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The Jockey Or The Horse?

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C. Engdahl
The Big E of Big E Toys

It was my distinct privilege over this past winter and spring to be involved with an organization called the Acara Institute, a non-profit organization that has sponsored the last couple years a business plan competition for students throughout the world at various universities. Acara Institute's mission, and the subsequent goal of the business plan competition known as the Acara Challenge, is to 'develop sustainable business solutions that address global societal challenges.' Acara's programs and businesses during 2009-2010 have been focused on water and energy, with initial programs targeted towards India. I served as a mentor for a team of students from the University of Minnesota during the Acara Challenge this year, who just so happened to have won this year's competition. It was pretty exciting stuff.

Perhaps at a later date I'll write more about the actual activities of the Acara Institute. What they're doing is pretty interesting. Today though I simply want to return to a classic question concerning idea development and business innovation (which I began to think about again because of a recent blog post by Acara Institute CEO and co-founder Fred Rose ) ' namely 'when trying to determine future success, what do you put more stock in, an innovative idea or the person(s) driving the idea'? Fred raises the question in the context of deciding who should conceivably be chosen as the winner of a business plan competition, but the same issue can be applied to regular business development activities. And although the question 'The Jockey or The Horse'? isn't necessarily new, it's an important enough idea to revisit periodically.

Personally, I love good ideas. I love great ideas. I'm inherently drawn to what Plato and Socrates may have referred to as Ideal Forms (or Ideas). The possibility that there exists a perfect idea, however theoretical, is intriguing. But an idea is virtually worthless, however great, unless it's in capable hands. I guess I'd rather have a mediocre/pretty good idea in the hands of stellar talent, than a great idea in the hands of incompetence. Execution is important for sure.

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