Monday, February 8, 2010

Have an Idea? Act on it!

Occasionally, I'm reminded of how things could have turned out. ("I cudda been a contendah!") If you know me in real life then you know that, while I'm not against taking risks, they are always calculated to the nth degree and weighed against the effort required to achieve whatever goal I am thinking about. And so I dream up a lot of ideas for products or services (some good and some not), realize that I would prefer to relax during my off-time, and then shelve the ideas.

Inevitably, at some point soon after shelving an idea I look at the entrepreneurs of the world or even some homegrown ones and wonder how they ended up being multi-millionaires when I am not. I even asked one how it happened. He said to me (paraphrased), "it's easy to take risks if you have nothing to lose." I suppose the problem is that I've always been mildly successful so I've never felt the need to reach for the proverbial brass ring.

Should I have? You be the judge:
  • In 1991, Jason Crawford and I were sent from IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center to IBM's Boca Raton facility to help out for a month on the OS/2 2.0 product launch. Jason, being frustrated that he couldn't check his work email, thought of the idea of logging in to his desktop remotely to do so. We both worked independently of each other, but both gave up because the speed (or lack thereof) of the networks made testing and debugging a nightmare.
  • In the late 1980's as I was finishing up my Computer Science degree, I thought of going after my Master's degree using an idiomatic programming language as my project and basis for my thesis. Drag and drop icons here and there on a white slate, draw some connections to represent program flow and branch logic, and anyone can write a computer program.
Do these sound familiar? They should. The first example is identical to pcAnywhere which was hugely popular during its heyday in the late 90's and generated a lot of money for Symantec. The second example is akin to HP's OpsWare, BMC's RealOps (now Atrium Orchestrator), or CA's Process Automation Manager products. OpWare was acquired by HP in 2007 for USD$1.6B in cash; I don't have figures for the other two products but I don't think that it matters after you've read one point six billion dollars.

Where would I be financially if I had acted? Risk is not without its rewards as the OpsWare payout demonstrates quite nicely. Do you have an idea? Let me quote Rudyard Kiping:

"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges -- Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"

"The Ranges" can be anything that is blocking you from achieving your goals or desires. Don't let them get in your way or, worse, become something they aren't. We commonly hear this as "making a mountain out of a molehill," or put another way "it's only a problem if you let it become a problem."

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