December 25th, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In my book “How To Destroy A Tech Startup In Three Easy Steps” one of my clients (I call him Milburn) had an idea, and they assumed it would be easy, so they left it to their assistant. Assuming a business idea will be easy often leads to disaster. I offer this bit of advice in the book, and I repeat it here:
If you really want to destroy your startup, you should assume that you know everything about the problem you’re facing. Assume that you know what your customers want and how they will react to your product. Assume that building the product is straightforward. And most importantly, any time you encounter a problem, remember that you can make it go away by telling your workers that it is easy.
One of the most powerful habits of self-sabotage is the idea that a leader can leave a novel project to their assistant. This works fine so long as assistant is very smart, very ambitious and is granted complete autonomy. But often those in leadership positions want to hang onto the power to veto decisions. It’s this veto that does all the damage. Many times, after hundreds of hours of careful study, the assistant will realize that a strategy that sounds counter-intuitive is in fact the best course of action. And the leader will then veto the idea because after a superficial glance the strategy does not sound promising. Only by investing hundreds of hours of study does one realize why the “wrong” strategy is actually the right one. And so long as the leader thinks the project is “easy”, they don’t see why they should invest hundreds of hours of study.
Any economic boom that lasts long enough eventually draws in amateurs who have a bit of money to invest. Most of them suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect – they don’t know enough to understand how little they know. Milburn failed to understand how much he failed to understand about NLP. His ignorance lead him not only to assume that the project would be easy, but also to assume that he knew everything he needed to know. That is almost always a fatal assumption. Even though I have close to two decades of experience in the industry, I’m palpably aware of how important it is to approach each new startup with the assumption that I don’t know half the things I need to know.