Do ideas have value?


I’ve been entrepreneurial minded ever since I can remember. I’ve talked about this before, but I think it had a lot to do with my dad’s example and my mom’s wisdom. Looking back on my career, the entrepreneurial mindset has been my most valuable asset.

Being that I think a lot about business opportunities, I’ve been keeping a list of ideas for over a decade. I’d never share the whole list, but I’ve often shared the individual ideas if a related subject comes up. I started the list in Word, moved it to Onenote, and this morning I moved it to Trello. I love Trello! I use it to organize my caotic life of work, a wife and 4 boys under 7, service in my church, and my side businesses.

I like the idea of tracking my ideas in Trello because it will keep a record of the date/time an idea was created and I can add checklists, attachments, notes, labels, and other helpful things to the idea as they come.

I add ideas to the list all the time, but I don’t often review them. Transferring them to Trello gave me the opportunity for review. The review reminded me of something I’ve known for many years:

Ideas are worthless.

This morning, I added a category to my list for “ideas already done.” Some of the ideas on that list include: online order and grocery pickup, texting via voice, and laptop sized tablet. I don’t remember recording some of these, but I obviously had a pain or saw an opportunity that I wished I could cure/pursue.

Let’s take grocery pickup for example. Grocery stores are now making hundreds of thousands of dollars off this idea. Amazon is even getting into the ring with Amazon Now in some cities. This would lead you to believe my idea was valuable; however, that is not true. I had the idea 2-3 years before anyone had implemented it, but I did nothing about it. I didn’t act and now it is too late. Clearly, my idea is worthless, but the truth is, it always was.

You may be thinking, “no, ideas are valuable because you can patent them.” To that I’d say that it is not the idea that is valuable, it is the patent. A patent isn’t just an idea on paper, it is an idea on paper with a law that says you can horde any future value of that idea. I personally think this is absurd! Why can we artificially give value to something that has no value?

Unfortunately, the fact that you can patent something that is worthless is a great example of why the patent system is broken. If I have a great idea for a widget that I’ll never bring to market, why should I be able to give it value that it doesn’t innately have? The truth is I shouldn’t.

So, if ideas are worthless, what is valuable? The answer: action.

Had I taken my idea for a grocery pickup/delivery service and put some action into it, I may have been able to grow it enough to where a major grocery chain, or maybe even Amazon would have bought the company rather than starting from scratch. Had I implemented the idea, things could have been different, I could have produced some real value. The idea still would have been worthless; the action is what would create value.

If it is true that ideas have no value and action is everything, I’d love to see a patent rule that if you haven’t produced a prototype in x years and if you don’t put the product on the market by another x years, the patent is invalid. Or better yet, you can’t get a patent without a working prototype and you have to put in on the market as well. We need to stop giving value to something that has no value.

My thoughts here are not meant to be a broad study of all that is broken in the patent system and all the ways we can fix it. I just thought I’d share something I’ve known for a long time and realized again this morning while reviewing my idea list:

Ideas are worthless, action is everything.

About The Author

Ben currently works as a senior developer and technical business consultant outside of Boulder, Colorado.

Read more about Ben

About Buink

Buink Web Development is a development shop founded in 2009 by Ben Buie. For years, Ben built and modified web assets for clients in Utah. In 2011, he moved the company to Colorado and in 2015 he started taking on new clients full-time.

Buink’s Core Values:

  • Cost effective technology (with business strategy in mind)
  • Eloquent, maintainable code
  • Responsive and transparent communication

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Dave G.
Dave G.
14:05 13 Aug 23
Buink is a great place to work, as well as a great place to have quality software written. I originally contracted Buink for some web development, and it worked out so well we began working together on many different projects. Definitely an honest transparent company that needs to be considered for... your software more
Dru M.
Dru M.
15:41 25 Mar 21
Ben’s a super responsive, thoughtful, sharp and all around great guy to work with. Excellent with his trade. I’d recommend him to anyone. Thanks Ben!
Seth L.
Seth L.
21:36 29 Jun 19
Ben and team are incredible to work with. They are reliable and proficient. I'd highly recommend hiring them for web development work. SethVOLTAGE
Craig A.
Craig A.
20:50 18 Jun 19
It was a pleasure to work with Ben and his team. It is rare to find such attention to high standards of coding and devops.
Lexi S.
Lexi S.
15:36 18 Jun 19
Grateful to have Ben and his team as such a capable, reliable partner for completing client work!
Tom S.
Tom S.
13:18 14 Jun 19
I reached out to Buink after finding Ben’s name in a local developer/consultant listing in 2017, and I have to say, it has been an absolute pleasure to work with Buink. Ben consistently understands not just the development task laid in front of him but the business application behind the task. I’ve... never felt more comfortable with a development team than I do with Buink. I truly feel Ben and his team are integral partners in the success of my more
Marilyn F.
Marilyn F.
22:47 13 May 19
I could not recommend Buink Web Development more highly. Ben and his team have recently developed a budgeting app for me (both web and IOS). I have had the opportunity of working with them for over a year and I am extremely happy with the results.I would say that the biggest plus for me is that I... trust Ben completely. From the very first, Ben has helped me make decisions that were in the best interest of my company. I have never felt like he is taking advantage of me. Ben does his best to keep the whole process very open and upfront. I have really appreciated that.I tell people all the time that I love my developers. And I do. I'm very happy that I chose to use Buink to develop my apps. It was the best business decision I could have made.If you are looking for someone to develop a website or app, I strongly suggest choosing Buink Web Development. They are fantastic!Marilyn Ference, President, Defend Your Money, LLCread more
James Landon B.
James Landon B.
01:33 28 Aug 18
Great company to help with all your web design needs!
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