Idea vs Execution (or Sting in Swim Trunks)

David Lynch’s Dune is an epic Eighties sci-fi flick, featuring Kyle MacLachlan in a humidity-recycling leather desert suit as the good guy and Sting as bad guy in leather… well, swim trunks. The space travel tech is based on giant floating worms eating spice to bend space, so it ranks well on the flower-power vs hi-tech scale. The book series about Dune that Lynch based his movie on were written by the American Frank Herbert in the Sixties. The books represented a new take on science fiction writing, focusing more on characters and story than technology and are also often regarded as an inspiration for environmentalism.

Frank Herbert has said in interviews that he was often approached by fans attending book signings or readings who had the same generous offer: “I have a great idea for a new book about Dune, how about I tell it to you, you write the story and we share the money?” Mr Herbert gently turned down these business proposals.

What is the point of this example? you ask. I say it is an illustration of idea vs execution. We are often impressed by big ideas (open source, open government, open this, open that, for example), but in many cases, such as literature, it is not the idea but the end result that matters. It is the effort that takes the idea to fruition that is worth something. An unfulfilled idea is just an idea. Ideas can be great, they can be inspiring, they can lead to new insights, they can be the theme for a blog post. But they don’t have economic value. They can’t be traded. They can’t be sold. They can’t pay the rent. Ideas are no substitute for hard work, as mr Herbert gently would have his counter-part understand. So by all means, let the ideas flow but make sure the hard work that goes into realizing them is properly compensated. And watch the movie again.

Frank Herbert on Wikipedia: