Thanks again for listening.

Robert: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals Podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over

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Each week we'll share insights and lessons learned to help you create ambitious goals for your business.

Robert Dickerson


Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.

Scott Davis


Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.