The Commoditization of Ideas

Had a great time last week working with 50+ students at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan Flagler Business School. The students are part of the GLOBE program — an 18 month program bringing together undergraduates from three business schools: UNC’s Kenan-Flagler, Copenhagen Business School (CBS), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).


I took the students through our Entrepreneur Core Characteristics Profile (ECCP) and helped them identify implications of their results — how their personality matches up with what is typically required to launch a successful venture.

One of our more interesting conversations was about the relationship between ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  I find that a lot of aspiring founders believe that startup success is mostly about the idea, when, in fact, ideas have become commoditized in today’s world. Because the world’s knowledge and data are instantly, globally google-able and sharable — chances are any brilliant idea you’ve developed is hatching in multiple sites and minds across the planet.


The metaphor we discussed is illustrated in the three posted pictures …

  • Ideas are like seeds:  plentiful, inexpensive, easy to access.
  • Innovation is getting a healthy plant out of the ground, generating fruit.
  • Entrepreneurship is farming — it’s about pulling together an entire process for creating value, putting food on tables (metaphorically) for a market that will pay for that value.  As such, entrepreneurship requires a wide range of capabilities and resources, not the least of which is time and (almost always) lots of patience.


Here’s the full slide deck from my talk.

Thank you Ted Zoller and Chris Mumford for inviting to work with the students.  Look forward to next time!


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