Our greatest defect: crossing the chasm.

“Cros­sing the chasm bet­ween “Idea” and “Exe­cu­tion”. That is where the bodies pile up” ~Hugh macleod

Ok, maybe it’s not “The” greatest defect but it sure is one of the most significant and handicapping ones. I see this everyday and I’m sure you do too. Hundreds if not thousands of ideas that thrived throughout the ideation process but never survived the dreaded period of execution. Dozens of people who seem to have a sizzling motivation, a good vision, a cutting edge idea but never succeeded to concretize it in the real world. I fall for the same trap as well. More often than I like to. When I tried to understand why, I found out that our defect was in our little understanding of the two networks in play: the idea network and the execution network.

Network of ideas: Reaching outside the bubble

In the words of Thomas Alva Edison “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”  So in order to really succeed in making ideas happen you need to be inspired first. That’s what networks of ideas are here for: Causing the sparks that could lead to the ultimate breakthrough innovation. However, most of the great inventions in History emerged from a cross-pollination of ideas. Which means that only a diversified network could render innovative ideas. And since diversity comes from bridging the white spaces between disciplines, fields, cultures etc., this translates into the following rule: Leveraging weak ties and avoiding flocking with similar people is your passport to better ideas.

Mistake number 1: Cocooning in your bubble and waiting for the spark to come your way

Network of execution: It’s about collaboration      

There was a nice equation in belsky’s book, that I think summarizes the whole issue promptly. Making ideas happen = Ideas (we covered that) + Organization + Communal forces + Leadership capability. 

Organization is a rather intrinsic aspect. A skill that everyone needs to acquire in order to get things done. I really think it belongs to our circle of control, which means that if we are motivated enough to attain in, we certainly will.

Communal forces and leadership capabilities are the trickiest. In the network of execution, we solemnly work alone. Collaborating with others is often the stepping stone to cross the chasm between vision and reality. Collaboration leverages communal forces and needs great leadership to occur.  It often requires stronger ties that those of the network of ideas, and a common vision with all entities involved. If 10% is for inspiration, 90% of the effort needs to be devoted to building a strong community with a common goal. Needless to say, this is a daunting task. Most communities are fragmented chunks and subgroups that come together because of the energy a new exciting idea brings about. If not under the right leadership, the energy fades and the network doesn’t stand the test of times.

Mistake number 2: Deluding one’s self that the energy of the idea network will fuel the execution network forever

The network of ideas and the network of execution are very different and sometimes contradictory. While one is built on weak ties, the other needs strong foundations to thrive. While one can be transient the other requires medium to long term vision. While one’s texture is built on barely connected subsets, the other needs constant stitching to make a solid construct. Making ideas happen equals getting the best out of each network and leveraging both at the right time with the right people.


2 thoughts on “Our greatest defect: crossing the chasm.

  1. nice Post !it’s a good thing to separate the two processes , nevertheless the transition from one to another sometimes cannot be diassociated and happens rather in an unobtrusive continous flow , harnessing the weak ties that contributed to spawn the idea after a slow hunch ,this latter phase is the most enthusiastic and my all time favorite , since it is mostly fueled by an intrinsic motivation to cross breed with other discipilines in an artistic way , which can’t be industrialized in my opinion . on the other hand the execution phase is becoming more and more standard , since the outsourcing is the key whenever things get off hand , VC’s , freelance programmers, Cloud Computing etc .. can generaly kickstart the idea and incubate it as concrete project.

  2. Agreed. The transition between the two networks is often the issue and that’s my point exactly. Each network has its own rules, functioning and culture. Only by fully understanding the differences and making the best out of each can we cross the chasm effectively.

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