Treating an uncertain world as though it is predictable can cause trouble for a new venture, new business, or new corporate initiative. One clear fact that emerges from both research and the history of entrepreneurial ventures is that it is impossible to assess with any certainty, prior to experience, whether a venture will be successful or not. Expert serial entrepreneurs approach the uncertainty by moving forward anyway. It is the way that they move forward that is instructive.
Contrary to simply “throwing things on the wall to see what sticks”, expert entrepreneurs move forward in small steps, managing the financial loss, attracting partners, and selling to customers until the venture “gains traction” and proves itself. This approach is getting a lot of press lately and it has been characterized as “effectual logic” by Saras Sarasvathy, the “lean start-up” approach by Steve Blank and Eric Ries, and “creaction” by Leonard Schlesinger and Charles Kiefer.
In their aptly titled book, Just Start, Schlesinger and Kiefer leverage the research of Saras Sarasvathy, research professor of the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia and recount an experiment at Babson College. They confirm Sarasvathy’s findings and further emphasize the beginning of a venture as a key element in launching a business or corporate initiative. For Schlesinger, it is a creative impulse with tension between what one envisions and current reality. In fact, the entrepreneur, the artist, the software engineer, and the writer all bring their businesses, paintings, games, and books into being in similar fashion. With a vision to guide you, you take small steps to “test the idea or market” correcting and perfecting as you gain new information.
Since as an entrepreneur, you are not simply executing a plan, the vision becomes altered over time as new data is gathered, new customer demands identified, and new partner resources added. For an entrepreneur or a corporate executive, it is an organic process that moves towards the creation of a new business or new product offering.
As Schlesinger and Kiefer propose, once you have a desire for a new venture, act quickly with the means at hand, assess the affordable loss, build on what you find, and bring other people along. That is the way entrepreneurs and business developers embrace uncertainty.