One of my favorite radio programs is a quasi-science show called Radio Lab and is hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. There are two reasons why I love this program so much: 1) because the production values are so good that no matter what they are talking about it sounds multilayered and dynamic and 2) while the topics are science related they are not overly technical and there is a heavy philosophical element usually presented from various sides by the two hosts and their guests.
Anyway, while perusing the Radio Lab website the other day to download some files for my iPod, I came across a podcast entry where the two hosts are discussing the early days and their first failed attempt at creating a skit for another public radio program called This American Life. Toward the end of the skit, Jad answers a question about how the show is produced, and he talks about science in a way that struck me, in that it is directly related to entrepreneurship and for that matter…life. Here is an excerpt:
“It’s about challenging people and it’s about challenging people who know…it’s about presenting science as something which is not inevitable. It is not something where people who are esteemed sit behind podiums and convey knowledge to the rest of us who know nothing…”
As a business consultant I can appreciate the sentiment. Often time’s clients come into my office expecting to find that silver bullet that will make their new company successful or get their struggling business out of trouble. Despite seven years of post secondary education, ownership of multiple businesses, and six years consulting over 1000 entrepreneurs I still haven’t found that silver bullet. And, if they do get an answer from a so-called expert it doesn’t mean its the best answer or even the right answer. Success is never inevitable.
Entrepreneurship is about challenging the status quo. The reason entrepreneurs find many people don’t think their idea will be successful is because it is not what other businesses are doing currently…it is not what is expected. But in reality, the unexpected is what makes great products and services successful, the Purple Cow, as Seth Godin puts it. The unexpected is where competitive advantages are formed.
“It’s about going into your lab, making mistakes, breaking stuff, doing it again, and again, and again until you get lucky. It’s like anything.”
In the laboratory of commerce this statement rings equally true. It’s about taking your ideas, turning them into business models, introducing them to consumers, failing, making mistakes, changing your assumptions, changing your business model, again and again and again until you get lucky. Often times, we hear stories from some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs about how they failed six, eight, ten times or more before they made it big.
Sure you can improve your odds by surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you…another anecdote often told by successful entrepreneurs, but ultimately, success often happens by sheer chance…just like science, just like entrepreneurship, just like everything in life.