A problem that I often see founders and investors make is to project their opinion on new products and ideas without really giving them a shot themselves. I see this happen in particular when something comes out that is threatening to one’s own efforts or one’s way of seeing the world.
I do this myself. I’m actually not naturally an early adopter, and I’m pretty comfortable trying to mentally analyze a situation, and make conclusions of how things will unfold without needing to try stuff first hand. Sometimes I’m right, but I’m also often wrong. I think it’s a weakness of mine that I try to over-think a situation rather than just learning by doing.
I made a resolution a few months ago to push myself to suspend judgement and just try new stuff more. This includes using new services and technology, but also to “launch” stuff more often and more quickly we have an idea or an initiative we are thinking about. I think that living in an academically-minded part of the world (Boston and Cambridge) you get into a lot of theoretical discussions about unknown things. But in areas of uncertainty and change, I notice that there is no good replacement for the real thing.
It turns out, this is true in a lot of different avenues, and I think is part of a broader trend or set of best practices. A couple random examples;
Mythbusters: It’s one of my favorite shows, and what makes it so cool is that they do a great job of creating a hypothesis and then developing a series of tests to see what actually happens. Sure, it makes for good TV, but the best part of the show is when sound theoretical expectations are proven wrong or are shown to have more complications when translated into the real world. I love it.
User Acquisition: I’ve been on a bit of a quiet campaign to meet a bunch of really strong user-acquisition folks at different startups in Boston and New York. One thing that is surprising (that I’ll blog more about later) is that many of these people have limited marketing experience. What they do have is a highly analytical background and a mentality around experimentation. On the flip side, more experienced marketers often enter a startup setting wanting to employ an older playbook to stick to things they know work, which sometimes isn’t a fit for what an early-stage startup really needs.
Hiring: When I dig into the hiring practices of world-class organizations, you see a very obvious trend. The best companies tend to use tests in their hiring. Capital One has been doing this for a long time, and this is common practice among technical organizations as well. But increasingly, you are seeing this become common in a much broader set of companies and types of roles. I recently spoke with an interesting company called Prehire that is making this process much more seamless through software, and they’ve had great early results. There is nothing like the real thing, but the next best thing is to simulate the real thing and see how people respond. It’s a lot better than judging people based on a resume, their pedigree, or how cleverly they answer interview questions.
Enough for now. Time for me to go give my Apple Watch a try!