Execution Is Hard To Execute

Marketers get hung up on ideas. But it’s not ideas we should be getting hung up on.

Ideas shouldn’t be celebrated.

Björn Ironsides was a famous 9th century Viking leader.

He and his General Hastein were known for their ruthless raids on foreign cities and they had their sights set on Rome.

Arriving at the legendary city, they realised that they weren’t going to penetrate the walls by brute force.

They needed to get creative to gain access.

So Hastein came up with an idea.

He sent his emissaries towards the Romans to say they were exiles seeking supplies for their leader who was taken ill.

A day later they returned carrying Hastein inside a coffin requesting a Christian burial, to which was accepted.

Fifty of his cloaked men attended the burial with swords hidden under their robes.

During the burial, Hasten leapt out of his coffin, killed the unsuspecting Bishop and surrounding Romans with his accompanying Vikings.

Then they raided everything.

Hastein’s brilliant idea allowed them to achieve what they thought was otherwise impossible.

Rome was taken.

But, actually, they hadn’t taken Rome. They were far from it.

250 miles away, in fact.

They had mistaken Rome for the town of Luna.

I’ve read that ideas are everything. And I don’t doubt that creative ideas can differentiate products and brands from others.

But if you can’t execute those ideas, they’re useless.

If they’re unsuitable for the environment they’re expected to impact then they’re also useless.

How many times have you gone into a meeting and thought of lots of great ideas? And then got excited by it all?!

Probably, lots. Because it’s sexy and it gives you a newfound energy source.

But when it comes to the planning and successful execution of those ideas, it’s far from sexy.

It’s hard work.

Any inventor or product creator will tell you that.

That’s why many of the big ideas from such meetings haven’t turned into big successes. Innovation is hard because executing an idea or concept is hard.

Execution is hard to execute. And without it we have nothing.

Product creators will tell you that too. But the process of executing ideas can be straightforward… On paper at least.

You set objectives knowing that too many objectives will slow you down. So you focus.

You then watch progress by setting KPIs knowing that if they’re too high or the outcomes too few there’s a problem. You analyse – which Hastein didn’t do.

You knuckle down and get into the nitty-gritty and carry out the tasks knowing that times will get hard. You persevere.

You then keep up the momentum by continually discussing progress knowing that collaboration and encouragement is a daily thing. You communicate.

You thereafter evaluate the idea to see whether it’s working or going to work long term. You reflect.

(Which incidentally looks very much like a marketer’s job description.)

Life is full of ideas and we need them to stay alive.

The problem we have is we get hung up on some of our ideas that aren’t worth executing.

Hastein had a great idea.

But his execution of the idea was terrible.

That idea was too good for his situation. It was unnecessary.

So it was, really, a terrible idea.

He should have abandoned it.

And he was so distraught that he ordered the massacre of Luna’s entire male population and burned the city to the ground.

That’s why we shouldn’t celebrate an idea or get hung up on creative ideas or concepts.

Just the successful execution of the idea.

And that isn’t easy.

What do you think?

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