Buying a Map vs. Learning to Explore

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, skmurphy

Learning to explore is a key skill for entrepreneurs. Ask questions you don’t know the answer to–where the answer would have an impact on your ability to assess the risk in your venture or would help you to define a key aspect of your business.

Be Prepared For Surprise

“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained.
To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.

Education discovers an increasing richness in the past,
because it sees what is unfinished there.
Training regards the past as finished and the future as to be finished.

Education leads toward a continuing self-discovery;
training leads toward a final self-definition.

Training repeats a completed past in the future.
Education continues an unfinished past into the future.”
From Section 17 of “Finite and Infinite Games” by James P. Carse

If you are just starting out I encourage you to be wary of training, of  folks offering to sell you a treasure map that outlines how to make money in a particular market. New markets are unpredictable because they don’t exist–yet–so any knowledge of them is fragmentary at best.

Markets are made up of people and the conversations between them–whether face to face, over the phone, e-mail, or some other form. The  Cluetrain Manifesto said this more than decade ago,  here is my cheat sheet:

  • Markets are conversations.
  • Markets are human.
  • Networked markets self-organize.
  • De-cloak, get personal.
  • Talk with customers.
  • Listen to customers.
  • Share community concerns.

Conversations are unpredictable because people are unpredictable. If you are a fan of multiple choice surveys and A/B testing because it seems more a more efficient use of your time, reconsider how much you can really learn if your questions always contain the answer. Instead, prepare to be surprised.

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