Are you wow blind?

Kevin asked me: "Do ‘great ideas’ possess universally some sort of Wow Factor?"

The problems with this question: What does 'great' mean? And who decides what 'wow' is?

The challenge is this: lots of people think they know what both words mean in their area of endeavor, and many of them are wrong.

Consider the case of web 2.0 companies. People like Brad Feld and Fred Wilson are brilliant at understanding what wow means from the point of view of an investor. They have great taste about what's going to pay off. They have a sense for which teams and which ideas will actually turn into great businesses.

The peanut gallery at tech sites, though, don't have such great abilities (if they did, they'd be Brad, not anonymous voters). As a result, they mistake consumer wow for investor wow, and often focus on the wrong attributes when they're criticizing or congratulating a company.

This is endemic in the book business, which resolutely refuses to understand the actual P&L of most of the books it publishes. As a result, there are plenty of editors who continue to overpay for the wrong books, because their wow isn't the market's wow.

In his book Money Ball, Michael Lewis wrote about how virtually every single scout and manager in baseball was wrong about what makes a great baseball player. They had the wrong radar, the wrong wow. When statistics taught a few teams what the real wow was, the balance of power shifted.

By definition, just about every great idea resonates early with those that have better radar than those that don't. The skill, then, is to expose yourself often enough, learn enough and fail enough that you get to say wow before the competition does.