The Value of Ideas
The Value of Ideas
June 4, 2010
My Google Alert recently picked up a lot of chatter on the Internet about a rumored Dilbert movie in the works. The rumor is ahead of the reality, as the project hasn’t been funded, and there isn’t yet a director, writer, or actor signed on. But I was fascinated by the reactions of the many movie web sites that weighed in with their opinions on whether it was a good idea to create a Dilbert movie.
Evaluating whether an idea is good enough for a movie is a bit like an automobile expert saying a certain brand of car doesn’t taste good. It’s absurd. You can only hold the opinion that a particular movie concept is a good or bad idea if you don’t understand what a movie is or what an idea is.
For example, here’s the world’s worst idea for a movie: Titanic. It did okay at the box office.
Movies are good or bad because of execution, not concept. Even outside of the movie realm, ideas generally have no economic value whatsoever, except in rare cases such as when a patent is issued. And even in those cases it’s the patent law that creates the value, not the ideas.
The self-appointed movie critics went on to point out that Office Space was already a movie, so there was no room left in the universe for a Dilbert movie. That’s a bit like saying there’s no point in creating a romantic comedy because someone already did that one. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what a movie is.
I’ve long been fascinated by the common human illusion that ideas can be sorted into good and bad, when all experience shows this not to be the case. We could play the game all day long where I describe a simply terrible idea and then tell you about the people who got rich implementing it just right. Let’s try a few…
How about a comic strip that is literally a bunch of stick figures? It will be called XKCD and have no discernable characters. Done! It’s the most viewed comic on the Internet.
How about a movie about two gay cowboys? Done! Academy Award!
How about a comedic TV show about a Nazi concentration camp? Done! It was called Hogan’s Heroes and was a hit in its time.
How about a Broadway musical about a bunch of frickin’ cats? Done!
You’d be hard pressed to come up with an idea so bad that it couldn’t succeed with the right execution. And it would be even harder to imagine a great idea that couldn’t fail if the execution were left to morons.
Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.