One of the things that always fascinates me is how people think and how they go from a bunch of assumptions to their actual conclusion. And that path is often influenced by a thinking pattern.
There are 3 dangerous patterns that I’ve spotted with employees and Entrepreneurs, the 3 sibling-assassins of good ideas in a startup:
History — Authority — Ideals
To detect them, look for sentences that start like this:
- Remember when X…
- Y said…
- Because we’re Z…
Remember when X… Here you’re trying to find the example that validates what you’re doing. But the problem is that you and your company aren’t in the same situation. And what’s worse, I can find an example to justify pretty much any bad business decision. Your focus needs to be on your company and your situation today. Historical parallels are good to know, and to think about — but they can’t be used on their own to justify anything that you’re doing. Plus, remember that for most of you, your memory isn’t your most powerful tool ;)
Y said… We’ve all read the biography of Steve Jobs, and Marc Andreessen gives great talks, and Paul Graham is one of our favorite authors. But this gets into the same question: do you use their knowledge as part of an active, flowing thought process? Or are you just using it to justify your decision? The first is good, the second is death.
The funny thing is that lots of people in Europe are famous for their critical minds. But taking everything for granted is just as stupid as taking nothing for granted. You need to exercise your judgement and build your confidence.
Because we’re Z… Everyone has a vision for their company. Elon Musk published Tesla’s masterplan, our Nicolas Colin described how TheFamily will become the Berkshire Hathaway of the 21st century. You need to know who you are. But don’t assume that who you are dictates what you do. If someone says, “Yeah, but we’re an investor, so we should…” I go into *WARNING* mode immediately. Like Sartre said, “existence precedes essence.”
History, Authority and Ideals should be part of you, but you can’t let them control you. And always remember that this is important not just for you, but it’s also something you need to enforce with all of your team members.