by Asim Jalis
I am much better at thinking up stuff than at doing stuff. I use
a lot of little tricks to stay focused and to get things done.
Thoughts and ideas are effortless. Execution is hard.
In our conversations about entrepreneurship and money, we have
focused on ventures that are based on tangible products. In fact
most of the economy is based on tangible products so this focus
Since tangible products require focused work, and the act of
creation, it is hard, at least for me. Tangible products have a
lot of tedious mind-numbing details that have to be taken care
of. It's all hard work.
But what if instead we focus on ventures that are not based on
tangibility. What if we instead look at how to leverage ideas.
Most idea-based ventures flounder because they assume that the
market place of ideas works like the market place of products.
This seems like a natural assumption, except it is not quite
For example, while products have a cost of production and
distribution, ideas can be propagated with very little expense.
It is quite easy to leverage other people to spread the word
about ideas. People voluntarily and unintentionally become meme
Consider, for example, XP. There is no product. It's really just
an idea. And there are thousands of evangelist programmers and
managers pushing for it in their companies.
Compare the success of XP with other methodologies that are not
freely available. Compare it with TSP and PSP which are only
accessible through expensive seminars and courses. It is possible
that TSP or CxOne work better than XP. But we will never really
The economics of ideas are so different that the traditional
thinking of hoarding and hiding, does not make sense.
The key difference between products and ideas is that products
have a really weak second-order effect. The person who buys the
product gets a lot out of it, but other people around him are
unaffected. On the other hand, ideas can have a really powerful
second-order effect, where each person who gets infected with it
can share it with others for free.
Based on all this it seems obvious that ideas that are freely
given away are much more likely to succeed than ideas which are
saved for later.
Another neat thing about ideas is that they can freely build up
on other previous ideas. The free economy of ideas allows this to
In fact, it's much easier to collaborate on ideas than it is on
products. It is even possible to collaborate with dead people on
ideas, through their writings.
Growing ideas in a stable specific ecology also gives the new
idea some credibility.
To summarize the basic principles of idea economics are:
1. Build on existing ideas and context. Leverage them.
2. Share as freely as possible.
3. Look for mediums where the ideas are likely to spread.
4. Focus on spreading the idea rather than making a buck.