“In retrospect, perhaps our team, suitably augmented, should have been given the responsibility for developing the business opportunity as well as advancing the technology. We were the ones who saw opportunities instead of problems; the ones who had no vested interest in the status quo. History seems to indicate that technical breakthroughs are the result of a small group of capable people fending off a larger group of capable people with a vested interest in their current views.”
George Heilmeier in “A Moveable Feast” [PDF] 2005 Kyoto Prize Lecture
Because I have an entrepreneur’s deformation professionelle –I look at most things through an entrepreneurial lens–I see J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring as the story of a small multi-disciplinary team (“The Fellowship”) coming together to challenge and ultimately change the status quo. A status quo supported by a much larger and more powerful set of armies and magic. Here is a key scene where Fellowship, addressed here as “the Company” by Elrond, is chartered.
At that moment Elrond came out with Gandalf, and he called the Company to him. “This is my last word,” he said in a low voice. “The Ring-bearer is setting on the Quest of Mount Doom. On him alone is any charge laid; neither to cast away the Ring, nor to deliver it to any servant of the Enemy nor indeed to let any handle it, save members of the Company and the Council, and only then in gravest need. The others go with him as free companions, to help him on his way. You may tarry, or come back, or turn aside into other paths, as chance allows. the further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid upon you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road.”
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,” said Gimli.
“Maybe,” said Elrond, “but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.”
“Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,” said Gimli.
“Or break it,” said Elrond. “Look not too far ahead! But go now with good hearts!”
I think this is a useful model for the early days of a startup, don’t ask people to commit fully until you have had a few adventures together. If a potential co-founder or partner has not “seen the nightfall” of startups find some ways to let them take a few test rides on the the emotional roller coaster of entrepreneurship.
“The status quo is the status quo for some set of reasons. By starting up, or joining one, you’re engaging in a creative rebellion. To change the way things are; to upset people who have a vested interest in that status quo. But you’re joyfully jumping into the breach. It’s messy, unclear, hard to see your way through.”
John Lilly “Not Always Up and to the Right”
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