If You’re Uncomfortable with Experimenting…

mocha moments

then You’re Lowering the Bar on Your Business – published in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday Thursday June 27 2013

“If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder and CEO

Many years ago, I remember hearing a keynote speaker describe how entrepreneurs look to well meaning family and friends. He said – picture a dog chasing a ball. Once you can SEE the ball, all’s well. But remove the ball and you now have a crazy dog on your hands. Because YOU can’t see the ball, you conclude that there is no ball! Only the dog SEES and KNOWS that the ball exists.

The ball is the dream that so many entrepreneurs pursue. We have the idea. We see WHERE we’re going in our imagination. No one else does. The bank doesn’t see it, potential investors don’t see it and the people we love think we’re crazy! This is no fun. But there is no way out of it – you have to get comfortable and experiment your way to manifesting your dream and becoming successful on YOUR terms.

Zach Bulygo, a blogger for KISSmetrics, in his post ’12 Business Lessons You Can Learn from Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos says “When current and aspiring tech entrepreneurs are asked who they look up to the most, they give the usual names: Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and maybe a few will mention Bill Gates. But, unfortunately, there aren’t many who mention Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.” And it’s a shame because there is so much to learn from Jeff ESPECIALLY when it comes to experimentation and failure.

“You have to have a willingness to fail. You have to have a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time. If you do something in a new way, and I don’t care what it is, people are initially going to misunderstand it relative to the traditional way. And there will be well-meaning critics who generally want the best outcome but they’re worried about this new way. And there will also of course be self-interested critics who have a vested interest in the traditional [way]. They have some profit stream tied to the traditional way…If you never want to be criticized, for goodness sake – don’t do anything new.”

If you don’t have a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time, if you aren’t willing to fail, it means you will be averse to experimentation and you will leave opportunities for your growth and ultimate success on the table.

if you want to be innovative you basically have to increase your rate of experimentation and think simultaneously about how you’re going to go about organizing your systems, the people you’re going to be working with, all of your assets, and even your own daily life and how you spend time asking “how do I increase these things to increase my rate of experimentation?”

Many articles about entrepreneurship provide details about entrepreneurs needing to hone their creative spirit and learn how to be more innovative. In his blog post ‘8 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Master the Creative Process’ Martin Zwilling reviews a book called ‘Idea Stormers’ which outlines 8 attributes of the most creative people. The successful entrepreneurs researched were found to be forever curious and always open to new things. They embrace ambiguity, find and transfer principles, and search for integrity. There’s a certain degree of certainty where they know they can solve the problem and are able to visualize other worlds and think the opposite to conventional ways of thinking. The ability to be comfortable with experimenting is nowhere to be found.

Interestingly experimenting IS part of the creative process. In her book ‘Awakening the Heroes Within’ author Carol S. Pearson describes the various levels of the Creator:

Level One – Opening to receive visions, images, hunches, inspiration

Level Two – Allowing yourself to know what you really want to have, do, or create

Level Three – Experiments with creating what you imagine – allowing yourself to let your dreams come true.

I think most entrepreneurs live in levels one and two. We must be brave and be willing to experiment until we create what we’ve imagined, bringing our dreams (as we see it) to light and life.

Not all your experiments are going to work but according to Jeff, you must be stubborn and flexible. When referring to Amazon, Bezos says, “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” Don’t be fixed on the details. Start with the customer, work backwards and be willing not to settle for “the next big thing” or becoming just another “me too” business.

Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson says “The day we stop exploring is the day we commit ourselves to a stagnant world, devoid of curiosity, empty of dreams.” For entrepreneurs – the day you STOP EXPERIMENTING is the day that your world will become STAGNANT and the customers would never benefit from your dreams. 

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