The Innovator/Executive Balance

When you’re a kid, there’s a difference between dreaming up how you could make a few bucks on running a lemonade stand and actually setting up and running a lemonade stand. When you’re not a little kid anymore, these two skill sets are still useful. Having a vision is the skill of an innovator while operating a business is the skill of an executive. 


Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures told Patrick O’Shaughnessy that an investor’s (which I’ll call innovator) primary skill is learning new things. Innovators are constantly in exploratory mode. Executives, on the other hand, have a primary skill of operating a business. Executives are constantly digging in and getting stuff done. 


Rabois explains just how rare it is to find a person who is exceptional at both. Fortunately, we don’t have to be exceptional if we are aware of and understand the requirements of each. Within our practices, we are always striving for a balance between learning new things and updating our vision of the future, against operating with the tools we’ve got and executing at the highest level.


Dedicating effort to each mindset is essential.  If we only innovate, we’ll never get our lemonade stand up and running because we’ll keep chasing the next idea. If we only work, we will lack the vision to decode whatever is changing around us (no New England December lemonade stands, right?). There’s no way to do just one and survive for the long run. We have to cultivate both ways of thinking into our lives. 

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