"Every time you put a new idea into action you find ten people who thought of it first; but they only thought of it."

Who said this? The original source is unknown, but most entrepreneurs probably feel like they've said it at one point.

Anyone who has ever pursued an idea that others didn't see the vision for--or even an idea that the idea-hatcher himself had private doubts about--knows what I'm talking about.

Some say confidence (whether real or fake) can make up for an unbaked concept, but I'd say that's the exception rather than the rule. You do need a good idea. But you need more than that, and more than confidence. You need a good idea, well executed.

In other words, almost any idea can be a good idea if you see a way to shape it into one.

In 1977, despite managerial skepticism, a product called Press 'n Peel launched in the market. It was borne nine years earlier from the accidental discovery of a reusable adhesive. Public passion for Peel 'n Press petered out even before it began. But then the company manufacturing it gave away samples, stoking interest. In 1980, the product was reintroduced as Post-it Notes, and you've got one within arm's reach right now.

Initial success took 12 years and now the humble Post-it is the king of the Office Supply Hall of Fame. Good thing its creators, Stephen Silver and Art Fry, thought their idea was as sticky as, well, the actual idea.

A bagless vacuum? James Dyson (Sir James Dyson to you and me) developed an astonishing 5,126 prototypes, all of which failed. Who knew the magic number was 5,127? And even though that one worked, at first, no manufacturers wanted it. So Dyson began to produce the vacuums himself, and when he recalibrated the ad campaign to focus less on improved suction and more on the end of buying replacement bags, his idea whipped into a tornado.

A movie about a teen who goes back in time and tries to avoid his own mother's advances? Sounds icky, and for various reasons, it was rejected 40 times, including by Disney. But it was written with heart and smarts so it proved to be sticky. (The film, of course, is Back to the Future.)

And many more ideas, across all industries. From underestimated to cultural touchstones.

No matter how an idea sounds, ultimately its fate is sealed by how it performs...which is a direct reflection on how its innovator persisted.

Published on: Dec 3, 2014