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Ideas: What matters is ‘what you catch’

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Good ideas aren’t hard to find. As long as you’ve got smart and creative people, there should be plenty of ideas.

What’s hard is follow-through.

Two examples:

The making of the Rolling Stones album “Sticky Fingers” was an ordeal, says guitarist Keith Richards, not from lack of ideas but because the band was in danger of being buried under an avalanche of material.

And when lead singer Mick Jagger was writing the song “Brown Sugar,” he put down lyrics as fast as his hand could move. When he had three pages of a legal pad filled—one verse per page—the band started recording.

“It’s unbelievable how prolific he was,” Richards says. “Sometimes you’d wonder how to turn the tap off.”

Likewise, at Xerox, engineers had built a personal computer “and were beside themselves figuring out how to get whatever was on the screen onto a sheet of paper,” says an outside engineer who showed them how to do that.

Never mind that Xerox gave away its crown jewel—the PC—to Steve Jobs, and all it kept was the printer. In the messy world of ideas, you give up the thing you don’t understand for the thing you do. The laser printer made billions for Xerox.

“There will be some ideas that don’t get caught in your cup,” says Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft executive. “But that’s not what the game is about. The game is what you catch, not what you spill.”

— Adapted from “Creation Myth,” Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker.

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